Speculating on Gibbs and Chambers’ pinches

Happy Halloween Friday to you. I hope you have something special planned? I know I do. I’m going to work, then I’m going to pick The Management up after her work, then a friend and I are going to the pub to ignore all the pointlessness of this time of year.

Never really been into Halloween, as you can probably already tell, even when I was a kid. Never saw the point in trick-or-treating and couldn’t be arsed with the dressing up. What’s the spooky equivalent of ‘bah-humbug’?

Anyway, thankfully we have The Arsenal to focus our attention on and specifically today, a press conference for Le Boss to give us an update on who’s available, what he thinks of Burnley, and no doubt whether he thinks his team can establish a run of victories in their upcoming games.

Calum Chambers will no doubt be present and I must admit to being more than a little bit jealous of him. After all, he is playing for the club I love and despite the fact that he probably didn’t grow up as an Arsenal fan, when he says that he has to ‘pinch himself’ because of the position he is in (big club, Champions League football, etc) I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t appreciate the position he’s in and wish that they could be in his shoes. I wonder how hard he punches himself. I think he’s probably one of those that wants to be really manly and draw blood, but actually he’s self conscious enough to know that social services might get called in if he gets too exuberant. Let’s not forget that three years ago he was in school. Anyway, He’s shown remarkable adaptability during his short spell at the club and is an example to those that say that Arsène can’t spot a defender. The Manager may still not be 100% on where Chambers’ future full time position lies, but there’s no doubt that the lad is a talent, at which I’d like to point out that I feel mighty old calling a 19-year-old a ‘lad’. But at the ripe old age of (nearly) 32, I’ve probably moved into that territory of being a grown man hero-worshipping somebody who would not have existed when I started secondary school. Let’s deviate away from that thought as quickly as we can and back to the team news for tomorrow, shall we?

Arsène gave one of his standard pre-emptive interviews to the official site, in which he has confirmed that Kieran Gibbs is a doubt for the game, following his limping off on Saturday against Sunderland. It’s nothing any of us wouldn’t have expected, but Gibbs’ record with injuries is well documented, so I hope this is just a bit of cautiousness from the club rather than an absence with no idea of a return. If we’re looking at an extended period on the sidelines then it all gets a bit scary for us defensively. However, I’d like to think in a ‘glass half full’ kind of way and suggest that if the injury was a longer term concern, Arsène would have elaborated a little bit more than he has. By the tone of the interview he game on the dot com, this is a short term injury, so perhaps we can be given some good news in relation to the Anderlecht game on Tuesday.

As for the rest of the squad, there is thankfully no new bumps or bruises, with Sanogo even returning!! Try to contain you’re excited, will you please? I suspect our Postman might be looking at a while with little game time and perhaps even a short-term loan come January, as I can’t really see him breaking through ahead of the more experienced pros in the team.

Gnabry and Diaby are soon to be back and whilst the latter might see the odd sub appearance, I suspect the former will also benefit from a loan. He’s a definite talent, but will probably see his route blocked for now, so let’s get him some experience to come back as a more polished diamond in 2015/16.

I’m sure they’ll be plenty of other snippets and soundbites from Arsène come lunchtime today, so they’ll be plenty of fat to chew in the PM and before the game tomorrow. I’ve started to read what the ‘experts’ are saying about tomorrow’s game and they’re all predicting a relatively comfy afternoon for us. Clearly they’ve never actually seen Arsenal properly this season, because that’s about as likely to happen as me growing wings and joining the X-Men, because we never do anything the easy way. We’ll most likely go one-down from a goal-kick that catches a big gust of wind and bounces off the referees head. To which he’ll turn around and see Wilshere laughing so will send him off. And Arsène to the stands for remonstrating. But perhaps I’m dabbling in a little bit too much hyperbole today, so will leave my wandering imagination there.

In the meantime, you have a good one.

Appreciating midweek distractions; the Alexis/Mesut comparison’s are unfair

Huh, who’d have thunk that a pretty strong Moneychester City team would be dumped out to a Newcastle team that the whole world was saying wasn’t playing for the manager any more? Certainly not me that’s for sure.

