I won’t spend long talking about the Liverpool game because it’s already been covered superbly by some of my fellow GT writers. We started badly and we were lucky not to be down by a couple of goals at half time, but unlucky to have had a perfectly good goal disallowed.
I felt that a lot of the pressure Liverpool placed on us in the first half was more down to our own lax passing, (mostly from Chambers) than their play. One of the reasons we dominated the second half was that Chambers improved his distribution and Gabriel took over marking Benteke.
Obviously it’s worrying that we’re struggling to score at home, but when teams defend deep and in numbers breaking them down is very difficult. I don’t necessarily think that a new striker is the answer because even Benzema would have had a tough time against Liverpool. What we need is to show up from the 1st minute and play until the last. I don’t think anyone can disagree with me when I say that if we’d have played the whole game like we played the second half we’d have won the game. (At least we showed up for the second period. Against West Ham we didn’t show up at all).
We must score the first goal, (especially at home)
What has struck me so far overall is the importance of scoring the first goal. When we score first, teams cannot sit back and defend deep and hope for a result. Liverpool clearly felt the game going away from them and started time-wasting quite early, hoping for the 0-0 draw that they got. Mignolet was even booked for his blatant time wasting.
Getting the first goal forces teams to come out and play, just like Palace had to, and once the flow of an end to end game has been established it normally stays that way until the final 10 minutes (when the team in the lead tend to defend their advantage). Obviously away from home it’s less of an issue because teams are more inclined to attack in front of their own fans, but even then it will prevent the tendency of smaller teams to aim for a 0-0 draw.
It’s not the easiest draw but it could have been worse. Playing Bayern back to back won’t be easy either, but if you have any intention of winning the Champions League you have to beat the best teams in Europe. Olympiakos & Dinamo Zagreb are no pushovers either, but we have a good squad and we can deal with them. We’ll be expected to qualify, and realistically with the way the draw worked this season finishing 1st won’t necessarily guarantee us an easier second round with the amount of top teams in pot two. As an example group A has PSG and Real Madrid. One of those teams will finish second, and no-one will want to play them.
An early kick-off away from home is not going to be easy, and we know that Newcastle can defend when they need to after getting a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in their last league game, (they actually could have won it late on).
Mitrovic is a livewire and he’ll give our centre halves a hard time if he starts. Their new signing Thauvin is also a quality player and we’ll have to watch out for him. Hopefully we’ll have at least one of Koscielny or Mertesacker back. Personally I’d be interested to see how a Kos-Gabriel partnership would work though.
Newcastle are yet to win a game in the league this season and they’ll be keen to rectify that. After a good defensive performance against United and a win in the league cup midweek they’ll be full of confidence that they can beat us, which will suit us down to the ground.
I expect Newcastle to come out and play, and I expect us to punish them for it.