Defensively we were all over the place before the Everton game but I saw enough at Goodison Park – and at home against Chelsea and Manchester United – to make me believe that we have started to iron out our problems. I wasn’t really expecting the results or performances last month but there were changes at Everton and I felt Pellegrini got the balance right – especially in the midfield with Obiang coming back in.
There’s also a growing relationship between centre backs Fabián Balbuena and Issa Diop which I like but that wasn’t the main aspect of the recent performances as far as I’m concerned. That place is reserved for Declan Rice who I believe – as I’ve said before – is the finest prospect I’ve seen anywhere in many years. This boy has absolutely everything. I’ve said it before and I have no fear saying it again – he’s the closest I’ve seen to Bobby Moore since Bobby Moore!
To perform as he did against Everton and Chelsea with the international situation swirling around him along with contract talks was incredible for one so young but the composure he showed was remarkable. For me, Declan is the first name on our team sheet. I know he is young but he plays with no fear.
In my mind the manager should start building the team around him because he was central to all the good things that were going on and it was his protection of the back four which was central to the four points we picked up. We need to give him the contract he wants – the contract he deserves. We can’t let him go to someone else.
Just think about all the youngsters that have come through our academy that have gone on to have fantastic careers – the likes of Lampard, Rio and Carrick. While I appreciate if Declan becomes the player I believe he will be that he won’t be here for long enough to get a testimonial, it would be good if we can keep him for another five years.
Those four results gave us a much-needed confidence boost – especially Chelsea as we got a clean sheet. While I’m sure the defence will have felt they’ve played well of late, getting a clean sheet shows them that they can shut out a team. The fact it was Chelsea will give the defence confidence that what they’ve done in training and worked hard on, does work.
They were always going to make it work but with so many changes and a whole new system, it was going to be difficult at the start. Now they will approach the October games with belief that they can face anyone in the league and keep them at bay.
I really do see things starting to work, relationships forming such as the pair I’ve mentioned plus Arnautovic and Yarmolenko, and I think that Lukasz Fabianski has probably made a bigger consistent impression so far this season than any other new signing.
Even at Everton he was called upon to make some fine stops in what eventually became a comprehensive victory but without him life could have been a lot more difficult. He really is an excellent keeper – good shot stopper, not frightened to leave his line.
When you saw the fees being mentioned for the likes of Pickford and Butland at one stage, the £7 million we paid for Fabianski was a fantastic bit of business.