It's taken me a whole day to settle down from that match. I'll honestly put it up there as the worst match I have ever watched in my entire life. I couldn't have told you the difference between this match or Blyth Spartans vs Hartlepool, well except for the part in the Hartlepool match where both teams actually looked like they wanted to win.
Now, I'm not too upset with the loss to West Brom, my article earlier this week pointed that out. I'm more upset with the quality of some of our players. I can't say a bad word about Cleverley, Clark, Okore, Sánchez, Benteke, Hutton, Cissokho. No, they actually looked good, even 'quality' at some points during the game. It's people like N'Zogbia and Agbonlahor that are constantly letting the team down, at almost every single opportunity.
When I was a kid, I used to play a lot of FIFA. My tactics involved me holding down the sprint button, hoping to the high lord that I would get a shot in. Agbonlahor represents that perfectly. He has got blistering pace and can finish, but god forbid, if he gets the ball in midfield, he's already lost it. Agbonlahor in midfield means a punt about 5 yards in front of him which he loses to the defence. It's annoying because he always seems to be in good position! I counted twice, TWICE that his first touch missed out on a clear cut chance for us. Twice. That's two goals for an actual football player. Don't get me wrong, I love him to bits and ripping him out of the team will likely cut the morale of our players in half, but he needs to do something other than hope his first touch doesn't ruin everything. Andi Weimann is almost exactly the same.
Now let's come to Charles N'Zogbia. A winger who cannot pass is useless in our setup. Bench him. For the love of the Holte End do not let him play until he can play the through ball. Almost every time we marched forward, it was N'Zogbia playing the ball to our star striker, The Invisible Man. He couldn't even pass it to the Albion defence. The ball just sadly rolled along the pitch until someone came to collect it, like a child left behind at school.
Don't get me wrong, there were still a lot of positives in the derby - Okore and Clark are solid, and Okore can play a heck of a pass. When everything went right, we really looked good - our team could pass well until someone fluffed it all up (N'Zogbia). It seemed like the team as a unit have gotten a lot more comfortable with actually playing football. If we didn't have the weak links that we did we would have won with ten men and that speaks far too much about the [lack of] quality in this game.
The biggest talking point of the match was Richardson's red card. Doesn't matter if you think it was a yellow or a red, you just don't do that. You don't fly in after losing the ball, because the referee might think it looks worse than it actually is. It was almost the exact same tackle that left Eduardo's ankle on the field almost seven years ago when Birmingham played Arsenal. You don't tackle like that. Some will argue he cost us the game and that's very, very fair. Still, as I said earlier, we could have won with ten men, our breakdowns and weak links seemed to bury us.
Finally, a lot of people in the #LAMBERTOUT brigade will have voiced up after this match. For what reason though? We actually looked quite good in a lot of the game. If the cosmos had decided to aline a different way, that's a 0-0 or a 1-0 with ten men against West Brom away from home. Yes, Lambert did make a horrible substitution at the end (Cissokho and Sánchez off for Weimann and Vlaar?), but that didn't cost us the game at all. I hope Paul Lambert saw the weak links in the team, but that doesn't matter anyway - Hutton, Cleverley, Richardson and Westwood miss our next game. It's Manchester United by the way.