What a week it’s been at the Albion!
I know we constantly hark back to our struggle over the last twenty five years or so, and it bores the pants off people, but I still never thought I’d be writing about a team who competed decently against Atletico Madrid and then broke their own transfer record twice, all in six days.
We now have a Propper midfield and more left wingers than Momentum (sorry) and the feeling is, with a bid reportedly rejected for striker Dwamena we’re not done yet. Lua Lua is on his way (to QPR again, reportedly) and the thoughts of those Albion fans who wanted to see more business in July that we were unprepared must be rapidly dissipating. We may not be prepared for Saturday though, because we’re playing Manchester ****ing City and I don’t think anyone’s prepared for them at the moment.
Never mind our own miracle come back. It’s not THAT long ago that City were playing in League One, if only for a season. For much of the nineties it wasn’t a name that struck automatic fear in to one’s heart. And, even later than that, we managed to turn them over at Withdean in the League Cup, a feat celebrated by a pitch invasion led by a bloke in a wheelchair.
But now? Honestly, I can’t even begin to predict who’ll line up against us, such is the embarrassment of riches at their disposal. I think I’m right in saying that their new defence has cost more than it cost to build the Amex. It might even just be their new full backs. And they, in turn, might actually be wing backs.
City, you see, come in to this following a win over Spurs in a friendly competition abroad that was described by Pep Guardiola as better than any of their league performances last season. They used three at the back and we may well see the same again at the Amex. Kyle Walker as a right wing back will certainly be handful for Suttner or Bong at left back (with 45 mins each last week it’s hard to call) but will it leave space for a midfield that looks very attack minded to hit City on the counter?
Up front it’s hard to call too. Who will lead the line? Aguero? Jesus? Will it be two up top? Will we get a kick?
Up until last week I would have said this was certain heavy defeat, but then I’m not Chris Hughton, thank Christ, and I’m not our players. He and they played Atleti without fear and, in the case of Knockaert and March, with massive grins on their faces as they twisted, turned and roasted supposedly world class players. If we have a chance at all tomorrow, it’s that the new City players are still bedding in, that the Amex will be a completely new environment to them (sadly, in a way, not in a, dare I say, Selhurst Park, falling down shitty stands and cramped dressing rooms kind of way, we are NOT the proverbial Barnsley on a Tuesday night in February) and that we seem to have retained that team spirit and togetherness from last season and added quality, strength and pace.
We’ll need Matt Ryan to have a bit more skill and luck this time out, for he’ll have even more touches than last week and we can’t afford another howler, but if he sticks to the reflex saves, if Duffy and Dunk are at the top of their game and if the attackers are on point, there is the faintest glimmer of hope. Expect us to be dangerous on the break and from set pieces, where I think we can cause real problems at this level.
Our team? The jury is out on how defensive our wide players will be. This could see shock call ups for either Murphy or even Skalak, but last week pointed instead to Brown getting through a lot of work on the left. If AK is fit you’ve got to unleash him, the man will be fired up beyond belief and he knows no fear at all. Assuming he is then I can see
Bruno Duffy Dunk Suttner
Knockaert Propper Stephens Brown
While that may not be stellar it’s more than competitive in our “half” of the league.
Me? I’ll be there screaming my lungs out with The Boy and a small tear may be shed just before kick off. I’m hoping for another Withdean. Hold back your wheelchairs.