Sid Lambert gives his views on what we have learnt from the much-needed victory over Wolves at the weekend.
Run, Tommy, Run: Soucek’s not finished yet
In recent times, there have been questions asked about Tomas Soucek. No one has ever doubted the Czech’s endeavour, rather whether the energy reserves were running dry. Soucek has been like football’s Forrest Gump. He’s been a constant source of motion for club and country for nearly three years, with no break in-between. With each passing game, the levels seemed to drop a little lower, like your TV remote whose batteries were dwindling. The warning signs were there, but it seemed like a real faff to pop down to Tesco and buy some new Triple AAAs.
Against Wolves, he looked positively recharged. It helped that he was against one of the League’s most stagnant midfields. Bruno Lage’s commitment to possession with precious little forward threat is admirable. I’ve not seen such consistent passing since Joey Essex was on Celebrity Mastermind.
Nonetheless, Soucek was a defensive titan. And he contributed offensively too. His cross to Cornet at the back post created a decent opportunity, whilst his little round-the corner pass was key in the build-up to Jarrod Bowen’s decisive second goal. This was the performance the manager had been waiting for. One that repaid his loyalty.
You can understand why Mr Moyes has faith in certain players and is reluctant to change. Being a Premier League manager comes with the same job security as being a newlywed to Henry VIII. More displays like this from Soucek and his gaffer will feel far safer from the guillotine.
Kehrer is Mr Versatile
One of my favourite-ever players in Claret and Blue was George Parris. A stalwart of the team through the 80s and into the 90s, George was a gaffer’s dream. Always available, always ready to help out wherever he could. There was many a manager over the years who put their arm around George on a Friday afternoon at Chadwell Heath and said, “How’d you fancy doing a job for me at centre-mid tomorrow?”. The answer was always “yes”, and the performance was always immaculate. At one stage, you could have asked Old Georgie to drive the team bus home and there was fair chance he’d find a quicker route through the traffic on the A12.
Quite how Mr Moyes convinced Thilo Kehrer to put a shift in at right-back, I’ve no idea. But Saturday’s gamble was a decision that worked beautifully. The German’s defensive solidity freed Jarrod Bowen up to buzz around like a wasp at a picnic. Whether Kehrer’s a long-term option at full-back – given that he has impressed already in his preferred central position – is debatable, but his willingness to put the team first will make himself even more popular with his new fanbase.
Scamacca’s up to speed
Gianluca Scamacca’s introduction to life in East London has been a little frustrating. In the team one week, out the next, he’s stopped and started like my nan’s old Vauxhall Vectra. On Saturday he got the chance to go full throttle, and he marked the occasion with the sweetest of strikes to open the scoring. What’s impressive about his performances so far has been the variety of goals. He looks a danger in the air and on the ground, in the box and from distance.
His form offers the manager an interesting dilemma: is it a straight choice between the Italian and Michail Antonio, or the could the two work in tandem? There won’t be many central defences that relish that prospect.
Ballon d’Awson back in business
There’s a simple beauty about watching Craig Dawson play football. In an age where pundits are obsessed with players who ping diagonals from the back and play endless sideways passes, Dawson is never going to command many headlines. But the big man isn’t there to win friends, he’s there to win football matches. And against Wolves he was at his destructive best, grinding any hint of creativity into the dirt.
Players like him are a dying breed. In years to come there won’t be many YouTube or TikTok videos devoted to Dawson heading away corners or shuffling the ball out of play for a goal-kick. But it’s that instinct for being in the right place at the right time that makes him so dependable. At this point, our best defence against Putin’s nuclear arsenal might be Dawson booting the missiles all the way back to the Kremlin – and doing it with that familiar determined smile on his face.
Written by Sid Lambert