Now back in Manhattan after enjoying a second home win in just over a week, I am encouraged about our prospects for 2005. The win over Everton was perhaps slightly fortunate (it looked a cast-iron penalty on the tv), but if a team keeps working hard and doing the simple things well then the luck tends to work in their favour. In terms of hard work, the effort put in especially by Kishishev, Holland and Bartlett probably goes somewhat unnoticed and I infact detected some discomfort amongst fans about the latter's goal record. However, midway through the second half Everton broke from a corner and Bartlett ended up being the last outfield Charlton player back in his own penalty area, having sprinted eighty yards to ensure we kept parity. I'd probably rather a goal machine in the style of Mendonca (it's hard to recall ever seeing him in the Charlton box) but in the absence of a genuine goalscorer in the squad, Bartlett is the best option we have. Unfortunately for Franny Jeffers, who may be that missing goalscorer, it is hard to see how he can fit into the 4-5-1 formation which has served us so well in recent weeks.
Talal al Karkouri continues to impress with his aerial presence and willingness to pass the ball accurately across multiple distances. I have always quite liked seeing Chris Perry in defence too, but he both lacks TAK's height as well as his passing ability. We now have a real presence at set pieces with the free-scoring Moroccan assisted by Hreidarsson, Fortune and of course, Bartlett. Indeed any team that plays us without tall players assisting the centre backs, will have their hands full with Murphy whipping in excellent dead balls. Unfortunately Arsenal don't fit into this category with the likes of Viera but other teams will.
It was encouraging to see Curbs use his substitutes wisely, and Konchesky had a role in both goals within minutes of coming on. Indeed, I wouldn't be averse to using him occasionally as a more defensive alternative to Thomas, even in a 4-5-1 formation, who had a quiet game for once. It was disappointing to see Rommedahl removed again but he continues to look uncertain and lacking in confidence.
The prospects of us picking up at least a point against Arsenal have clearly improved and the Champions have stuttered since surrendering their amazing unbeaten record. The weather forecast for squally showers will hopefully act as a leveller and put a brake on their flowing football.
Finally, it is difficult to focus on the triviality of football in the light of the sheer magnitude of the tragedy that has engulfed South East Asia. Whilst it puts our passion for football in its proper perspective, it also illustrates the shortness of life and the importance of celebrating its wonder since it can be wiped out so tragically. If something as ultimately as pointless as football can help us do so, we shouldn't feel guilty about it.