It has occurred to me that ever since the defeat to Fulham, a lot of the optimism shown in the previous week after has evaporated.
While our second half performance against Fulham was shocking, I don’t feel the need to push the panic button just yet.
There is obviously room for improvement in the depth of our squad, but we cannot realistically expect to change from a newly promoted team to Champions League challengers in the space of two seasons. Most of us knew this January period was going to be a difficult one, missing the likes of Steven Taylor (injured), Sylvain Marveaux (injured), Yohan Cabaye (playing through injury) and Cheik Tiote, Demba Ba and now Papiss Demba Cisse who are all involved in the African Cup of Nations.
Not even the huge squads of Man United, Chelsea and Man City would not feel some kind of effect from missing five or six of their best players.
Can you imagine Arsenal being the same force without Thomas Vermaelen, Robin van Persie, Gervinho, Alex Song, and Jack Wilshere? Or Man United without Wayne Rooney, Nani, Nemanja Vidic, Valenca and Patrice Evra?
The majority of these players will in all likelihood be missing up until we play Wolves on Saturday, February 25th. So perhaps we need to lower our expectations a little for that period?
Alan Pardew has already stated that IF we can maintain our top seven position until these players return, then we have a realistic chance of pushing for Europe, meaning he himself isn’t expecting fireworks while we have that amount of quality missing.
Our fixtures until these players return are as follows:
Saturday, January 28: Brighton (away)
Wednesday, February 1: Blackburn (away)
Sunday, February 5: Aston Villa (home)
Saturday, February 11: Spurs (away)
Now, while despite our current depleted squad, I would expect us to beat Brighton. To get four points from those three Premier League fixtures would be a good return, and three points would be far from devastating.
The nearest team to catching us up in our top seven position is Stoke who are still six points adrift, with fixtures against Man United (away), Sunderland (home) and Fulham (away) coming up. Meaning that if we we to pick up three points, and they would need to win all three of those fixtures to be equal to us on points.
Basically, we will be looking pretty in at least seventh position, with a quality squad at our disposal to attack a Europa League place and mount a serious FA Cup challenge come the end of February.
Would any of you have expected this at the start of the season? The next couple weeks could be rough, but what is key, is for the supporters not to start heaping added pressure on our team by expecting flawless performances.
I find it ridiculous that after one poor performance, the likes of Mike Williamson, Danny Guthrie, Leon Best, Ryan Taylor and Danny Simpson have all been described as inadequate, when they have all played a decent part in contributing to our successful season and have been solid enough for most of the season.
Then players like Obertan and Santon, who again have only just arrived at the club are also now being put under the cosh. I can understand the disappointment in having to watch Shola Ameobi slumber around the field, disrupting every attacking move and watching like a bored spectator as the game gets played around him, because he has been poor for 12 years now.
All I’m saying, is let’s not expect too much over the next two weeks, and when our big names return and perhaps the addition of some good defensive cover, lets not let them return to a support base that has let what could be a couple of rough weeks put a dampener on a remarkable season!