So we’ve not long gone past the halfway point of the season, and what an interesting first half of the season it has been.
We’ve played 22 matches, won 11, drawn three and lost eight. I think we would have grabbed somebodies hand off if offered that at the beginning of the season when doom and gloom reigned supreme.
The table looks interesting too. At the top three teams (49, 50 and 51 points) are pretty much fighting for the title and hogging the Champions League places. Then three teams sitting six points behind – these three chasing the last Champions League spot and the solitary Europa League place. Then another gap down to Manchester United on 37 points, ourselves on 36 points and Southampton on 31. The bottom looks amazing with 11 teams spread between 18 and 24 points. So glad we are out of that.
So what could we hope to achieve this season? I think we are safe from relegation and another couple of wins would guarantee it. Looking up we are not going to catch the three at the top and we’re currently seven points off 4th place. If there was only one club to overhaul that would be doable. But there are four which make it harder, and less likely.
Where would we need to strengthen to make that charge? Looking at the table. We’ve scored 32 goal which lags behind the 53 scored by Liverpool, but only 36, 35 and 29 scored by Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham respectively. So a few more goals would not go amiss, but we are not lagging behind the others there. Similarly goals against. We have conceded 28 which is the same as Liverpool. The others have let in 27, 26 and 20. I think that the Williamson/Mbiwa partnership has looked good, but the absence of Mathieu Debuchy has disrupted that and switching M’biwa to full-back has weakened the defence. We need dedicated back up at right-back.
The way I see it we have three choices. See out the season, push for glory or prepare for next season. Seeing out the season is the easy option. Sell no-one, buy no-one and wait for the summer. Consolidate our top-eight position and see what happens.
Pushing for glory will appeal to some. Fourth place and Champions League football would be fantastic. Looking at PaddyPower, Liverpool are 10/11 to take the 4th spot. Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are 2/1 while Everton are 7/2 with ourselves pegged at 50/1. To finish in the top six we are still 12/1. So according to the bookies we would have to do something drastic to get some glory. It may be as simple as starting Sylvain Marveaux and Hatem Ben Arfa which would make some people happy. However, I suspect it would take more than that. We would need to strengthen at both ends of the field and hope that any new additions bed in immediately.
Which leads me to option three – prepare for next season. This season has already identified our strengths and weaknesses. So we could look at who we want to start next season. We definitely need a stronger bench, and we need to give our new players the rest of the season to bed in, as the lads did last term. We can let go now those who we know will be leaving anyway, Yohan Cabaye and Fabricio Coloccini spring to mind, and make sure we have a good pre-season and shoot for glory next season. Why is it always next season?
What would I do? Well get Nicholas Cortese in as Chairman ASAP. Let Joe go. I was a big fan of his at Wimbledon and not as disappointed with him here first time round as some, but Director of Football? Really? WHY?? Alan Pardew I don’t have a problem with, but there are others out there. I would clear out a few players and bring in three or four more. Time for recognising our core players and strengthening ready to move forward.
What would you do? Stick or Twist??