The Team that Bleeds Tenth
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 7 October 2019 at 8:08pm
Written by : Jonathan Lee
For once a player has come out and said – be it off his own back or what the media team have asked him to say – what is clearly and unarguably true.
“We definitely need to be winning these games if we want to be challenging for the top six,” says Ryan Fredericks.
To be up there challenging for a Top Six position you have to put teams, with respect, such as Palace to the sword when you are playing them at home.
On Saturday, one of the most fabulous team moves in many a season (wasn’t it just a wonder to behold seeing us swiftly move from one end of the pitch to the other and then scoring without the opposition getting near it?!) was sadly cast into the shadows by two lapses, a silly hand up from the normally reliable Declan (that conjured up memories of ducking that header against Arsenal which led to a goal but he will, as ever, be stronger and learn from it) and two uncontested challenges in the box for Palace’s winner. A win would have kept us in the top five; instead we have dropped to eighth as the margins at this time of year are small.
We are currently in the middle of a run of playing teams in and around us, meaning the so-called big boys are round the corner (although Spurs and Man Utd cannot justify that title at the moment) – and any points you get from the established ‘Big Six’ is normally seen as a bonus. Achieving results, especially at home, against the likes of Palace, Newcastle, Sheffield United etc takes on much more importance – if we start losing those games then the pressure just ramps up when we start meeting the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea.
The issue, in simple terms, is that we are vulnerable as a team and squad to being worryingly inconsistent. We have seen that at Oxford (although a weakened team) and now against Palace; decent teams are where they are because they are consistently good, and bad days at the office are rare. Currently at the top of that pile are Liverpool with an astonishing single defeat in their last 40+ Premier League games. We can never pretend to have a squad as good as theirs, but what we can expect are our players to bring their ‘A’ games more often than not. If you are only playing one decent game – meaning an entire 90 minutes, not a quarter of an hour here and there – every three or four games you cannot expect to finish top six.
All that said, the start of the season has, across the eight games, been decent. No defeats on the road and 12 points (W3 D3 L2) representing one and half a points a game. If you were to replicate that across the season, we’d end with 57 points, which would have placed us comfortably seventh last season. But the reason we either will, or will not, achieve that total or higher hinges on the form against the 13 teams that sit outside the Big Six – and that is what makes the next few weeks so interesting, as we play Everton (A), Sheffield Utd (H), Newcastle (H) and Burnley (A) before Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal show up.
If we really have ambitions to break that Top Six the two home games have to be won and something has to be taken from the two away games, both of which will require the ‘A’ game from the whole squad as both Everton (looking to turn round their form) and Burnley (in good form) will fancy giving us a beating.
Many a social media commentator has remarked over the weekend that what was the point of meekly going out at Oxford if we then collect very little against Bournemouth, Palace, Everton and Sheffield United; just the one point from those first two games really leaves us needing two wins from Everton and Sheffield United to make that Oxford sacrifice possibly worthwhile, but the Palace display – generally lethargic and slow in build-up but for that stunning team goal – leaves us worrying whether the early impetus may have started slipping. Let’s hope MP and the players know they missed a great opportunity on Saturday night and go to Merseyside in a couple of weeks remembering they have the quality to produce moves like the goal at the weekend.
It is undoubtedly a tough ask to get into that Top Six, performing consistently over 38 games, but wouldn’t it just be great to shoot down the One Football App’s opening day prediction that “If you cut West Ham open they bleed tenth…”
This season, let’s show them different.