I’d like to be a little bit Nelson Muntz and say ‘Ha-ha!’ for the result, but whilst Chelski and the Spuds still remain in the competition, it’s one less team likely to give them both a beating. Last year it was delicious to see Jose win the square root of naff all, but I fear that this season we might not be able to trade off of another ‘specialist in failure’ jibe, with all of the teams dropping out of the competition at the rate they are. Of course the most likely scenario – because you know that God hates us – is that Chelski and the Spuds will contest the final, but perhaps it’s too early in the season to be all doom and gloom.

It’s still a quiet time for us at the moment and we’re getting treated to the feeling it must be like to be a United fan at the moment. Large expanses of metaphorical non-footballing land separates one game from the next, with little to quench the thirst that only first-team professional football can provide. Sure, it helps with establishing long runs in the team like Liverpool did last season, but is it really worth it? Would you take one season finishing second if the subsequent season meant that you were out of European competition altogether in the next season? I’m not sure I would you know. Even the Europa League. We jest about ‘Spursdays’ and demean the competition whilst we remain in its elite brother the Champions League, but when all is said and done we all just want to watch our team as much as possible. Sure, playing half the season on a Sunday would be a right royal pain in the derriere, but at least we’d get a higher volume of what we all love.

All this is not to say that I’m preparing for a life with the Europa League because I don’t have faith in the current squad – I do – I’m just trying to point out that when you’re not competing in competitions as we haven’t been this week, it makes you appreciate what you’ve got when you’ve got it. Right now, we’ve got it, with the games soon to start up again and come thick and fast. Burnley first on Saturday at 3pm (another one of those! Some kind of minor miracle!) and then Anderlecht on Tuesday night. Then Swansea away, before we head into yet another international break before playing United. Lt’s hope for maximum points during this period. November has always been a bit of a sucky month for us, which is doubly sucky for me because I happen to have a birthday then, so the idea that we might actually be able to put together some kind of run together (*clasps hands together in praying motion*) is certainly one I’d like to entertain.

The Club has announced it’s October player of the month competition and, in what was probably the easiest poll ever conducted, it’s Alexis ‘Knife-tooth’ Sanchez who has scooped the gong. I honestly have no idea where Mikel got his description of Alexis when he talked about him having ‘knife-in-his-teeth’, but I suspect this is one of the scenarios where he’s mixed his metaphors a bit. Hey, happens to the best of us, but when the chips are falling on the loaded dice, you just need to pick them up like a house of cards. Or something.

I get the sentiment though. Alexis is a dog with a bone. He simply doesn’t stop and both offensively as well as defensively has already made a massive contribution to the team. In a way, he’s almost doing Ozil a bit of a disservice because of his effervescence, because people are naturally making comparisons with the two big money Arsenal stars. But that is an unrealistic comparison in my opinion. They both have very different roles in the team and both have attributes that make us tick better as a side when they are both fully fit and firing on all cylinders. Alexis is perhaps seen as more suited to the rough and tumble of the English Premier League, but that’s more because of the cultural differences that exist between us and the rest of the continent. Let’s not forget we operate in a division where a manager telling players to “faacking run araand a bit” is seen as motivational, so it doesn’t surprise me to see a player who embodies that ethos (whilst actually being very gifted too) is getting quite a few plaudits from the national media. They love what is familiar and Alexis’ style is familiar to majority of them so they naturally gravitate towards cutting him some slack. Perhaps we all naturally do too, to an extent? Perhaps we all see his effort and can therefore accept when he is running into a blind alley on the football pitch, where as our German playmaker would not be afforded the luxury. Who knows? I’m just a simple fan with a simple observation.

Anyway, that should probably do for the day. Have a good’un and remember, never eat yellow snow. Unless it’s it’s been dispensed from a Slushie machine and is called ‘Lemon and lime’. Out.

The charm offensive is good

After spending a few days waxing lyrical about the form and effervescence of Alexis Sanchez, it appears everyone is getting involved in the love-in sessions, only this time the power of positive thinking is being spread around the Arsenal camp with players deciding to talk up their own happiness.

