Monday, August 16, 2010

View From The Home End

So, now that Ben has previewed the 19 teams who we're up against (here, and here), and you've read what our manager and fans of other clubs think of our chances, it now falls to me to give a home view of how things are looking.

Back in May, when the club were busy issuing confusing statements about capital outlay, I commented that I felt we needed a full-back, a centre-back, a defensive midfielder and a striker.

Well so far, we've added a full-back (James Perch), a centre-back (Sol Campbell), and an attacking midfielder (Dan Gosling) - two of whom arrived without transfer fees, and none of whom will have broken the bank (albeit Campbell's reported £35k per week wages might well be outside the wage structure). Whilst I think the signings we've made have been shrewd, we still look to be short of a defensive midfielder and an extra attacker.

In terms of the attacker we're reportedly chasing a loan move for Hatem Ben Arfa, which currently seems to have more highs and lows than a rollercoaster, but which could yet add some je ne sais quoi up front. Unfortunately, given his current petulant stance with his employers to force through the move, as I mentioned on Friday, I really don't know what we'd be getting ourselves into.

With two weeks left before the transfer window shuts, Chris Hughton seems to be aware of the squad's shortcomings and is doing his best to plug them. If he can add the two other players we need (as a minimum) and keep hold of the rest of the squad then our assault on 17th place (or higher) looks to be one we can achieve.

Despite criticisms that these are largely the players who took us down, the reality is that we now have a team. If Chris Hughton can add a couple more bodies before August ends we can hopefully be well on the way to survival by the time the transfer window reopens in January.

Make no bones about it, whilst there's a lot of mediocre teams in the top flight, we still need to scrap for everything to stand a chance of survival. If we can stay together as a team (something we conspicuously failed to do two years ago) then, as teams like Birmingham and Wolves have shown, we could well survive. However, if the in-fighting erupts again, we'll be back in the Championship next year.

This season is one for consolidation. The Sky money will, I suspect, mostly be used to balance the books. However, if we can get off to a decent start, and put a run of strong performances together we could yet be OK. Regardless of what happens at Old Trafford tonight, our fate won't be determined by trips to the clubs chasing the Premiership title. Where it will be won, or lost, is against the teams around us, both home and away.

What I do expect to see a lot of is the 4-5-1 formation which we favoured away from home last season - with Bigger Lad, or in his absence Big Lad, left to plough a lone furrow with support from two of Wayne Routledge, Spidermag, and Ben Arfa (assuming he signs) as necessary and three from Kevin Nolan, Begbie, Alan Smith and Danny Guthrie in the middle of the park. If we can stifle teams in midfield then whilst we may not be the entertainers, we always stand a chance of nicking a few goals to pick up the precious points we need. Lest we forget, last season, West Ham stayed up with 35 points (and in fact only needed 31).

It's far from certain, but, as you'll see from the predicted table below, I think we might just make it.


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