We have become the team that grinds out results…until we don’t.
Our PL “Best Ever Start” masks a slightly different picture, when we start looking across all competitions this season.
Out of our 7 victories in the PL this year, I would say that only those against Manchester United (our finest result) plus Fulham and Huddersfield (2 goal margins) have been comfortable victories, and the last two are debatable as “comfortable”.
Otherwise, we have squeezed past the other 5 by a solitary goal and, for all of the possession, could have conceded and left with 1 point instead of 3.
When you add in the Cups, it looks worse. Inter turned us over from a winning position. Barça beat us fairly soundly if you tally up all of the ‘what ifs’. It took us penalties to get past Watford. Last night we salvaged a draw from what looked like a routine victory.
My point here is that we have been scraping by…but that relying on other teams rolling over or ‘that bit of luck’ is not going to carry us very far in the Premier League, the FA Cup or even the Milk Cup (pick your favourite for us to “focus on”), let alone the Champions League.
We all know the possible reasons why we haven’t hit our straps as yet – and they are absolutely valid. Fatigue, injuries, international duty etc etc. Not easy to balance and continue to keep staying in touch.
However. However. Last night’s performance and result points to a pattern of our own making in which we go ahead, look like we’re going to really press home the advantage with a second or third goal…and then, in the name of controlling the game or whatever, we allow the intensity to drop at what looks like a pivotal moment and we concede. We invite the opposition back into the game.
I’m all for high possession stats but they have to equal a threat. If the other team sense that they’re safe to have a go, then have a go they will. This is a subliminal message we send out time and again.
We did invite pressure last season too, but it was more about not converting chances. This time round we’re not creating the chances in anything like as much quantity or quality.
Again, back to the reasons why. We’re going to have to hope that Dele and Jan bring a lot back to this team because, as things stand, we don’t have much room for manoeuvre in the ‘luck’ stakes. A few percentage points drop in performance will translate to wins becoming draws and draws becoming losses.
That’s what I see with what I’m watching so far this season.