On a soupy Friday night in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl, Alabama opened its 1954 season exactly as it had opened 1953: with a loss to Mississippi Southern. Alabama’s Bobby Luna dropped a punt snap, setting the Southerners up inside the Tide 30. Four plays later, Brooks Tisdale ran 18 yards around left end for the game’s only touchdown.
Bama’s Doug Potts blocked a punt late, but the Tide couldn’t fall on it. It bounced through the end zone for a mere safety in a 7-2 loss.
This game wasn’t without its local significance. For starters, it was the last game Alabama would play in Montgomery. Auburn had beaten Stetson there the year before but would also never go back. The two losses to Southern Miss were among only three the Tide would suffer in 20 contests at Cramton.
Arsenal’s lack of apparent heart was pointed out by one of Wenger’s most experienced players before the match — Per Mertesacker told the media that his side was “not ready for a fight.” That eye-opening comment surprised many for its bluntness, and may have rubbed his squad the wrong way given how prophetic they made his words appear.
By contrast, the younger men are quick, tricky, and entirely unsuited to collecting the long passes to the leaping big man. The angle of attack shifts, and everybody’s job changes, just a little bit. And this holds even if Mourinho decides to shuffle his formation. Against Rostov, United played three at the back; a hint, perhaps, that Mourinho hopes to beat Chelsea by joining them. But they still had Ibrahimovic, out-ball and base camp.
His absence could, perhaps, make United a little less predictable. Without the default option of slinging the ball in the direction of their big man, United will have to find smarter ways to craft chances. With this in mind, the return of Mkhitaryan to fitness couldn’t come at a better time. Ibrahimovic may score the goals, but the Armenian always looks the most likely to break defenses open.