Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Progress Report - Part I: Overview

With the tedious international break upon us, I would like to take the opportunity to run a series of articles reviewing the season so far. They will be broken down as follows:

Part I: Overview
Part II: The Defence
Part III: The Midfield
Part IV: The Attack
Part V: Our Rivals

With no further ado, let's crack on.


These are the 10 games we have played so far:

(PL in red, CL in blue, others in green)

v Newcastle (h), draw 1-1 (Fletcher)
v Portsmouth (a), WIN 1-0 (Fletcher)
v Zenit (n), lose 2-1 (Vidic)
v Liverpool (a), lose 1-2 (Tevez)
v Villareal (h), draw 0-0
v Chelsea (a), draw 1-1 (Park)
v Middlesbrough (h), WIN 3-1 (Ronaldo, Giggs, Nani)
v Bolton (h), WIN 2-0 (Ronaldo, Rooney)
v Aalborg (a), WIN 3-0 (Rooney, Berbatov 2)
v Blackburn (a), WIN 2-0 (Brown, Rooney)

Looking back

Running your eyes down that list of fixtures, there are a few patterns that leap out:

  • We only won once in our first six competitive games, which is on first glance an appalling start to the season. In fact, if you look closer, it's still below par - if the games against Liverpool and Chelski had finished 15 minutes early, we would have taken 4 points from our two hardest away games rather than 1. Equally, we could have beaten Villareal 2-0 if even the totally uncontroversial decisions had gone our way.
  • That's a tough set of fixtures by anyone's standards. Playing Liverpool and Chelsea at their own places; starting off our CL campaign against the hardest team in our group; away at Pompey and Blackburn, two games we have struggled in over the last two seasons.
  • Neither our attack nor our defence has been up to last season's standards, something we will look at in more detail later on this this series. Suffice to say that we conceded too many goals and too many easy goals, whilst failing to find any fluency going forward (the last two games excepted).
  • The trend is upwards in the last few games, with our forwards making onto the scoresheet more often and clean sheets starting to arrive.
In addition to this, there were two problems dragging us down throughout this time, the injury crisis and the Berbatov saga. I should hardly need to remind you of the horrific details of either of these - we struggled to put out a matchday squad against Newcastle, and even once Berba finally arrived his integration into the team has been difficult.

The signs are, though, that these problems are easing. In both defence and attack, Fergie has selection headaches that must be worse than many a hangover - it is only in midfield that we are really struggling, with Carrick and Scholes out with serious injuries and Hergreaves still struggling with his tendinitis. Equally positively, Berba has broken his scoring duck and is starting to find the wavelength of his teammates.

And ther realy positive - despite all this, if we win our game in hand against Fulham, we are only three points off the pace in the PL, through to the next round of the Carling Cup and decently placed in our CL group. So, to quote Eric Idle, always look on the bright side of life...

Looking forward

In the next articles of the series, I will set out "goals" for each of the units (defence, midfield and attack), but here I'm going to stick to giving you a flavour of what is to come. Here are the upcoming 10 fixtures:

v West Brom (h)
v Celtic (h)
v Everton (a)
v West Ham (h)
v Hull (h)
v Celtic (a)
v Arsenal (a)
v QPR (h)
v Stoke (h)
v Aston Villa (a)

Not quite so scary, are they? Six games at home, including all three of the promoted teams. Away at Everton, whose confidence is shot and whose defence is leaking horribly. Even the harder games have causes for optimism - away at Arsenal, who are showing the same inconsistency as at the back end of last season; and away at Villa, who maintain their poor record against the top four.

At the same time, we can expect Ronaldo to get closer to his best form and Berbatov to show us why he was worth the money; Rooney to continue his recent hot streak, and Tevez to fight for a place; Carrick to return from injury to pull the strings, and our defence to build back up it's formidable steeliness.

I can seriously imagine looking down that list in 7 weeks time and writing WIN next to every fixture. Here's hoping.

No comments:

Post a Comment