After some quiet time for reflection, True Faith’s Stephen Ord has pulled together this week’s ‘Five things’. And they make lovely reading.
1. The Saint Maximin conundrum continues
The problem with our French winger has been consistency and though he played a part in our equaliser, the fact our striker was playing wide on the left at all was due to an enforced tactical switch. The reaction of Jason Tindall to a couple of misplaced Maxi passes, plus Howe’s conversations with Jones and Callum Wilson on the touchline, pointed to a frustration with ASM’s performance.
At full time Eddie said that he had been injured, potentially carrying a knock. This sounded like a good cover story for his halftime exit. It may well be true, but it’s a worrying situation if it is: we can’t afford to be without Maxi, Almiron and Gordon for a long stretch. Let’s hope he’s fired up to run at Dalot at St James’ on our return from the international break.
2. Jacob Murphy is the next cab off the rank on the Howe upgrades
Like the Apple Store, we’ve become used to previous purchases taking significant leaps under Eddie Howe. So can we call this one a surprise? Jacob Murphy has, since Wembley been, providing a hugely improved attacking threat, his pace down the right aligning with Trippier’s clever movement to create space for others. His raw speed gives defenders palpitations.
Murphy hasn’t turned into Keith Gillespie all of a sudden. He will still make some frustrating decisions and have poor moments, but he is playing with a desire to have a role for the club. He has accepted that might not be starting every week but last week he pinned back Wolves, almost getting a defender sent off. And at Forest he was keen to be involved in all the build up whilst also doing the necessary defending that helped out our right flank.
Little success stories like this are as, or possibly more important, important than simple blind investment in the transfer market.
Eddie’s Mags have been accused of gamesmanship and being exponents of the dark arts. Football has always had some element of adapting the rules, but this was an example of two different types of that character.
First, Newcastle fell behind to a completely avoidable opportunity which on another day Botman deals with easily. He’s been absolutely brilliant for the whole season so we will chalk this up as an anomaly, but the reaction of the whole side was exceptional. The desire for Isak’s goal and then the second half was spent desperate for the winner.
Second, the penalty. Sky were completely flummoxed and thought Trippier was taking it, Navas (also a previous Madrid resident but on the other side of the city) presumably was using his best mind games on him, but the pressure was nowhere near our ice cool Swede and that was the most important thing.
It was sweet justice for the last time we visited this ground and the appalling officiating attempted to derail the Championship bid under Rafa. Forest were much improved and didn’t have the detestable Lansbury in their ranks any longer, but it was such a great feeling to win our first Premier League game of the season having conceded first.
4. VAR and the referee
Despite Jonjo Shelvey’s attempts to kick his mates into next week over the first fifteen minutes he managed to avoid a booking during that period. Additionally, I’m not sure that Ayew’s tackle was seen properly by the officials, the movement of the legs in a challenge from behind was surely enough of a risk to check and get it right.
The big moment of contention came in the second half when Elliot Anderson (more on him in a minute) thought he had scored his first goal for the club. Nobody thought there was anything wrong with the goal at the time, Isak had got up off the deck to play the pass, but as soon as a VAR check is needed, a potential problem can occur.
Now to be clear, they were asking Paul Tierney to check that he was happy that Felipe was clearing the ball or was it deflected off Longstaff who was ahead of the play.
VAR: "So, yeah, you see the way two separate Forest defenders boot the ball quite hard before it comes to Longstaff?"
Paul Tierney: "Yep."
VAR: "That's crazy, isn't it?"
Paul Tierney: "Haha yeah."
VAR: "Anyway, that one's offside, Paul. Cheers."
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 17, 2023
Now there are two issues with this. VAR is supposed to decide if someone is offside or not – they draw lines to do so. Second, if Felipe isn’t attempting to clear that out and it is a deflection, then the reaction of the defender who then smashes it into Longstaff from a millimetre away surely is.
I haven’t been able to find anyone yet who can explain by the laws of the game how that is offside, but I’m sure PGMOL won’t even issue an apology because we won anyway. Howard Webb needs to raise the standards of referees across the board, both on the pitch and behind the camera.
5. Geordie Maradona emerges
Huge win for the boys man 🔥 gutted it hasn’t stood 🤷🏻♂️ let’s carry this momentum on! ⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/RoKcJ871w2
— Elliot Anderson (@elljanderson) March 17, 2023
Previously limited substitute minutes, plus a twenty three minute start against Liverpool on that ill fated night, Anderson was electric. Denied his first goal by the aforementioned terrible decision making of the referee, he was still a willing runner as time ticked on.
Since his debut under Bruce at Arsenal in the FA Cup, Anderson has looked too attack minded to play as part of the midfield three. Here he showed his talents in full. Confidence will be flowing and I’m sure he will be geared up to play a part in the run in. For the first time proper, Anderson looked like he belonged at this level – there should be so much more to come.
Stephen Ord @smord84