….but how the hell it wasn’t at least that is difficult to explain.
It has been rare recently for me to start a game with a significant feeling of confidence based on the initial team selection. But that’s how I felt tonight. And the first twenty minutes plus did nothing to dispel that feeling.
Rob Holding striding confidently, Adams-like around the back, seemingly giving even Mustafi the look of a calm centre back alongside him! Tierney showing that not only is he an excellent attacking full back with a brilliant cross, but that he senses danger defensively and goes out to meet and cover it.
Torreira playing in front of the back four and mopping up efficiently. Dani Ceballos running the midfield, and the 18 year old Martinelli showing true pure striker skills.
Even if, to be honest, the opposition weren’t much cop, things were looking rosy!
Willock was proving a handful and took his goal with great confidence. Surely we can look forward to a hat-ful! And yet it didn’t happen as chances were spurned regularly for the rest of an exciting half.
“In the old days a game like this would be 3-0 at half time, and finish 3-0 at full time”, said one observer. Well this youthful team did not lack desire at least to add to their score in the second half, but, with the exception of a close range poke from Dani, following excellent work to the byline again from Martinelli, we did everything except collect that hat-full.
And perhaps the “youthfulness” explains some of the waste in front of goal. Shape and calmness on the ball was lost, as almost every player seemed to get carried away by the excitement. Good chances were beautifully made, but then spurned. And how the “wonder kid” did not get his hat trick, I will never know!
It was an exciting, more than competent performance, produced three points and set us up in the group, but promised initially so much more.
Player ratings ……………
Martinez 6. Little really to do other than two driven at him at a perfect height. Not sure on his coming an catching.
Bellerin 5. Seems short on confidence, especially going forward.
Mustafi 6. A couple of risky passes, but overall competent, with the confidence of Holding alongside, against a less than potent attack.
Holding 8. A solid, head up, un-rushed performance which I hope will get him a place soon in the starting team in the Premier League.
Tierney 8. All round excellent game, showing great confidence and potential both going forward and in defence. Tired at end so needs to be used progressively.
Torreira 6. Started in his rightful position with confidence. Got a bit carried away in the end with attacking, and moved out of that position when 0uzi came on. Got lost at this point a little.
Willock 7. A real handful in first half and took his goal with great confidence. Got caught up in the madcap second half and less effective if always enthusiastic.
Maitland-Niles 5. Played on the right and tucked in, but too much distance from a hesitant Hector. Most of our good work was down the left.
Ceballos 8. Ran the midfield in the first half especially. Again perhaps tried too much on the ball as the game went on, instead of playing simple first time balls to open up an eleven men defence by then.
Nelson 6. Certainly some good work in the first half. Would like to see him take on his full back more regularly and believe in himself.
Martinelli 8/9. Took his goals beautifully and should have had five or six. A willing runner and creative centre forward.