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I saw this image of Pyscho recently whilst playing for us and it got me thinking how much we miss this element to our game in recent years.
I then look on at sides like Stoke, West Brom indeed even Spurs these days and admire this side to their game to battle and strongly compete for every ball. I then look at our squad makeup and think we seriously lack this quality and are generally too nice as a Team and get bullied easily out of situations at times. It's true we do have a couple of hard nuts who are prepared to give as good as they take, the likes of Carroll, Collins, Antonio but beyond that generally a soft side. 2 of them rarely play these days due to injury or poor form.
It doesn't mean either that we have to play dirty or cheat, just to play like men and compete strongly for the ball and not be such pushovers at times.
I miss the days of Pearce, Unsworth, Dicks, Moncs, Hartson giving us that steely side to our game to stamp our authority on matches. I'd like us to recruit some more of that back into the squad going forward to improve as we lack it that the top teams tend to have.
The first 4-5 months of the 14/15 season was fantastic, everyone dug in, got stuck in, we worked hard as a team, even Enner was getting stuck in and I remember him roughing up Kompany and the Belgian struggling with him. Then it all went to sh!t. Bilic comes in and we get it back, although you having one of the best players in the World at the time having the season of his life certainly helped, but now it seems to have completely gone and even our yellow and red cards aren't for getting stuck in, just stupid fouls and pulls.
It just looks like men against boys a lot of the time when faced against opposition. When we are in the mood some step up and give as good as they take but far too often we lack b*llocks and bite (within the laws of the game.
It's the one thing I think we lack most of.
Pace I'm not overly concerned about, we've got it in areas of the pitch, be it Reid and Kouyate at the back, Cresswell left wing, Antonio right wing, Lanzini, Obiang, Fernandes, Ayew and Sakho (we've missed his pace big time whilst injured) up top.
Fitness I thinks more of a short term concern going from training into matches and think that's more to do with the old boy who's in charge of our fitness programme at the Club. Reckon he should be replaced for a better fitness coach who's more up with the times and required fitness levels, but that's more of a hunch than knowing for sure.
Pearce broke his leg twice in 1999/2000, and returned the following season to play 42 games in all competitions. The man was 39 at the time. I wonder what the "Special One" would say about that since he is now championing tired players.
Does any team really have "tough" players anymore? Genuinely stumped trying to think of any. Zlatan?
I'd say Costa but he goes down like a fairy despite acting tough. Walters? Also seen him go down a fair bit.
As much as we hate them, Spurs as one example are currently littered with tough playing men.
Vertonghen alderweirdeld Walker Wanyama Dembele Sissoko Kane even the likes of Alli although a kid is prepared to get proper stuck in (although I don't like some of his antics). Their team plays like it too with everyone fighting for the ball and not giving a thing up.
Then I compare it to how we play and I see a gulf in toughing out games. Either we win or draw by playing nice easy on the eye football but rarely do we go toe to toe with teams when we lack quality on the ball. The mentality of the team as well as the personnel in this department isn't quite right and we invariably look like a soft touch. Saturday being a case in point by there's many more examples of it. We are too easy to play against once we've been roughed up a bit and our heads go. Both physically and mentally we ain't strong enough, by a long chalk.
Everton, West Brom, Stoke, Chelsea are other teams who can mix it with the best in this quality.
There's some of it in the squad just nowhere near enough of it. Part of the appeal of possibly going in for the likes of Zabaleta in the summer for me. No nonsense, decent players who ain't afraid to get stuck right in.
It's a mental and physical quality we lack and why we've rolled over far too easily this season getting dicked without putting up much of a fight for 90 mins.
Stuart Pearce closed his eyes going up for a header against Spurs at Upton Park in an FA Cup quarter final. He missed the ball, took out one of ours, and Rebrov scored, we lost 3-2. From that moment I could never consider Stuart Pearce a hardman, he was an enigma, not fit to lace the boots of Julian Dicks when it comes to being a hardman. I know he broke his leg and played on, or tried to, but Keiron Dyer once broke his leg for Ipswich and scored with that broken leg, before coming off, so I'm not buying into these little stories about Pearce being a big tough guy. Threatening little fairies like Johansson is one thing, I bet he wouldn't have done that to Alan Shearer, Duncan Ferguson, John Hartson or Ibra though
Maybe we need more of this.