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  1. No 'clever' wordplay now. This past month or so has been so incredibly deflating. A Saturday lunchtime game. Again. Yay. TNT Sports have had to make do with the unwanted time slot, and the problem would be solved if that rule about no live football on TV at 3:00pm on Saturdays was ditched. Whatever was the basis for that decision surely is of no relevance today, so sticking to it is like when Americans adhere steadfastly to elements of the US Constitution that were constructed for the conditions of the time but should have no bearing on society today. If they do, then that society has made no progress. The 12:30 time slot is for the benefit of the Far East TV market as it coincides with their peak time, but games in this timeslot tend to be vastly different to the Saturday 3:00pm, Sunday afternoon or any midweek evening slot. Eveything just seems more sluggish. The ONLY good thing about them is that if your team wins, you basically have a whole weekend to enjoy other things. The corresponding fixture took place almost exactly a year ago. We'd gradually started finding a bit of form, especially away from home, and looked more like the side that had gone close to a quadruple the year before. And yet it started in familiar fashion, with us being too easily opened up on our right flank. A nice move (aiding by very little in the way of closing down by us) saw Paqueta fire a fine effort past Ali from 20 yards. Trent was playing that hybrid role and picked up the ball in midfield, squeezing a pass to Cody in a central position 25 yards out. Again, very little in the way of closing down meant that he had time to turn, carry the ball and fire a low effort beyond Fabianski. Diogo had a couple of chances to put us ahead, but got underneath his shot for the first, and didn't quite have enough height to get a header on target for his second. Virg nipped in before Antonio at the far post when a goal looked almost certain. Early in the second half, Bowen was played in down the right, cut inside Virg and shot into the far corner. Virg hardly covered himself in glory with the way he tracked back, and we were fortunate when VAR came down in our favour for once, judging Bowen to be offside. Big Bird was denied a goal after a goalmouth scramble following a corner, but from the resulting corner, he absolutely buried his header into the roof of the net. West Ham argued that they shoulder have had a penalty late on for a handball by Thiago, but the Spaniard's momentum when winning the ball meant that his arm was where it was to check his fall. The ball just so happened to be under him at that very moment. Hardly the same as Odegaard at Anfield, yet that one got less attention by the VAR guys. 2-1 to us in the end. We've been so profligate in attack and so sloppy defensively in recent weeks, it's hard to pinpoint the catalyst. Some people (including Jurgen) have identified the FA Cup tie, and maybe that's true. Or maybe it goes back a little earlier, but was being papered over by the excellence of the youngsters called up. Whatever it is has totally derailed our season to the point where so many players are being questioned as to whether they are good enough. Cody might be available again for this one, and based on the lack of positive impact of both Darwin and Mo in recent weeks, Cody has done more than both to stake his claim for a starting berth. I'd have him in for one of those. I keep saying stuff about motivation, concentration, attitude and application needing to be absolutely on point from first minute to last. It's not me saying it for the sake of it, but because it is necessary. Without it, you let performances and results slip away, and it gets harder to wash off the stink. Whatever remains of this season, treat the games like there is something to gain. Winning begets winning. 3 points please. Get it done!
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