Well who’da think that Everton would be capable of giving Man City a pasting like they did yesterday, eh? And just think, fourth months ago City were going to walk the league, Pep would be crowned the messiah reincarnate, English football would never be the same again and we’d all just give up.
And now we have a guy who has swept all before him, suddenly looking a bit bemused by it all, with a collective of players who are exactly like our lot: can go quite easily from sublime to ridiculous.
I’ve stopped short of saying that I thought City would never implode like they did yesterday, but they have very similar outlook and approach to the game that we do, so in one sense it certainly is very believable. Ruling them out of the league though, isn’t, to my mind. It isn’t, because I’ve realised something this morning as I got up and crunched my Waitrose own-brand version of Special K; every team in the top six has now gone on a prolonged unbeaten run.
At the beginning of the season it was City. Then it was the Spuds who hadn’t lost. Then it was us who had only lost on the opening day. Then people realised what a streak Chelski were on. Now it’s United that everybody is talking about from an unbeaten perspective. Liverpool too have had their winning streak.
Because all of the ‘bigger’ teams are not dropping points against so-called ‘lesser’ opposition. I wouldn’t class Everton in that bracket, but the blow was enough to have Pep sort of reaching for the white flag. But there will come a point in the season where they will have a series of ‘winnable’ games and they will re-establish their form. They’re too good not to. The trick will be whether anybody can have a streak like Chelski’s. the difference between their streak and ours was that they were keeping clean sheets. Had we gone that period hardly conceding a goal, we’d probably be a couple of points away from them, but they took advantage of their ‘easy run’ of games and now they’ve got enough points bagged for a slip up or two.
So whilst Pep rules his side out, he only needs five or six in a row and we’ll see them return to form and fighting for the league, I think.
It’s what needs to happen to us. We have to go on a run now. I’m looking at the next two league games and probably even the cup game – to continue momentum – in which we need to be winning and picking up points/entry to the next round before we play Chelski. We’ve all seen the script from Stamford Bridge for far too long so I won’t even think about that right now, but if by some miracle we could avoid defeat there having managed to win all of our games between now and then, perhaps our team can look at going on a bit of a winning streak too.
It does look unlikely at the moment though. Not because we aren’t capable – we all know the team is – but because we’ve all seen the deficiencies in the side and it’s the same headaches that keep cropping up. I don’t want to sound overly negative on a weekend in which we’ve just won 4-0 away from home, but I see our midfield and it’s haphazard approach to starting games, and I can’t see how those two in the middle can function effectively when we come up against a strong midfield who can play in between the lines.
Think about someone like Erikson/Dembele. Or Hazard/Willian. Or Silva/ De Bruyne. These players are all class and when you have a midfield like our current one that allows too much space in front of its back four, that’s where I get fearful. We’re ok at this moment in time, but that Chelski game is three weeks away and as it stands right now, I’m not sure how or what we can do to counter them. Hopefully I’m just being a pessimistic fan though. The whole ‘self preservation’ thing. I’m saying all of this but deep down I’m thinking “but what if?”. No Chris, don’t say anything more, you’ll curse the team and everyone will blame you for it. Not the fact that Aaron Ramsey can’t put together anything longer than a ten yard pass.
What needs to happen over the next few weeks though, is that the team needs to build its momentum, but also those little partnerships all over the pitch, with a sprinkling of injured players come back ‘like a new signing’ too. I’m looking over in your direction Hector. Gabriel has done okayish, but you only have to see the overlapping runs and recovery tackles that our young Spaniard makes, to see the impact that having him in the side has.
I’d also like to see what Danny Welbz can do for us too. His return to the team gives us another pacey option up top. When he’s back to full fitness we’re talking Alexis, Theo, Welbeck, Iwobi, the Ox and Lucas Perez, all who have quite a degree of pace about them. I’d like to see us utilise that more and whilst Ollie G continues to bang them in playing through the middle, I’d like us to be continuing to provide him with willing runners either side.
What will be interesting to see in a few weeks time, will be who becomes first choice in that side right position. At the start of the season Theo made it his own, but with so much competition in the side in the attacking positions, as well as his injury now having him out for almost a month, I hope he doesn’t just waltz back in to the side. We need players to have the hunger that competition brings and so I’m hoping that he finds his path blocked by the form of other players, because that means we’re playing well in attack and scoring goals.
But Arsène does need to keep them all hungry. You know I have my theories about his ‘hierarchies’ of players, which I think is unhealthy because it doesn’t breed that hunger that we’re seeing from players like Giroud right now, so my hope for the next few months is that Arsène gives players enough game time that it doesn’t take them a couple of matches to get up to speed when they are called upon. That will happen if a player is left out in the cold. I am hoping that Lucas, Theo, the Ox and Iwobi all get enough game time. Some will, because Wenger has his favourites, but we need them all to be fresh.
Righto, that’s me done for now, and over the next two weeks it’ll probably be intermittent blogs. I’m off to St Lucia early tomorrow for some winter sun, so I might catch you tomorrow, or I might just be in the air somewhere.