Marseille fallout, a case for the defence and all together now!

How many of you were wondering why we didn’t have shirt sponsor on Tuesday? I assumed everyone knew that French TV didn’t permit players to display alcohol sponsors on their shirts. However, it seems that many people who asked thought that Carlsberg were in financial trouble and that we were up the creek without a sponsor.

No such trouble for us but it seems that now AIG have been saved by the US Federal Reserve, the Mancs could be in spot of bother as shirt sponsorship will surely not considered as a necessary “core” activity or an effective use of US taxpayers money? Time for the players’ mothers to follow West Ham’s example and get out the sewing needles, thread and red cloth?

Meanwhile it seems that there’s been a charm offensive on our defence after Tuesday’s game.

I guess there are two ways of looking at it. Firstly our defence looked a bit shaky and showed a distinct lack of coordination and organisation for the Marseille goal and it wasn’t the first time in the match that attempts to play the offside came unstuck.

The second is that as the home team, and an improved one at that, Marseille were inevitably going to put us under pressure. Although we conceded a goal and were lucky in the sense that the home side had left their shooting boots in the dressing room, we faced up to the set back, weathered the storm and dug in. As the game went on, we increased in confidence became more adept at keeping Marseille under control, just as we did against the Mancs on Saturday?

I also guess that defensive lapses are only crucial if you don’t put away your opportunities at the other end of the pitch. On Tuesday we did, thanks to Steven Gerrard and indeed could have had a lot more than the two goals we managed. Remember Babel went very close on at least two occasions?

Rafa appears not to be too concerned.

“I am not worried about the defence because that can improve. It is easier to improve your defending because it is just repeat and repeat, whereas in attack it is the quality of individuals that’s important.”

I seem to remember that during the 2006-07 season we started off badly at the back and then the defence tightened up significantly and kept clean sheet after clean sheet. Organisation and stability are obviously key. Rafa has chopped and changed at the back however, presumably there will be a recognised system into which players should be able to slot into to without too much difficulty?

Steven Gerrard also chipped in with a few good words for the back four. This was partly to deflect attention from his contribution on Tuesday although he was entitled to enjoy the limelight. Jose Riena was singled out for special praise. It was easy to remember his hesitation in the one on one with Cana that lead to Marseille’s goal but his saves throughout the match should not be forgotten.

“I’m sure people will mention the goals on my behalf. But for me the real heroes were the back four and especially Pepe. We all have him down as the best keeper in the Premier League. He’s immense.”

More importantly, Gerrard talked about he togetherness in the squad.

“The team was confident after Saturday. Before the game I could sense we were going to get another positive result. We know we’re a fantastic side in Europe and it’s always difficult away from home. We didn’t play well in the second half but you could see the togetherness. We just don’t like getting beaten.”

Long may it continue!

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