Whilst trying to scour the t’internet trying to find scraps of something Arsenal to talk about, I realised that I didn’t have to look beyond the official site yesterday evening, as both Santi and Jack have been talking up their happiness and pride respectively.

Santi talks about how he trains and plays for fun and that’s what allows him to enjoy his life so much, whilst Jack has been telling us about his own inner confidence to get back to former glories after a couple of stop-start seasons chocked with injuries. I’m glad that the players are being more positive about themselves at the moment, because let’s face it, we haven’t been playing too well of late so any potential confidence boost we could get as fans that the team is starting to perform is a welcome one.

The run needs to start now you see. I had a long chat with a friend who is a Burnley fan yesterday and he’s been telling me that he fears us and Chelski the most away from home because of Dych’s insistence on playing a more open and expansive game of football. I certainly hope so because whilst the football hasn’t been as flowing, the results look to be building and it feels to me as if we really need a comprehensive victory to make the Arsenal engine purr. We need that one catalyst to be able to say ‘ok, now we’re up and running, so let’s see how far this team can take us’ and as much as I like my Burnley supporting friend and have no real issues with our weekend opponents, I hope we smash them into the ground on Saturday afternoon.

So hearing the players go on a charm offensive, no matter how obvious and possibly doctored the interviews might be, is a-ok by me at this stage.

Elsewhere there’s…well…not a lot really. The COC was played last night and aside from Bournemouth taking a Premier League scalp, there were no real upsets. League Two Shrewsbury were outdone by Chelski, who I now note are being described as ‘undefeated in all competitions’ Chelski. Good lord I hope someone turns them over in the League soon. It will make the world a better place. Seeing Jose Mourinho smirking his way to the Premier League trophy will be painful enough for the next seven months, but to take away the last bit of bragging rights we have will be all the more painful. And the fans…blimey…they’re already the worst fans in the history of the world, so to throw in an undefeated season will be like some divine power appearing before your very eyes only to tell you the world is going to end about thirty seconds later.

I made the mistake a few years ago that thinking that there can be some kind of karma in football for oil-whoring clubs, then Chelski skanked their way all the way to the Champions League final before winning it, so I’ll not make the same mistake and say that they can’t go unbeaten.

This is all too much doom and gloom for a Wednesday morning. How about we just take a second to imagine a front line of Theo, Alexis and Welbeck playing a high line in a league game with Mesut feeding them a platter of delectable through-ball delights?

*Pauses and looks up at the sky for six seconds*

Ahh, that was nice. Can we have some of that please soon Arsène?

Again, relatively short one from me today, but I promise to be more contemplative tomorrow. Or the next day.

You have a good one.

Alexis love-in; how high can we press as a team?

It’s interesting that, after I suggested yesterday that Arsenal should get a little credit for forcing Sunderland players into making mistakes, Danny Welbeck mentioned that Arsène had specifically stated to the players before the game that they should be pressing with a higher line to put pressure on the Sunderland back four. Now, perhaps it’s an obvious statement to make and should be something that is clear for all matches, but I still maintain that the Arsenal players should receive some credit for their part in the two goals, rather than making throw away comments about how we would have drawn the game if the Sunderland players hadn’t made their errors.

If you’re going to have that logic, then perhaps you should question every time a goal is conceded from a corner, or a free kick that is nodded in. Because essentially you can argue that if it wasn’t for a rash tackle or an inability to keep the ball in play, there wouldn’t have been a goal!

Welbeck is loving playing with Alexis and it’s hard not to see why. His effervescent nature rubs off on the team, but Welbeck too is cut from a similar cloth, because he is a constant runner and energetic in his play. With both of those players pressing from the front, I see many more goals coming from forcing opponents into mistakes.

Flamini too is part of the Alexis love-in this morning, and you can see why, because the Chilean embodies the graft that Flamini has demonstrated during his two stints at the club. Seeing an attacking player track back and win tackles in the defensive third of the pitch is a god send for someone like Flamini, so it’s no surprise that he’s chipped in with some superlatives.

