Fed on helter-skelter excitement, chaotic defending and a Gatling-gun of goals on Saturday, last night we were bumped back down to earth with a performance that if you were being generous was defensively sound, and if you were being less generous, as dull as ditchwater.
Some nil nils are full of excitement. This one wasn’t. Looking at the match stats, we apparently had six shots on goal. I can’t for the life of me remember more than two, but there you go. Their keeper Mandanda came out to gather crosses well but he didn’t have to work too hard otherwise. You could have put Suzanne Dando or Desperate Dan between the sticks: I’m not sure we’ve have noticed much.
It’s not a bad result and in the grand scheme of things, it oughtn’t mean much, but set the pulse racing it did not. Park, replacing the irreplaceable van Persie, proved that at the moment, he’s not able to replace van Persie.
I thought Gervinho and Ramsey were lively enough, and seeing Vermaelen commanding the back was a joy, but otherwise we struggled to make enough of the game. Walcott had a stodgy evening (the lot of the winger, I have always thought, is to blow hot and cold). And that’s really about it. Honestly, I think I might have forgotten about it already.
Also, in many ways it showed up the classic flaw of the Champions League group stages. Namely that when neither side is in imminent danger in the group, neither side needs to go for it 100%. It wasn’t a dead rubber but it had the air of a tie that didn’t really hold too many consequences. Whether that proves to be true only time will tell.
Certainly, we’re still in a good place – top of our group – and we’re unbeaten.
Props to the Marseille fans too – they were cracking.