“Nothing goes your way when you’re down the bottom.”
That’s the saying, isn’t it? Saturday’s defeat to Spurs had me muttering that phrase all the way home, but there are a number of reasons why we are where we are, and there a number of reasons why we won’t be there come May.
We desperately unlucky not to have come away with anything at White Hart Lane. We played very well, especially in the second half, and should’ve at least taken a point.
The trouble is that we have a distinct lack of ability to close games out, and yesterday’s capitulation was down to Slaven Bilic’s substitutions.
Firstly, the introduction of Simone Zaza was justifiable given Diafra Sakho’s lack of match fitness, but while the Italian runs around a lot he doesn’t exactly offer a threat in front of goal. Ashley Fletcher must be wondering what he has to do to get another opportunity to impress. He would’ve been a better option off the bench and would’ve offered pace in attack.
The introduction of a defender towards the end was the right thing to do, but why on earth was Havard Nordtveit thrown on instead of James Collins? Nordtveit has been woeful since he signed for us, Collins is a tried and trusted, no-nonsense defender.
Bringing Edimilson Fernandes on was also a strange move. The lad is more comfortable in an attacking-midfield role, despite playing as a wing-back in recent games, so he will not have had enough defensive nouse to contribute to our attempts to shut the game off.
Some blame also has to go to Mike Dean who once again felt the need to make the game all about him. He did correctly award both sides a penalty, but his decision to book Winston Reid twice in the space of just two stoppage time minutes was ridiculous and completely uncalled for.
Winston Reid was the best player on the pitch on Saturday evening and he will be sorely missed when we travel to Manchester United next weekend. Those types of decisions will cost us throughout the season if they continue to be made. Twice now we’ve had a player wrongly sent off for two bookable offences this season, and we are powerless to do anything about it.
It is well documented that our transfer business in the summer was abysmal. It is difficult to pass judgement on Andre Ayew as he has only just returned from a long-term injury, but only the likes of Ashley Fletcher and Edimilson Fernandes can hold their heads up high since signing for us. The rest have been absolutely atrocious.
The board must take some of the responsibility here. No one really knows who is in charge of recruitment at the moment, which is extremely worrying, and they spent too much of the summer faffing about with trying to sign a ‘marquee’ striker to elevate us to the next level.
It seems as though they’re trying to run before they can walk, which is why we’re no facing issues. The stadium move should’ve been the first step in a long, patient process towards a new era, but instead they were trying to do to many big things too soon.
But let’s not focus on the negatives. There is still a long way to go in the season and we have enough time to get ourselves out of it. It does seem a difficult task when you consider the run of fixtures we have over the next few weeks but if the overall performance against Spurs is anything to go by, then there is every reason to believe we’ll be fine come the end of the season.
What will contribute to that is the business the club does in January. We need to be signing experienced Premier League players, not cheap or loan players from across the continent who may need time to adapt to the rigours of England football.
A right-back and a striker should be high on the list of targets.
Rumours suggest we’re in poll position to sign Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool, which would be an incredible bit of business, but it’s difficult to see a deal like that coming off while we’re in the position we are right now.
An attempt to bring Carl Jenkinson back to the club should also be considered. He may not have impressed before his injury last season but he will have come back stronger and already knows the squad, having played over 50 teams for us across two loan spells.
Not time to panic…
It’s understandable that fans are already fearing for our Premier League safety. We’ve only won three games so far this season and are currently just a single point above the bottom three, but we will be ok.
I truly believe Slaven Bilic will get it right, the players will get it right.
We played well against Spurs, there were a number of periods of play that had me and many more fans surprised. We are the only team to have scored more than one goal in a game against Spurs in the league this season, which says a lot about how we performance. We didn’t deserve to lose, but a number of questionable decisions cost us in the end.
Once we get through these tough upcoming fixtures we’ll be able to regroup and target a run of games where we put together a run of positive results.
Lastly, it was great to see Diafra Sakho back in action.
He was a little off the pace and could only last 60 minutes, but he hasn’t played a game since the final game of last season, so it’s going to take some time before he’s back to his best.
He is arguably the best striker we have in our ranks and could be the man to help us climb up the table. He scores goals, especially in big matches, so it’s great to see him back and available again.