I know many of you will be on a high right now. For the first time this year we have managed to win back to back games in the Premier League. Suddenly a lot of fans seem to think we’ve turned the corner. We’re on the march. Let me bring you back down to earth a little.
The season has been a mixed bag so far. I think we’ve played well in matches, aside from the first half against Bournemouth, and we were unlucky not to have 4 points more than we do now. We should have had a draw at home to West Brom and away to Spurs in addition to a win at home to Bournemouth but, as we know, these things happen.
So, it was a relief that we picked up a win away to Middlesbrough and at home to Stoke yesterday but these are two games we should have won, and thankfully did!
We shouldn’t get above our stations. Middlesbrough are newly promoted and are odds on to go straight back down, it was a game we were expected to win and it came as a relief when we did just that.
Stoke on the other hand presented us with a different set of expectations. Having finished 9th for the last two seasons, they are an established Premier League side and could be considered to not be a walkover. However, in two of their previous four games they shipped 4 goals, or 6 goals in 4 games. Being the home team we were expected to win the game.
I am not just saying that based on the form book because you could argue that the two teams who scored 4 goals against stoke, Manchester City and Spurs, are contenders for the top 4. I am saying we should have won because we are considered to be a mid table team and playing against a fellow mid table team or bottom half team, we will be the favourites. Rightly so.
I know you will think this is being harsh but all we’ve done in the last two games is do what is expected of us and if anything the reality of our situation has been looked over by the euphoria of winning those two games.
For a start, we once again failed to keep a clean sheet in both of the two games. I can forgive conceding a goal away but at home to a poor Stoke side… Well, I felt sorry for Mandanda because he has nothing to do all afternoon and in the last kick of the game his defence switched off.
What else? James Tomkins limped off at half time because he “over stretched his knee” and was seen leaving on crutched in a knee brace. Hopefully it isn’t too serious but the fact we now only have two senior centre backs is a cause for alarm!
If Dann or Delaney were to get injured we’d be screwed. Maybe Kelly can play at centre back and Fryers can fulfil his potential at last by making the left back spot his own.
We have so much fragility in the defence area, just like last season when our back 4 desperately looked like in need of a rest but we didn’t have options. This was not addressed in the transfer window. If anything we lost 2 centre backs and bought just the one. We are very weak in that department!
Isn’t it lucky that we don’t have a needless cup game coming up… Oh crap, we do? Yes, on Wednesday we play Southampton in the League Cup and baring in mind that we have 2 centre backs it would seem like a good idea for Pardew to say ‘screw the cup’ and blood Luke Dreher against a Premier League club with no league points at stake.
Some of you will say I am being negative and that I should enjoy the wins but I have always been a pragmatist. Yesterday was great but what about tomorrow? I look forward, see what problems might crop up and want to fix them before they happen.
So we’ve won two games. Great. Even a broken clock is right twice a day (only once if you use the 24 hour clock) so two wins doesn’t suddenly mean everything is good or that we should stop being concerned because we have some serious problems with lack of bodies in the back 4!
I have always thought the team should give everything to win games, be it league or cup, but I truly think we should put out a weakened team for the cup on Wednesday because we do not need any more injuries to key members of our defence.