It is Southampton v Newcastle today, I’m sure you are all aware.
Three of a potential 21 points are available. Despite losing so agonisingly to Norwich last week there are some embers of hope still burning in the pit of despair. Now, it would take the most optimistic of supporters to suggest that we have any better a chance of survival than Iceland do of winning Euro 2016, but stranger things have happened (in fact, one is happening right now Mr Fox).
A quick look at the fixtures would seem to suggest that the best case scenario is 6 points; 3 against Swansea at home and 3 against Crystal Palace. Football is unpredictable though, and while it would be typical of Newcastle to lose at home to Swansea, it would also be just like them to then beat Man City and Liverpool.
There is logic to this. Teams with more confidence, like the two I just mentioned, allow ‘lesser’ teams to attack them, soak up the pressure, and then counter attack. This would play into our hands a lot more than teams like WBA and Norwich who didn’t give us a second to breath, let alone pick a pass. We have the players in our squad who are capable of intelligent attacking football. Wijnaldum hasn’t looked good recently, but it’s partly because his game has been stifled, the same could be said of Shelvey.
When a player has just a second on the ball before two players are hounding him, it is very difficult to get a pass away. Teams like Man City don’t play like that, they have ‘luxury’ players too, and rely on their vision and skill to win matches. So in a strange way, I’m almost more confident of beating the teams at the top than the teams around us.
Of course, this is all meaningless if our defence don’t do their job. This might be controversial, but I think we have missed Coloccini.
When people accuse him of lacking spirit, ability and leadership, a little bit of me dies. Mbemba is certainly now our best defender, but Colo is the next best, followed by Janmaat. Sadly, Steven Taylor comes pretty near the bottom of the list, probably behind big Jamaal, and that showed against the Canaries. The lad is a diehard, and nobody can accuse him of shirking a challenge, but he’s an accident waiting to happen.
Compare that to the calm assuredness of Colocinni and you realise why we have looked increasingly wobbly at the back of late. Add to that the rookie keeper we now have in nets and it’s clear how important our captain is. Thankfully, according to www.physioroom.com Dummett and Colo will be back today (with Colo rated as a slight doubt) while Mbabu is ‘very doubtful’.
Dummett might not be the world’s best left back, but he knows the position. Anita was exposed far too many times last week, and it wasn’t until Sissoko moved back there that we began to get a grip on that side of the pitch. If Dummett doesn’t make it for whatever reason, I would have Sissoko starting there with Perez on the left wing.
I have written off the game against Southampton as a certain defeat, just as many of our other supporters will have done, but I hope the players haven’t. If they manage to pick up three points, it could be the catalyst to drag ourselves out of the mire.
At this point I would like to apologise. ..
My article so far has been the incoherent ramblings of a troubled man clinging on to the greased pole of positivity as he slides through ambivalence towards the fettered pit of all-encompassing grumbledom. ‘If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all’ is becoming something of a mantra of late and even the euphoric wave of optimism brought about by Bentiez’z arrival has fettled down to nowt more than a distant ripple.
It’s an internal battle that has bothered me from pre-season, and shows no signs of abating. I’ll bet I’m not alone. The match last week encapsulated the season beautifully: optimism and expectation…disappointment…hope…despair…elation…deflation, and it isn’t good for the heart.
So, in closing, what I’ll say is, don’t let today’s defeat get you down, it was expected. Look forward to giving everything as a supporter to help the team secure 6 points from the next two matches, don’t let things get you down.