What I do think will be interesting to see will be the return of Theo Walcott to the team. If we’re maki the assumption that Alexis will be wide left and Welbeck up top, Walcott completes the trio of blistering pace that will have us all foaming at the mouth. However, if the team is to continue with the policy of a high press, then the midfield will also need to press higher up the pitch to avoid the massive gaps in between attack and midfield caused by forward players pushing up the pitch. As a result, to avoid space between defence and midfield, we’ll have to push the defenders higher up the pitch too. The result of all of this, assuming we don’t want to leave big gaps for playmakers to be successful against us operating in between defence and midfield, is to have the whole team press higher up the pitch leaving more grass for forward players on opponents teams. We don’t have the quickest back four at the best of times, so leaving us susceptible to quick forwards getting in behind our back four is something to be concerned about.

Of course I’m a fan of the high press, so I think we’re better to push out opponents into making errors, but I recognise that it does come with its own risks. The reality is that we need to find a delicate blend of high press and reducing space in between our lines, with not having too many opportunities for quick forwards to run in behind our back four. I don’t have the answers as to how you find that delicate blend, but in my defence, I’m not paid millions of pounds a year to work that out.

Anyway, as with most things in life there are compromises and trade-offs to be made, and right now with the injuries that we have Arsène will invariably have more decisions to make about how much we press, with which opponents and how often. With Gibbs rumoured to be out for six weeks if you believe the press chitter-chatter, it takes away another pacey defender, so no doubt when we find out the extent of his injury we’ll know how much problems we have defensively and what we can and can’t do tactically given the personnel available. It’s a big blow to be losing Gibbs for any amount of time, but it’s even bigger given that we already have two of our first choice back four out at the moment. It’s time to dig deep Arsenal.

That’s it from me today. I refuse to pass comment on the axis of evil that took place yesterday in Manchester. Cheerio.

Gift horses for Alexis puts us up and running

You should never look a gift horse in the mouth. So when two come trotting into the stables, you lasso them both and drag them over to you as quickly as possible.

Yesterday’s away victory up in the North East to the Mackems was not comfortable, it was not free-flowing, but it was very welcome. Sunderland contrived to give us two absolute pearlers of defensive errors, the likes of which we’ve seen on a few occasions go against us over the years. The one man who was the grateful recipient of the gifts – Alexis Sanchez – was also the best player on the pitch by a millions miles, so perhaps it was fitting that he was the one who was afforded the luxury of a centre half and goalkeeping blunder, such was his hard work both on and off the ball.

Within a couple of games at the start of the season we could all tell that Alexis would be a hit in England. Fans reward effort almost as much as attainment in this country, so when you have a player who regularly achieves top marks in both, you are always on to a winner. Whilst the papers and pundits today will talk about the game in the context of the Sunderland self-inflicted implosion, I’d like to offer a different school of thought, one which suggests that it was the energetic Chilean also had a role to play in the errors. Last season we did not have a pairing like Alexis and Welbeck to push from the front as high as those two players do, so it is highly likely that we would not have profited from the mistakes of Messieurs Brown and Mannone, come the final whistle. But this season, we have that higher pressing that will lead to mistakes if players don’t have time to react when they receive the ball.

Let’s also recognise that for the first goal, Alexis still had a lot to do as he bore down on Mannone. Picking the ball up just after the halfway line gives you three or four seconds of running before deciding what to do, in which time there is often plenty of room to decide where you’re placing the ball and making a wrong decision. Such was the confidence of our tireless superstar, that he simple ‘dinked’ the ball over Mannone, setting us on the way to a well deserved victory.

And you can’t deny that our victory wasn’t well deserved. We dominated possession for large swathes of the match, we had the most clear-cut chances, plus we looked the more assured defensively. In the first half Welbeck and Cazorla both fizzed shots over and just wide respectively, whilst our midfield of Arteta and Flamini controlled possession with consummate ease. Last season there we’d many of us who bemoaned the double pivote, but having watched a stuttering start to 2014/15 and the 4-1-4-1 formation, it was good for us to go back to basics.

Perhaps Arsène recognised the make-shiftiness of of our back four and realised that they needed a bit more protection. It worked. We were hardly troubled defensively for the whole game and whilst some will argue that it was because we played a wounded animal in Sunderland, that sometimes works against you, as the opponents play with a point to prove. Thankfully from this Gooners perspective, the Black Cats never really showed any of that potential threat that I thought we’d come up against.

