We’ve reached the halfway stage of the season and if you were writing up a report on us, I think most of us would say: ‘Tried hard, could try harder at times but is in a good position to have a good year’.
We’re punching above our weight at the moment but we’ve positioned ourselves nicely heading into the second half of the campaign. With European knockout football coming up in March, we’ve got a chance to rack up a good number of points before we get to the business end of the season.
If we do, then we’ll be in a position where we can afford one or two slip ups in the league because we’re not under threat of relegation and we can really go for it, both in the league and Europe. In the past, certainly in recent history under Bilic, Pellegrini and Moyes when he arrived for both of his stints, when we’ve been in relegations battles, a slip up would be have had us reaching for the panic button but I don’t think we need to worry about that this season now.
Despite where we are in the league, not forgetting we’re in the knockout stages of the Europa League too, people have been calling for us to part ways with David Moyes. I think we have to be careful what we wish for.
I think we should keep him on after this season but encourage him to try to play more expansive football. Having said that, look where we are right now. He is getting results playing the way he knows works. But look, I get it, some of games we’ve had have been quite dour.
Having said that, I know what we are going to be bringing to the table for each match but I do hope we might change over time to become a bit more expansive. There’s also an argument that he tried to play a more expansive style at the start of last season before we had to revert to type because we found ourselves in trouble at the wrong end of the table.
I don’t know if any of us know the answer. We could start being more expansive and start losing games and there will be clamour to go back to how we were playing. As for the January transfer window, it looks like we’ll be trying to bring players in our loan rather than buying new faces with the club are saying we need to sell before we can buy.
I don’t think there is going to be too much buying going on this month across the Premier League. Those dipping into the transfer market are likely to be those hoping to stay in the league and maybe those looking for a spark to help keep them pushing on at the other end of the table.
If we are being realistic, we probably need to be bringing in three or four new faces if we want to kick on and I can’t see us doing that this month. We still need a striker. That’s top of list even though Bowen is cracking in goals for fun.
Later this month we may have a fourth round FA Cup time to look forward to against Forest or Blackpool at home, that’s if we see off Bristol City in a replay, a game we really didn’t need adding to our fixture list. We had a fantastic start against them but you felt like we needed to get that second goal to seal our place in the next round and I think Paqueta going off meant we lost our creativity.
We actually looked like the home team for the first half, but in the second half, as you’d expect in a cup game, they came out and we looked like we were holding on at times towards the end. That’s the beauty and frustration of football. We get fantastic results in December against Arsenal, Spurs and Man United and then come up against a lower league side, no disrespect to Bristol City, in the cup, drawing the game and thankful you are drawing it.
As I say, I’m sure Moyes really didn’t want a replay, especially when a winter break has been factored in and yet we’ve got a replay to get ready for. It’s not ideal. But we have to get on with it. We should have a squad to be able to compete on all fronts, which is different to my day where you wouldn’t even have 20 players. Today you have squads of 25 plus academy players to pick from.
I’m sure every club has got one or two players in their academy who they bring into the first team squad most weekends and are keen to make their mark. But then you look at the likes of Fornals who know they are now just bit part players. They know they are only going to get so much game time and these fringe players really have stepped up to the required level this season when called upon.
Having said that, we put a decent side out against City, we weren’t taking the competition lightly. But there are no guarantees that you’ll get the result on the day. With the title race at the half way stage, I still think Man City will be the team to beat. Anyone who finishes above them will win the league.
I think Liverpool will be there or thereabouts as will Arsenal, although they’ve had a really bad run of late. I feel like Man City have come through their bad patch.