For me, this performance highlighted how important it has been for us to have Hojbjerg bossing the midfield and setting the tone. Without him, there was a lack of leadership in midfield and Jose was right in saying the tone was set and it was hard to get back.
You cannot underestimate the effect that someone like Hojbjerg has on the rest of the team; standing up to be counted, barking orders etc. When I saw the team sheet I was worried and said to my mates we have no steel in midfield. Players like Giovani Lo Celso and Stevie Bergwijn can have a role to play in our team, but it’s clear they need someone around them with a dominant character. In fact if you look throughout that starting line up, where was the outfield leadership?
Sanchez: not much
Davies: has some leadership
Aurier: none – needs instruction
Reguilon: new, young, language barrier
Winks: very little
GLC: very little
Bergwijn: very little
Dele: very little
Bale: still settling in
Vinicius: new, language barrier
Almost all of these players needed a leader to look to for inspiration and instruction last night, but they didn’t have it. That doesn’t make them terrible players, but you can only afford so many in a team.
I’d say this was a failure of Mourinho not to recognize this. Even just Moussa Sissoko for Harry Winks could have made a big difference.