Which is just as well really, because our free-flowing football has yet to completely return, based on yesterday’s performance. Passing still went awry, we were still very static and laboured at times, and you can tell that this is an Arsenal team that is struggling to find confidence right now. But it’s a bit of a Catch 22 situation with confidence, because you only get it by winning games, so if winning games requires confidence, perhaps we should just be happy that we’ve managed back-to-back victories and a win in a weeks time against Burnley will see us looking like we’ve put together a bit of a streak to take into the rest of the season.

Some words on individual performances. I thought Monreal and Chambers had a good game, although both were relatively untroubled by a relatively toothless Sunderland side, so perhaps sterner tests are to come. In midfield I though Flamini played well and, one two-footed challenge aside (he does like to throw himself in to those), he was vastly improved in his performance compared to a few weeks ago.

Santi Cazorla didn’t have one of his best games. He’s quite good at pretending to be a rugby kicker, because he does like a skied ball high above the goalposts. He had a few really good chances yesterday and I’m sure he’ll be frustrated at himself for not at least working the ‘keeper.

Up top we had the effervescent Alexis, who’s 10 out of 10 performance I suspect might just become a more regular appearance as he gets to know his teammates each week. What a player we have with him. His tireless running even made me feel fatigued just watching him. He’s a star in the making and his energy does, I think, also rub off on other players. There were times yesterday where I saw Santi running down one of the centre halves after Mannone had distributed a short pass out wide to build from the back, to which I could only muse to myself that it was the infectious effort of Welbeck and Alexis rubbing off on our diminutive Spaniard.

Welbeck was quiet and The Ox showed patches of good play, but he was still a bit loose in some of his passing and with Walcott approaching first team fitness, he will be looking at his place in the team and wondering how long he has in the team. A front three of Alexis, Welbeck and Walcott is a mouth-watering prospect, so let’s hope we see a glimpse of that next weekend.

Another injury, this time to Gibbs, prevented the day from being an overall success and you wonder when we’re going to catch a break. Arsène was obviously non-committal on how bad the injury was, but we’ve seen that kind of limping off all too often with Arsenal players, so I’m fully expecting to hear during the week that we have a three of our first choice back four out until after the international break in a few weeks time. It does feel like we’re cursed at the moment, but it’s exacerbated by our own making, of which I’m bored myself of talking about it, so I’ll move swiftly on.

So what did we ultimately learn from yesterday? Well, I suppose firstly it’s that we’re still not at our best and there should be more we can expect from Arsenal. But it feels like we’re underway in the league now and so what we’ll all be hoping to see in the coming months is a series of wins that puts us in contention for those top four spots.

See you tomorrow.

Nervy about form, but a reaction is needed

Matchday! The bestest day of the week! Today it’s Sunderland away and the best thing about football is that it very quickly offers the chance of redemption, so after a number of really poor performances, the Arsenal players could wash away the bad taste left in the mouth from the home draw to Hull or the smash and grab in Brussels.

I’m oop Norf for today’s game with The Management’s family and if I’m completely honest, whilst I’m excited to be popping along to the game this afternoon, I’m also really apprehensive. There are a lot of factors which could mean that this afternoon is not as enjoyable as I’d hope it could be.

For starters there’s our own form. Sure, we picked up a win in midweek, but we haven’t really kicked into gear all season as yet. Perhaps the Galatasaray game was the only exception, but even the Villa game had some scary moments before the match was effectively over at half time and turned into a testimonial in the second half.

We are not playing well and going forward we were quite toothless on Wednesday and on Saturday too. If we are going to win the game today, we can’t afford to be so lethargic in our passing. Our good football is about movement. It’s about pulling teams apart by quick interchanges of possession and willing runners. It’s not about static sideways balls from one side of the pitch to another via three midfielders all in a line. The only way we will win today is if there is energy in the performance.

