Bottom line, we needed a win and we got it, but lots of talking points for me.
I love Antonio for all his effort, strength, speed and unpredictability. I agree with some that he lacks technical ability, and while that is part of what makes him him, in terms of dribbling (and so no complaints), for him to move to the next level, it's getting his head up and passing ability as improvement areas. Having said that, what a beast, love him!!!
Kouyate has some lovers and haters, and I tend to agree about his technical limitations - I think that he would look much better as a CB, although you would lose all of that energy that can get all over the pitch...decent game overall
Obiang - think most agree that he was quality last night, he was as actively involved and everywhere as Kouyate but with better distribution. Being a bit more lightweight means he gets pushed off the ball more easily than Kouyate, but you can hardly hold that against him - he had a good call for MOTM!
Carroll - each time he comes back it's the same and you can see how he bullies the opposition defence and puts them under pressure. He gives us a way out, when we play direct, although I wish it wasn't done so much - hardly his fault though. While he's around, he's a great option!
Cresswell/Zabaleta - both had good games and I think that 3 at the back suits both of them best, although we really need to have one of Obiang/Kouyate sitting back when they go storming up, as we might have been left exposed against better counter-attacking sides. Think Zabaleta was a great signing, always gives 100% and has quality too.
Collins, Reid, Fonte - were solid, although not overly-worked. I think that this back 3 would be better judged against different opposition. Against Spurs for example, I wonder if it would look so solid. Certainly no complaints though, they bossed the back!
Hart - nothing to do...
Hernadez - is the first talking point. How can we best fit him into the team? He certainly didn't look as effective, last night, as he can, although I can see Bilic's thinking in playing him like that to get the knock-downs from Carroll. I don't agree that he should have no defensive responsibilities, as some have suggested, or that he HAS to be played in the centre-centre. As a poacher, and goal-scorer he needs to float around the place. Where does that leave the Carroll-Hernandez "partnership"...not sure, although you can be sure that Carroll will get injured again and then we will be complaining that he isn't there. Having 2 strikers that offer so much is a good problem to have, although I'm glad that it's Bilic's and not mine though!
For this game, without the creativity of Lanzini/Arnautovic, I think he made the right call though.
Ayew had a good cameo and got his goal - reckon he's a decent player and gives us quality coming from the bench. Sakho too actually, despite his transfer window incident, I'd like him to give it his all in what will surely be his final season in East London, as he does have some quality and I'm happy to have him on the bench.
Second talking point is what happens with Lanzini and Arnautovic back...?
What is the best way to mix Carroll, Hernandez, Antonio, Lanzini, Arnautovic into the team...?
I think that we look much more solid with 3 at the back, which means that the wingback spots are taken by Cresswell/Masuaku and Zabaleta/Byram, leaving us with 5 more spots to fill.
Obiang has to play deep, so that leaves 4.
There is an argument to playing 2 deep, which would only leave 3...remembering that Ayew is in and around too.
I liked the high-energy approach, and when we played Tottenham like that last season, they struggled to deal with it too. I think that this is the way forward for the personnel at hand, as we just haven't got the collective quality to out pass other teams, but we have got players with courage and energy and we need to play to our strengths. We do need to be able to mix it up though and not ONLY play direct, and that is when we need a Lanzini/Arnautovic on the break, to be able to thread a ball through. Antonio can conjure something up too of course and last season there were times when Ayew was linking up nicely with the f*** too.
Can't judge everything on one game though and so am interested to see:
- How Bilic decides to move forward with some creativity back
- How things pan out in general