Back to back losses and things have gone from bad to worse for David Moyes. Defender Johny Evans comments that the team is playing with a lack of confidence does not help matters. Losses to Newcastle and Everton show just how much United have regressed this season. No one was expecting a treble during Moyes’ inaugural campaign but a top 4 position was assumed to be a given. A Europa position will be a miracle with how the team is playing.
Here is what has this column worried. Even if Moyes signs a new midfielder or two, what guarantees are there that they can salvage United’s season? It’s unfair to have a new signing shoulder the responsibility for salvaging a team’s failing season [Which player wants to come into such an environment AND under such pressure with the burden of expectation??]. Also, the new signing will still have to play with current team players and other than Carrick, De Gea and Rooney, there hasn’t been much to find positive about United. Let us not forget Moyes brought his best performer at Everton to his new team and somehow succeeded in making him look incompetent despite having the physical tools [at least] to dominate the midfield. A new signing presents the same problem that Moyes has been unable to solve, how to get the players to buy into his system and perform in their best position. Speaking of systems, one of the reasons Sir Alex’s teams were successful was their ability to shut opponents out. United were not prolific attackers, especially after the Tevez-Ronaldo-Rooney triumvirate was dismantled. What they did well, better than most teams in the EPL was create chances which were most likely to result in goals and reduce their opposition to shots outside the 6-yard box and long balls which result in goals far less than balls played through the middle. Moyes’ system at Everton featured the full-backs delivering crosses from out wide for the forward players to feed on. Those chances result in less goals than having the midfield carry the ball from the defense into the oppositions half. United need to sign players this January despite the fact that this is hardly the solution to solve the malaise that currently plagues United. At this point, it is important for Moyes’ that he is seen to be doing something. Preferably, it would have been with performances on the pitch but looking at how this week went, this column would bit begrudge United fans who spend the next few weeks playing career mode in FIFA 14 or Football Manager coming up with formations, tactics and transfers that they hope can save their team.
As former manager Ron Atkinson so eloquently put it, there is no transition period at United and if that is what Moyes is counting on, he is in for a rude surprise. The #MoyesOut campaign is a season too early and the man in charge has a window of opportunity to get fans on his side. Currently 9th with 22 points, Moyes should be aiming for 54 points from the remaining 25 games if his side is to clench a much needed champions league spot [this comes up to 2.16 pts per game from now till the end of the season for those who love numbers]. The only other option will be to win the damn champions league this season and give UEFA a lot to think about as the holders will need to be able to defend their title. This author is reminded of the old saying that it never rains but pours. For United fans, this means things could either get much, much worse from here on or this is as low as it gets and this is where things get better. I’ll let a braver person call it.
In looking for bright spots this season, United fans can console themselves that the Happy One has hardly been the unstoppable juggernaut that he threatened to be. Chelsea are fortunate to be 3rd as Cech has been found wanting on more than one occasion in goal. Eto’o has not been the savior that Mourinho expected and his best striker currently plays for the blue half of Merseyside.
With only 3 loses this season, it’s hard to make the argument that Chelsea is playing badly. But they are. They just don’t seem convincing as when they put together performances that suggest they are ready to take the league by storm, they follow it up with a tepid performance that could probably described as toothless. The defense is creaking as Terry’s age begins to show and Cahill has too similar attributes to be a long-term partner. The alternative, David Luis is not trusted by the Happy One as is Ashley Cole who has not been seen in the starting 11 since the 2-0 loss to Newcastle on November 2nd. His consistent performers are now relics from his first period in charge of Chelsea. You could accuse him of living in the past and not able to forge ahead with the players he has [ahem Juan Mata]. How soon he works this out determines if Chelsea contend for trophies this season. This season is so open that it will be the easiest opportunity to win a trophy for the next decade as teams with new coaches will have settled in, gotten new players and the new recruits will have a full season under their belt.
Chelsea find themselves here due to inconsistency that threatens to be what characterizes the return of the special one.
Again, it is a testament to how well they have played this season that many consider their current position [8th] as a disappointment. To be fair, they were able to arrest a bad performance in mid-week after their shock 3-2 loss away to Aston Villa by securing a draw against Manchester City.
I refuse to believe the Saint’s magic has run out and the team is athletic and dynamic enough to return to winning ways. Whiles a top 4 finish might have been impossible and the present re-shuffling at the top is more indicative of who will finish where come end of the season [1st-Arsenal, 2nd-Liverpool, 3rd-Chelsea, 4th-Manchester City], the Saints can easily sustain a run for the Europa league spot.
The new manager effect sadly lasted 3 games which saw them win the Tyne-Wear derby and grabbed a shock win at home to Manchester City. Their overall record this season after 15 games reads: 2 Wins, 2 Draws and 11 Losses. Good enough for the bottom which is exactly where they find themselves. Other relegation tipped teams are at least showing signs of a fight. With Sunderland, it appears to be a case of when you are down, nothing goes your way. The Black Cats have to make their own luck if they are to buck the trend else they will be the first team to reach the dreaded mathematically point of no return where no matter how many points they gain, they still get relegated. At that point, the team just plays for pride.
There is no pride to be found in getting yourself in that position. Gus Poyet better hope the video analysis he did to prepare himself for the season as he waited for a coaching vacancy comes in handy.
When is too early to call out relegation fears? If back to back losses and finding yourself above the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference doesn’t cut it, close your browser. Go for a walk, run into a total stranger and engage in a conversation about the state of the world’s economy.
Sam Allardyce aka Allardici will need to cook up a new formation to get the best out of his team as his striker-less formation seems to have run its course. The news making the rounds is the Allardici is prepared to gamble on the fitness of injured striker Andy Carroll and play him soon. Yup, desperate times call for desperate measures. Hammer fans will be hoping rushing Carroll back does not back fire and lead to him aggravating his injury. To be honest, after seven months out, it is borderline insane to think Carroll is what will cure the Hammers ailing season.
If there’s one advice this column could give Big Sam, it will be to sign a back- up forward with premier league experience during the winter break to contribute immediately. Darren Bent jumps to mind but with a new coach, he could be in line for more playing time.
Benteke—Sophomore slump or just a striker short on confidence? Either way, Villa is less threating without their forward and Paul Lambert will be keen to coax last season’s performance from the Belgian if they are to get anything from this season.
Rafael Da Silva— Reports earlier this week suggested that Moyes was looking for a new Right back as well as he did not rate the Brazilian fullback. His 2 games since returning from injury saw him substituted on both occasions and fatigue nor niggling injuries appeared to be the problem. With one twin already shut out from the wings, are the Brazilian twins on their way out?
Kevin Nonal— Boy was that a silly red card to give away.
Thanks for reading and makes sure to check next week for game week 16th. This column will like to end by giving the premier league thumbs up for their minute applause in honor and celebration of Nelson Mandela. Nice to see football rise to be the positive force it can be.