I was accused of too much negative thought after the victory over Villa, when I received texts and emails of varying censure. I stand by what I say that we are in deep trouble. We are still in the bottom three with a poor goal difference. We now face an in form Everton at Goodison, a place we rarely get a result, and then Manchester City at the Cottage. So we then go into the crucial cycle of three games against Norwich and Hull away, and West Ham at home – probably still in the bottom three.
This is not to pour cold water on the improvement that has indubitably taken place since the sacking of Jol and the appointment of Rene Meulensteen. The team has shape with two wingers and, above all, commitment. This was epitomised by Steve Sidwell chasing down a hopeful ball and then hooking it over keeper Guzan. One can and does marvel at Berbatov’s sublime skill but in our situation we need a Sidwell. Significantly too we did not concede a goal. There was a measure of good fortune as the penalty we were awarded looked like a fair barge, whereas a trip in the box by Hughes on Aglonbahor was not given.
Rene is not just picking the right player and shape, he is discarding the unsuitable. Ruiz, Richardson, Taarabt, and Bent are yet to start a game for him. He prefers the Ancient Greek Karagounis, who has the stomach for battle, even over one of the few success stories of the season – Kasami.
So why be negative? Seven reasons: 1) only Norwich above us have worse goal difference; 2) Brede Hangland our skipper and best central defender could be out for 10 weeks; 3) we need a centre back, defender and at least one forward but there is no indication the new chairman will fund this; 4) we need to reach 21 points after New Years Day; 5) we were better than Villa but with another referee it could have been 1-1; 6) Berbatov might leave in January; and 7) Crystal Palace have revived with 2 straight wins.