A disastrous opening day defeat, a disappointing defeat at Arsenal followed by comprehensive wins over Wolves and Leicester – did you honestly think we’d be in this position after the Newcastle game?
Ben Harshaw: The Newcastle game was about as bad as it gets, we looked out of ideas and to be going through the motions, I had resigned myself to yet another relegation scrap all season long. It looked as though the lack of transfer activity had really caught up with us. Arsenal was encouraging but I didn’t expect us to have more than one point after the Leicester game, and am very happy to be wrong.
David Meagher: The five at the back system is really working – we seem to have finally worked out how to play those awkward teams like Leicester and Wolves. It will be interesting to see how the system works against bigger clubs but we are certainly looking good. Also, I thought we deserved to beat Arsenal – it was a tight margin but VAR let us down again. Rice and Soucek in midfield is as good a pairing as any Premier League club.
Meirion Williams: I really thought that we would go into the international break with zero points. Even after the Wolves result, I honestly thought we would lose at Leicester, how wrong was I? Couple that with the Arsenal game where I thought we were unlucky not to get a point and it’s been a good start. We need to wrap Antonio and Ogbonna in bubble wrap between games.
Lucy Woolford: Ever the optimist, I was sure we’d improve pretty quickly after the Arsenal game. I missed the Newcastle game and by all accounts I was lucky not to be subjected to it, so maybe that’s where my positivity came from. David’s right, the system is working and it’s all fallen into place nicely.
There have been other absolutely crazy results in the opening weeks of the Premier League – Why do you think we’ve seen so many?
BH: These results have been incredible, for Leicster to beat City by three goals and then lose to us at home by the same margin is extraordinary. I don’t think you can put it down to fans only because Villa thrashed Liverpool at home without the advantage of their fans.
DM: The beginning of the season, and especially this mad year with little or no break makes for a crazy environment. I think having a disciplinarian like David Moyes as manager has helped during the COVID-19 era as we look fitter than other sides and don’t run out of puff in the last 20 minutes as we’ve done in the past
MW: I think that the lack of fans has taken away home advantage but I also wonder if the threat of COVID-19 is playing on players’ minds and it may be affecting them mentally, something that of course we cannot see when watching from home.
LW: Ben’s right, the crazy results can’t purely be put down to no fans, but I think it plays a huge part. There’s less pressure on players and they seem to be thriving going forward. There’s more incentive to take a shot knowing they won’t get jeered if it goes wrong. Although, defences seem more prone to switching off without fans on their backs.
Has the international break come at the wrong time for us? What are your hopes for our games against Spurs, Man City and Liverpool?
BH: It’s hard not to get carried away after our last two games but the cynic in me still can’t see us getting anything from these. I would certainly take three points against Spurs and lose the other two if I could.
DM: Yes and let’s hope we don’t pick up injuries (or COVID) that disrupts the current starting XI. I think we can pick up a few points and, of course, you’ve got to hope we diddle Spurs! Hoping for four points but i’d settle for two.
MW: I have a feeling that we may win at Anfield which would be annoying as after all those years of hurt, I actually missed our last win at that ground. I think the game against Spurs will be tough as will our home game against City. I think it all depends on the fitness of our starting XI. The recent defeat against Everton shows that although on paper our bench looks impressive in reality it is not so. I would be delighted with three points from nine though which game they come in is anybody’s guess.
LW: The second the final whistle went against Leicester, I was thinking ‘I want to play Spurs right now’. Having a break isn’t ideal when the momentum is clearly with us. But, like David says, if we don’t pick up injuries there’s no reason we can’t pick up where we left off. I’d like three or four points, with good performances.
Which players have impressed you so far this campaign? Who’s disappointed you?
BH: Ogbonna stands out as he did last season. His performance at Leicester was superb, and he marked Vardy out of the game. Rice has done what he does and run games, Masuaku has been brilliant in the last two games, and indeed has been more defensively solid too. Michail Antonio just seems to get better by the game. His strength and speed are great but his all round technical game has improved vastly. Only player to disappoint has been Fredericks but I just don’t feel he is up to this level consistently.
DM: Ogbonna, Soucek and Bowen have been tremendous – as has Arthur in his new protected role on the left. Coufal really looked the business against a tricky Leicester side. Declan Rice is starting to look like the Bryan Robson-type leader every club dreams of – he’s no longer a kid who looks above his stature as he is able to go toe-to-toe with the best now.
MW: Ogbonna pure and simple. In the game against Leicester he followed Vardy wherever he went and I wouldn’t have been surprised if Brendan Rodgers had kicked him out of the home dressing room at half time as he seemed to be wherever Vardy was on the pitch. Most disappointing has to be Haller and Anderson, and if I had to choose it would be the Brazilian who looks so ineffective in every game and substitution appearance he makes.
LW: It’s all been covered really. Ogbonna, of course, has impressed. Soucek continues to be an important player for us. It’s very early days but, like David, I watched Coufal closely against Leicester and he looks like he can do a job for us. I agree with Meirion, Haller and Anderson don’t look to be interested in improving. Maybe it’s a confidence thing, but we can’t hang around for them to be ready.