In the last week, we have signed 2 England internationals, our local rival’s best player, and taken three points away from home to start the season. There are several places I could start, but instead I’d like to quickly thank Marathon Bet for a fantastic day on Saturday. Not only did they offer free coach travel, but also free breakfast, pub lunch, and the new 3rd shirt, completely free of charge. What a way to endear yourself to the fans.
Now, back to on field matters. Jol described the victory at Sunderland as the perfect result, but not a perfect performance, and he’s pretty much hit the nail on the head. We were pretty woeful, but at the end of the day, three points are three points.
The stem of our problems was the lack of pace up front, and the injuries we suffered certainly didn’t help the situation. Richardson and Stekelenburg going off meant Taarabt and Duff couldn’t, and I’m almost certain they would have done because Adel’s had no pre season (which showed), and Duff is getting on a bit (which also showed). Neither had the ability to get past a player, and then stay past them. Taarabt showed some excellent glimpses of skill, but would then immediately get caught up by the defender. Anyone who was at the QPR v Fulham game last season would know this isn’t usually the case.
Stekelenburg was excellent – making one outstanding save and a few solid ones – and distributing to Berbatov excellently. It was a real worry when he went off injured, but thankfully it’s looking better than first feared, and he should only be out for a couple of weeks. In Stockdale we have a more than adequate back up though, and I feel very comfortable with him in goal in the mean time.
There were only 2 issues which I felt were quite serious. Firstly, we are still yet to bring in any creativity in the centre of the pitch, which was our main problem last season, and quite frankly I’m staggered it’s yet to be addressed. Parker, Boateng and Sidwell are all the same kind of player and would all be suitable partners to a more creative centre mid, such as Dembele, (yes, I’m still crying that we lost him), but playing two together doesn’t really work. With just under 2 weeks to go until the transfer window shuts, I’m hopeful Jol will bring in someone of a fairly high calibre, but I won’t be holding my breath; expect a loan signing on deadline day…
The second problem was Berbatov. I saw his heat map from the match, and it begs the question did he ever enter the middle of the pitch? We may lack creativity in midfield, but even Xavi would struggle to start meaningful attacks with the awful positions Berbatov gets into. Someone needs to tell him ‘we have wingers, we only have one centre forward, you. Please can you stay there so that when we get the ball we have someone to pass to?’ In Darren Bent we’ve signed a striker who will do exactly that, stand on the last line of defence and make decent runs.
I’m not too sure what to think about the signings of Bent and Parker. They both sound like good signings but they’re not really long-term solutions, Bent is only on loan and Parker is 33 later this year. One way to describe them is Football Manager signings; you see these big names on the transfer list and are amazed that you can afford them, so you buy them without considering what you really need. What’s frustrating is that Norwich have picked up Leroy Fer for around the same price as we got Parker for, yet he’s ten years younger, and arguably already a more desirable player. Bent was needed; it’s just disappointing that he’s only on loan.
We face Arsenal this weekend, at what is possibly the best time to play them with all their injuries, an opening day defeat and a nice trip back from Turkey in the week. I don’t think a victory is out of the question for us, but I’d be happy with a draw, and I think that’s the most likely outcome. A 1-1 draw is what I’m predicting.
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