Sunday, 14 December 2008

Crunch time

We're coming into the most important fortnight in our season so far. A trip to Spain on Thursday night, to West Brom on Sunday, Hull at home on Boxing Day and then Ewood Park two days later. A good run of results, and we can still salvage our season. Bad, and anything is possible.

The tightness of the league (four points separate 9th from 18th) has allowed us to reserve judgement on our performance. No matter how close to the bottom we are (only Blackburn and West Brom have fewer points), we're still only a few wins from Europe. Hull, in sixth place, are just nine points away. Hughes, with some justification, has used this as a response to criticism: three good results, some new signings and everything looks better.

The problem, though, is actually winning these games to take us up the table. After the October international break, we faced this run of league fixtures: Newcastle (a), Stoke (h), 'Boro (a), Bolton (a), Spurs (h) and Hull (a). We should have taken at least ten, maybe twelve or even fifteen points. But we got five. That run is going to stand out as the great missed opportunity of the season. We have a chance in the next two weeks to put this right. A win in Santander and we get an easy opponent in the UEFA Cup Round of 32 (as likely a route into the 2009/10 Europa League as any other). Three league wins is unlikely (especially given Blackburn will be in a new manager bounce), but six or seven points would propel us into some sort of respectability.

I'm just resisting joining the 'Hughes Out' camp for the time being. Not that I don't think he's doing a bad job - he quite obviously is. But Hughes is the sixteenth City manager of my lifetime (and the eleventh that I remember). We know from Blackburn that he's not a bad manager - he just hasn't quite got his head round our squad yet. And the quality of Kompany and Zabaleta demonstrate what we knew from Samba and Santa Cruz, that he is exceptional in the transfer market. Given the ludicrous sums of money we're about to spend, I back Hughes over anyone else to bring in the right players for the club. And, most importantly, I really don't see us getting anyone much better in the immediate future. But a failure to exploit the remaining games in 2008, and the jokes about being the richest team in the Championship get much less funny.

1 comment:

tommytheblue said...

good article, enjoyed reading it, the league is really close this season, were only 7 points off everton. But our form is pretty poor and there is a good reason why hughes is under pressure.

I think the huge negative response stems from the actuall performance on the pitch, we seem completley different from the side that beat pompey 6-0, the good football has gone, the players seems disheartened, and have shown no signs of improving. The reinforced failure of picking the same tactic, even though our striker have failed to perform all season is worrying.

I'm not going to comment on hughes time at blaackburn, because at the time i felt they were one of the worst footballing sides in the league and negative football opitimised my views of hughes at the time.

Transfer wise, i'm not sure you can trust him? ~He signed some good players, to an alaready fairly decent side, yet we havn't improved. His star buys haven't really lasted beyond one season in the premier league, the likes of pederson, mcarthy and even santa cruz haven't produced the goods.

WBA is a must win, the game must show the teams desire to win for the manager and the club. - i am very worried.