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  1. Work-rate. Incisiveness. Nous. I don't ask for much. This is how it's gonna be. Build from the ground up. Note the early kick-off time. We got back on the bike against Burnley at the weekend. Granted it was tentative in the first half and we only really woke up in the second, but we merited the 3 points in the end. As we play before City, we have a chance to extend our lead at the top of the table once again. We wouldn't expect them to drop points at home to Chelsea on Saturday evening, so just take it one game at a time and just stay ahead and see what happens. It's weird how they always seem to have games in hand when they are chasing. Brentford at the GTech Community Stadium then. It's a crap name for an OK stadium, and the problem with new builds is that they very rarely have a name of their own from the beginning. Bolton's ground is still referred to as The Reebok even though the sportswear firm has nothing more to do with them. You wonder what Arsenal's ground will be known as should Emirates ever ditch them. A game there is a much tougher test than Burnley at home, particularly for us as we haven't matched up especially well when travelling to Brentford. They have a directness about them which is not Burnley (Dyche era) or Wimbledon (any era) alehouse shit. They can play a bit of football in the last third, it's more how they choose to get there that is a conundrum for teams such as ours that likes to squeeze the pitch vertically and press higher up the pitch. Last year's fixture, our first game of 2023, was an absolute shambles from the men in red (wearing their green away kit). Defensively we were dreadful all game. Virg looked more off the pace than any time we've seen him in Liverpool colours, and Ibou suffered from a mixture of his own clumsiness plus not being dominant physically. Kostas was overrun constantly. Darwin should have put us ahead early on when he got onto an inch-perfect through-ball and rounded David Raya, only to find Ben Mee on the line in the only place where the defender could have done anything about it. After that, we became sloppy and it led to a succession of corners. Brentford took the lead when one of those corners wasn't dealt with, with the ball bouncing off the unfortunate Ibou and into his own net. The rest of that first half was the dictionary definition of 'shambles' as I mentioned earlier, as Brentford scored another from a corner (through Wissa, with the goal confirmed by GLT despites Ali's valiant attempt to keep the ball out) and also had 2 goals disallowed from offside after we yet again failed to deal with their corners. We were beleaguered and half time couldn't come soon enough as 2-0 did not tell the full story. Jurgen rang the changes, bringing off Virg (who it turns out had picked up an injury - physical and not just to his pride), Kostas and Harvey. Darwin had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside before Ox got us a goal back, planting a header low into the corner from Trent's fine left-footed ball in from the right. Any chance that we might claw back to equalise was dampened as we became scrappy once again, and was finally extinguished when Ibou was outmuscled (possible tripped?) by Mbeumo, who ran clear to fire past Ali. We were hopeless, and it was an indicator of our away form for the first couple of months in 2023. The defence was all over the place, the midfield had no legs and the attack was inconsistent. Whenever I write these, I have no idea who will be available or, more pertinently, who will drop out. A flu bug was going round the squad last week so there may be others who are not able to train fully this week. I would hope that Ali, Joe and Dom are available again. Ibou should be back after his 1-match ban. I would also hope Conor is back and he is able to re-find his focus after a very difficult couple of weeks off the pitch. Mo is apparently a week away but if possible, I would save him until the League Cup final and even then, only as a sub. Trent, Dom and Thiago have all suffered minor setbacks after their returns from injury recently. Whoever is available, we really need to try and make a decent fist of our trip to West London for once. The season before last saw us draw 3-3 in a game we didn't game-manage properly. Maximum motivation and attitude, but especially concentration and application, from first minute to last is an absolute requirement. 3 points please. Get it done!
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