And that’s the second reason why I’m nervous, because I think we’ll see a Sunderland side with a lot of energy today. They will have spent a whole week stewing on an 8-0 performance and so their players will be pumped today. They will be running their arses off in front of their home fans and so if we are not at it from the first second, I think we’ll be in trouble. Where we were appalling last season was when teams blitzed us in the first 15 minutes. It wouldn’t surprise me if Poyet tells his players to do the same. The first opening exchanges of today’s game might just require us to dig deep and play well defensively. Which leads me to the third reason why I am worried about today…

Defensively we had nothing to do against Hull and we still were masters of our own downfall with the second goal. Forget the first, that was an anomaly and should have been a foul, but there can be no excuses for the second goal. Likewise in midweek, with what felt to me like a carbon copy of the second Hull goal (caught under the flight of a ball and opposition player nods beyond the ‘keeper), we can’t really have any complaints. Today Sunderland will be looking to exploit our defensive frailties by testing our back four with balls in to Fletcher through the channels, most likely delivered by either Wickham or Buckley, or through set pieces from Larsson or Johnson.

If Arsène chooses to field the same side as he did on Wednesday, with Monreal in the heart of the defence, I fear what the repercussions will be. Monreal is not a centre half and so I have no beef with him, but more I have beef with the boss if he continues to choose him. I hope Arsène sees sense and puts Chambers in the heart of the back four, bringing Bellerin in at right back, because I think that gives us more balance than the team that played in the Champions League. Bellerin was impressive against Hull and I certainly think he deserves another shot at playing against a Sunderland side that might give us a bit more space going forward.

Which leads me to trying to finish up today’s match preview blog by being a bit more positive. Defensively Sunderland have the same problems with lack of numbers that we do, and whilst they will be massively up for this game today, they are still the same side that conceded eight against Southampton. If Sunderland aim to come at us and catch us off guard by pressing higher up the pitch, it will give room for Welbeck and Alexis to do their thang. Alexis was awesome against Anderlecht and another performance like that will most likely go a long way in giving us the win. Bellerin might also profit from Sunderland pushing forward, because he did look good going forward against Hull and he is very rapid so he might get a bit of green grass to run into today. If he does, he’ll need the support of the midfield runners like Ramsey and the vision of Cazorla, to support him in finding an outlet in our final third.

The blueprint for our struggles this season has been when teams have sat back and let us pass ourselves to death. I’m not sure Sunderland will do that today. They might do, I could be wrong, but I think their fans will get on their backs if they set themselves up for a draw at home. So them coming at us like Villa did could end up being a blessing.

Keep those fingers crossed Gooners!

Something’s not right

Something isn’t quite right at Arsenal at the moment. Most obviously is the number of draws that we’ve already racked up this season. Everton, Leicester, Moneychester City, the Spuds and Hull have all shared the spoils with us and as a result we find ourselves this morning with only 13 points after the first eight games.

If you want to look into the detail you could argue that going away to Everton and Chelski and playing the Spuds and City at home isn’t the easiest of starts, to which I would certainly agree, but the really great teams take advantage of things like being at home and pick up points where needed. Just look at Moneychester City. They dispatched a pretty average Tottenham team that we huffed and puffed against but still laboured to a draw. I know I probably shouldn’t be comparing us to any oil whoring club, but we’ve had aspirations of an assault on the league title previously, especially after our appetites were wetted following an excellent attempt at it last season. So for me personally, to see us now already miles off the two petro-dollar clubs is a pain that I’d rather not have to experience, as a fan.

I tweeted yesterday that I am coming to accept that our fight is not with the two going for the title, it is with the also-rans of Man United, Totteringham and Liverpool. With every performance like yesterday that appears more and more to be the case. We came up against yet another team in Hull that, Like Palace on day one, knew that what they needed to do was sit deeper, defend in numbers and catch us on the counter. And we once again, like the Spuds game, huffed and puffed in the second half with no real drive or guile to unlock an industrious, but not particularly special, Hull team.

