September was a tough month for us, and as we entered the international break, we found ourselves sitting in the relegation zone with a gap slowly opening with those teams just above us. Our league results have been a sharp contrast to those in Europe where we found ourselves, after two games, top of our group.
But one thing that is evident in both is the poor standard of play we exhibited. It’s odd to say that we played poorly in Europe, after all we beat FCSB comfortably at home and then went all the way to Denmark and came away with a 3-1 win. But those of us who saw those games will know that the losing teams could feel hard done by. So let’s have a closer look at the month that has gone and the month to come.
Firstly we ended August with a win against Aston Villa. A win’s a win but those of us who were at Villa Park that day would have to admit that we witnessed two very poor sides. We only emerged on top due to a bit of luck and a huge defensive deflection that resulted in the winning goal.
We all knew then that September would be tough but how tough, we simply did not know. It’s a fact that we traditionally always raise our game against the so-called bigger teams and with games coming up against Chelsea and Tottenham we had hope.
Nothing to fear
We had a similar feeling against Everton, after all they too were struggling in the league and we had seemingly broken the Goodson Park hoodoo by beating them on our last two visits to Merseyside. We seemingly had nothing to fear. Or did we?
First up was that trip to Stamford Bridge and a highway robbery that Dick Turpin would be proud of. For our second goal to be ruled out by VAR is a travesty and for the league to admit it was the wrong decision was no compensation. It was simply too late and a point lost. At least we had our deadliest rivals a few days later, and yes I class Spurs over Millwall as our main rivals these days as we have not played that other team in a decade.
The Spurs game was a creditable draw. With a full London Stadium, the crowd got behind the team and walking away with a draw felt more like a defeat as I felt the points were there for the taking. But then came that game in Europe.
Now a 3-1 home win on a difficult night for the country, let alone the team, should be seen as a fantastic result and, of course, to a large degree it was. But let’s be honest about this, FCSB are not the Steaua Bucharest of old and for large parts of the game the Romanians dominated. But a win is a win and we would take that any day. One thing was evident though was yet again the club had got its ticket pricing completely wrong.
The official attendance at over 33,000 meant that the stadium was half full and that is the attendance figure based on tickets sold and not on those who actually attended on that difficult night. Even the club’s ‘special offer’ to season ticket holders had not worked. Season ticket holders had seen through the club’s pricing policy where buying a ticket for all three games would only provide a mere £2 saving per game.
Next up would have been Newcastle but that game was postponed, and rightly so, and we had to wait for a trip to Denmark to see our club in action again.
It’s fair to say that we used our get-out-of-jail card during our game against Silkeborg. If the dreaded VAR would have been present for that game, it could have been a very different result. But despite a dour performance, we came away with all three points and in an upbeat mood for the trip to Merseyside.
We had beaten Everton on our recent trips and the fan zone prior to the game was full of Hammers believing we could make it three wins in a row. By half time it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. Our set play from corners was that of the school yard. We seemed to be aiming for the first man and Benrahma’s corner in the second half which trickled out of bounds summed up our day. It was such a poor performance. Two poor teams, similar to the Villa game, except for the opposition came away with the three points.
Out of form
So can Moyes turn this all around? He has the power to do so but the question is will he? We have become predictable and so teams have clearly found out how to play us. We have so many players out-of-form yet Moyes continues to play them. I’m a huge fan of Bowen but was amazed that he played every minute against Everton.
Coufal is probably in the worst form of his career but with no Johnson, he seems an automatic selection. Antonio is another that is an automatic selection yet we leave a young, hungry Italian on the bench. We pay a fortune for a creative Brazilian midfielder but due to our current type of play, he has to spend more time in his own half than the opposition. And what faith does it give our academy kids when Moyes puts two goalkeepers on the bench rather than a young up-and-coming player?
Like my feelings on Bowen, I love Declan but he’s no captain. We miss a leader both on the field and in the dressing room. The list goes on.
Moyes has turned it around twice before, can he do it a third time? October will give the answer to that question. And October doesn’t look any easier for a team clearly struggling for form and direction. Yet every game looks winnable. With Fulham and Bournemouth making trips to our rented stadium, that could result in six points in the bag.
As for our away fixtures, a trip to a struggling Liverpool and Southampton could result in further points. It’s not a difficult run into the World Cup break. The problem is our form is so poor.
We have the respite of European fixtures against Anderlecht and Silkeborg too but with a half empty stadium, it’s not going to be the atmosphere of last year.
October will be the month that defines not only our season but surely Moyes’ tenure as manager. For once the board have spent a lot of money in the transfer market yet results are wanting. With many of us struggling through the financial crisis, these highly-paid individuals must rise to the occasion.
Moyes states that he is a winner, well during October we will find out if he was correct in his self belief.