How excited are you for the rest of the season after our super September?
Lucy Woolford: Very! I was pretty confident that the season wouldn’t be reflected in our first few games, but now things are going our way and confidence is up, it feels like we could take anyone on. We have faults, but if players keep putting in effort and believing in their abilities, then this can be a decent season on the whole.
Emily Pulham: I’m with Lucy – things are looking up! I went to the Manchester United game full of optimism. It was weird and uncomfortable. It’s finally clicked for us and we’re getting results and playing some lovely football. We’re not going to win every game, but we’re playing football that’s worth watching.
David Blackmore: I agree with both of you. August was such a let down after such a great summer but super September has got me absolutely buzzing for the rest of the campaign. I really hope we can continue this good form now that we have finally negotiated our tricky start. My biggest concern at the moment is how we will perform against a side that parks the bus – something neither Everton, Chelsea or Manchester United did – but I’m sure Pellegrini has a trick or two up his sleeve to break down lesser sides.
Which players do you think have helped us finally get our season going?
LW: I don’t think it’d be fair to pinpoint individual players to credit with the turnaround. Giving Yarmolenko a starting place has been instrumental, but Pellegrini deserves credit for finding his way and figuring out what works. Especially against Man Utd, there could’ve been 11 man of the match awards.
EP: I think our season has got going with players settling in and finding their feet – Yarmolenko’s on fire, Anderson is passing well, and Balbuena and Diop are forming one heck of a partnership. Mark Noble is playing some of his best football, and Zabaleta’s contributions are really making a difference.
DB: While I agree with Lucy that it has been a team effort, I think Rice has been outstanding in that defensive midfield role and that, to me, is his position now. I also think Obiang was probably the cog that had been missing. He isn’t the player that everyone has been talking about but I believe his work helps others to thrive and this goes under the radar to most fans watching on. With these two, and Noble who looked like Xavi or Iniesta at times against Man United, this trio have helped us lay a foundation on which to build our season.
What position do you think Felipe Anderson is best suited to?
LW: He’s suited to a more central position than out on the wing, but in a solely attacking role. Defensive duties don’t suit him, he’s certainly not a fan of tracking back. His best work comes when he’s not worried about the opposition.
EP: See I actually quite like when he’s got the freedom to go down the wing; he looks comfortable there and has the space to drive the ball and really cover some ground. He’s doing some great clever passing there too and getting the ball to the box.
DB: I agree with Lucy. I think he looks isolated out wide. He wants to be involved in the play and I think we should be pushing everything through him – like we did with Payet – but from a No.10 position rather than on the wing. Against United, there was also more than one occasion where he just left his man go and suddenly Masuaku was faced with a two on one situation. Any threat that United created all came down that flank and I think, if we continue to play Anderson on the flank, other teams will look to expose this weakness.
How impressed were you by the performance of the Academy players – and our fringe players – against Macclesfield?
LW: It was really nice to see a solid performance against a lower league team in the league cup. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, eight goals is impressive. I was so happy for the youngsters, particularly Diangana who topped his week off by coming on against Man Utd, a nice touch from Pellegrini.
EP: As one of the 30 or so people who went to the Macclesfield game, I must admit I loved what I saw. Yes, Macclesfield weren’t Premier League opposition, but last year it took us over 200 minutes to break down Shrewsbury so it does suggest some improvement on our part. I agree with Lucy on Diangana; he looked excellent on the pitch. He was confident, creative, and driven. He deserved his time on the pitch on Saturday – and the future’s starting to look bright for the claret and blue.
DB: The Macclesfield game, to me, had all the makings of a dire 0-0 with us scraping through 11-10 on penalties so I was pleasantly surprised by how we acquitted ourselves and put them to the sword. Yes, Macclesfield were poor but we still needed to do our jobs. Following the performances of our youngsters there has been a lot of talk on social media about the future looking bright – I just hope we continue to nurture these youngsters into Premier League footballers and not treat them as we have in recent years.
How do you think we’ll get on in our games in October?
LW: Easy! Three games, at least five points. It’s a great time for us to play Spurs if we can keep confidence up, so we’ll get at least a point. We’ve a score to settle with Brighton after last season, so three points there. Leicester is tough to call because it’s a hard one to get up for, so let’s say a point.
EP: I think we’ll have a very tough test against Spurs – particularly as we now have to play them twice in a short span of time – and Brighton aren’t pushovers, given that they did the double over us last year! I’m going for five points as well, but will be happy to be surprised as to where we get them from!
DB: I worry we will struggle against Brighton – who comfortably beat us at home and away last season – but I think we’ll pick up points against Spurs and away at Leicester before we start November with wins against Burnley and Huddersfield.