When Danny Welbeck scored the equaliser in stoppage time, I was relieved, but Ben and I (my partner in crime for the day) barely even celebrated. Why should you feel like a last minute goal to avoid the first defeat at home in 14 months is a good thing when the opponents have only had four shots on goal in the whole match? It’s like an old fashioned game of Championsship Manager, but we are the real-life example. Teams don’t need to batter us to pick up points at The Emirates, they just need a set piece or two, or a counter attack. That’s what’s wrong at the moment. We concede with the only chances that our opponents get. It happened with Palace on the opening day, it happened against The Spuds, and now it’s happened against Hull.

Yes, Steve Bruce rightly admitted that their first goal probably shouldn’t have been because of the blatant pull by Diame to win an advantage and get through against Szczesny, but the second goal was a comedy of errors from our perspective.

The really weird thing is, from my perspective when thinking back on the game, I don’t think our defence was that bad in the main. Perhaps that was because we spent very little time doing any actual defending, but I thought Monreal coped admirably, that Gibbs looked good going forward and that Bellerin was not over-awed by the occasion. But we seem to have this amazing ability to play half-decent and still look terrible on one or two moments like the Hernandez goal just after half time. It’s weird and I can’t put my finger on it. Do we just switch off? Are we just unlucky? Is there a soft underbelly to this team that you just need to catch at the moment? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that we will not be getting anywhere near close to the Premier League this season, so let’s start paying more attention to the results of Liverpool, United and the Spuds who, thankfully, all seem to be having their own issues in different areas at the moment.

The first half yesterday actually looked pretty good. We popped the ball around well, Alexis was in sparkling form (he was one of the few that continued that in the second half) and I remarked to Ben at half time that we were unlucky not to be two up and coasting at half time. If The Ox had put away his chance just before Hull scored, we’d probably have been out of sight. But that is the story of yesterday, as we didn’t do enough to put Hull to bed and collect the three points needed to move on to Sunderland next weekend.

The second half was probably the most dire I’ve seen so far this season. After we conceded the early goal we spent five minutes being shell shocked, but after that Hull knew that all they had to do was sit deep, in numbers and waste as much time as possible (Mr East the referee was in no mind to pick up this deliberate tactic) and they would potentially pick up the win. Which they nearly did. It took us until the 86th minute before we even fashioned the first proper chance for the third choice Hull ‘keeper to make and that was a smart header from Alexis. But other than that we had barely mustered a decent ball into the box or a shot in anger. Why we even bother with corners I don’t know, because we are completely redundant whenever the ball is slung into the box. We’d be far better taking the ball short and trying to build from there, because whipping a ball in to an opponents head is hardly worth the trouble we spend. Ben and I joked at one point that we would probably be more likely to concede from one of our corners than score from it.

I’m pleased Danny got another goal though. Both him and Alexis are already racking up a useful tally, which you’d hope would be good enough for us to be winning games, but with your defence looking more like a grandmother made patchwork quilt, it is always going to be a struggle. It was a good assist from Alexis too. He was probably the man-of-the-match I would imagine. But again, it was too late to mount a proper onslaught and go for the win, so we pick up another draw. Have you noticed how I haven’t even mentioned the midfield? That’s probably because I can’t really recall any of them having a particularly good game. Flamini’s role is fairly standard and he had little to do against a Hull team sitting so deep, but Jack didn’t really manage to replicate the Pirloesque form of his England displays last weekend, so there were no threaded balls for the front players to feast upon in the second half. Santi was good in the first but faded in the second half and The Ox mis-placed a number of simple passes throughout the game. That was where the issue was in the second half I feel. The midfield just didn’t click and looked fairly negated by the deep-lying Hull defence. But if you want to be champions you have to overcome obstacles like deep-lying teams and you have to unpick the lock, so-to-speak. That is something we just don’t seem capable of and it is a worry for me for even the top four spots.

So next weekend we travel up to the North east to play a Sunderland team who will be really pumped and desperate to show their fans that their 8-0 thrashing to Southampton was a one off. Before that there’s the small matter of an away trip to Belgium to play Anderlecht and you have to hope that we can pick up the required win in both of those games to start this run of form that we’re all hoping will see us in to Christmas in one of the top four places. We have players coming back from injury at various times and hopefully they can lift the club, but the run simply must start now. We cannot afford any more of these hitches.

See you tomorrow.