One of the things that all of us know but few of us want to say out loud is that Ange is going to get things wrong and make mistakes as manager. That’s not a criticism. It doesn’t make him less of a good leader.
As he said of the players after the game the other day, it simply makes him human.
And human beings are going to have missteps.
Before the match, I know that one of the little intellectual games we were all involved in was trying to pick our starting eleven.
It’s fair to say that few, if any of us, would have had Johnston and Forrest operating on the right. It’s not a combination that had ever been tried before. These guys have no real understanding of one another.
So it was a strange selection, but when you consider it carefully one that makes more sense than is immediately apparent. Forrest was there precisely because Johnston lacked experience.
If you presume that Juranovic wasn’t fully fit – and he wasn’t, which is why I am not joining the over-the-top chorus demanding he be punted right away – then playing the Canadian from the start is only sensible. Backing him up with the most experienced person in the team, a wide player who works his backside off and does a lot of tracking back, is sensible.
But it deprived us of our best attacking weapon on the right, which is Liel Abada.
From his displays in previous games I can safely say that Barisic probably still goes to bed at night in a cold sweat about facing him.
He had an easier day than he reckoned with.
I love Matt O’Riley and believe we’re looking at the first player the club has had who could breach the £30 million mark for us, either in a direct transfer or in a big deal with the right add-ons. But he is badly off the pace right now and I could not see past us starting with Mooy, who settled the whole midfield the minute he came on.
Did the manager err in not starting him? I think he may wonder about that himself, especially as Mooy played such a critical role in the equaliser. I think his calm, assurance would have been a great asset to us in the game and we might have won more of the midfield battles after they started getting a grip on that area of the pitch.
This is all second guessing, and I feel bad about it in some ways but the debate has to be had or we’re just not being honest with ourselves.
The substitution, putting Juranovic on at left back, was a bad move and I think every one of us would acknowledge that.
He’s not a natural in that position, and as my good friend Matt Marr pointed out to me some months back when Juranovic had been tested in that position several times, putting a right sided full-back on that side of the pitch means that his passing and crossing are all with the wrong foot. His turning circle is wrong. His spatial awareness radar goes wonky.
What’s worse is that it was such an un-necessary move; we had a natural left back on the bench, but presumably this was about having our most experienced man on the field to replace Taylor.
Which raises the question, again, of throwing Johnston in as a debutant.
Johnston handled the game well. If Bernabei can’t be trusted in this sort of fixture, then we have to wonder why he’s in the squad at all. Juranovic was lost at sea yesterday, and whilst I very much doubt that it will have any impact on the fee we get for him it has certainly dented his confidence and shaken the faith of the fans in his ability to focus.
We got a result.
The manager used his resources well in the end, and in going two up front forced their club to its own tactical changes, and one of those was to bring on the absolutely ineffectual and actually quite ludicrous James Sands.
The Mooch decided to play defensively and try and hang onto the lead … a stupid strategy considering that he has already seen what happens to teams which do that, and not that long ago either.
But the manager will do some soul searching over the way we fell out of the game and so should we, and we’re entitled to wonder if the team selection itself was part of the problem.
It was certainly a huge surprise when all of us saw the starting eleven. It was doubtless a surprise to the Ibrox club as well, but not of the sort that might have inflicted an early psychological blow.