Tests! Our season has been full of them. Or not as the experts will have you believe.
We face out 12th first real test of the season when we head to Manchester City on Saturday although few can deny that a trip to the Etihad is perhaps one of the sterner tests any team will come up against.
What can we make of the stats so far though? Can they tell us anything we don’t know about our expectations and whether or not we’ve surpassed them? Do they point towards what the pundits say and confirm that we’ve not been tested? On the flipside, do they show that we are being short changed by pundits? How does the form book of our previous opponents look? Have we been lucky in the timing we’ve played them? Regular reader and occasional writer Premandup takes a look, starting with our home form.
Our home record of won four, drawn two, scored ten, and conceded five looks decent, but is there any truth in saying that we haven’t faced a real test yet? Obviously Arsenal would appear to be a test, but Arsenal’s away record this season is pretty poor. They’ve won one game away at Chelsea whilst losing to Manchester United, Tottenham and Blackburn, so perhaps a draw was OK but no surprise.
We’ve also beaten Fulham, Blackburn and Wigan who between them have only once won away from their respective home grounds. Fulham and Wigan have lost a total of nine games between them so no surprise there. And no slip ups.
Beating Everton, who have only lost to Manchester City and Chelsea away whilst beating Blackburn and Fulham is a more telling result, and the draw with Spurs was very respectable as Spurs have only lost away to Manchester United, beating Wolves, Wigan, Blackburn and Fulham on the road.
The away record of our opponents at St James’ Park is won eight, drawn eight lost 16 having scored 40 and conceded 62. So looking at our record we have done well at home, having achieved the points required and have justified a top half placing. I give our home form 9 out of 10. Point lost for not keeping a clean sheet against Fulham and not putting more goals past Wigan.
Our unbeaten away record of won three, drawn two, scored seven, and conceded three shows how formidable our defence has been. Looking at the home form of our opponents shows they have not been too hot however. Sunderland have lost to Chelsea as well as us, whilst only winning once. Wolves are little better having lost to both Spurs and QPR at home whilst managing two wins against Fulham and Wigan.
Our win at Stoke however was the icing on the cake as Stoke have only lost to us whilst beating Fulham and Liverpool whilst holding Chelsea and Manchester United to draws. The games we drew at QPR and Aston Villa were two totally different situations. QPR are draw specialists having drawn with us, Villa and Blackburn, whilst losing to both Bolton and City. They managed a win against Chelsea to their credit. Villa have only lost in their derby game with West Brom, and only drew in their derby game with Wolves whilst beating Blackburn, Wigan and Norwich.
The home records of our opponents on the road have been pretty uninspired with only Stoke and Villa having anything respectable. I am forced to conclude that we have achieved what is expected of a club in the top half of the table, and managed to avoid any banana skins en route.
Away I have to award 8 out of 10 with the the QPR game marking us down.
Overall then I think that we have achieved what a team trying to be in the top 10 should have done. We have beaten who has been put in front of us, avoided any shocks and pulled off a top class result away to Stoke. Whilst there is some support for the “we haven’t been tested yet argument” I feel that what impresses me the most is fact that we have actually done well, we haven’t slipped up and we are in 3rd place with 10 points in hand over Villa in 8th place. All without being spectacular. Great stuff.
So what can we look forward to over our 1st real test, our next 3 games?
Citeh’s home form is frightening, played five, won five scored 22 conceded two. Does deeper analysis provide any hope? Well Villa and Wolves both managed a goal, and Everton only conceded two so no not really. A draw would be brilliant, a clean sheet remarkable. My prediction 2-1 Citeh.
Manchester United’s home form is nearly as good – played six, won five with their only home loss being the 6-1 against City. They’ve scored 18 goals and conceded nine. Take out the City game and the 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal and you will see that Man Utd have beaten Spurs, Chelsea, Norwich and Sunderland conceding only one goal and scoring nine en route. Again a draw would be an achievement but a clean sheet looks possible. Prediction 0-0
Finally Chelsea at St James’ Park. Although Chelsea have won away at Sunderland, Bolton and Blackburn, they have lost to Man Utd and QPR and drawn at Stoke so there is hope here. My prediction 2-1 to us.
Enjoy the ride. We’re third on merit.