Okay we won, but one-nil is an only just, no matter what other circumstances come into play.
Last time out Cardiff lost 4-0 at home to Hull and then they come to us and we can only manage a 1-0 victory. Everybody else smashes Cardiff – so why can´t we? One-Nil is not good enough bearing in mind that we are striving to get into the top four and they are looking down the barrel of an immediate return to the Championship.
Our goal difference is abysmal compared to virtually every other team in the top half of the table. We are barely in a positive. The team immediately above us happen to be Man Citeh – 4 points away, 36 goal difference to the good and two whole games in hand.
What chance have we of catching them? And do we have any realistic chance of getting close to Chelski who are now ten points away and looking like they can beat anyone put in front of them – pretty annoying since that is where we have to go this coming weekend.
As for the other two teams above us. Liverpool are in such good form that they must be considered as serious contenders for the title, let alone a top four finish, while Le Arse are undergoing a blip – a blip which might yet give us a glimmer of hope.
That our next four League games include fixtures against those three teams – Chelski, Le Arse and Liverpool – plus Southampton, means that this month is a defining moment in our season.
Away to both Chelski and Liverpool are always going to be tough and we rarely enjoy success at either so realistically a draw would be deemed a good result. Could we contemplate going there – to either stadium – and hold out for a solitary point?
Or should we simply go all out for a win and aim to catch them off guard? Afterall, everybody else expects us to lose so, if we do go for it and do lose, it won´t be too much of a surprise, but at least we will go down all guns blazing.
The home game to Le Arse may however prove crucial. That has to be considered a six-pointer. We currently trail them by exactly six points. We win and it is just three points. They win and it´s nine. (All other results being equal of course).
But enough of the future, what of the immediate past?
Against Cardiff we were back to our usual self, much as we were under AVB. All the possession, all the control, all the shots – on and off target – but in the end just one goal to show for it.
Under AVB we always had a 184.108.40.206 formation which enabled us to control and dominate without actually providing any convincing victory.
Under Sherwood, we have seen different formations yet yesterday he again opted for a two pronged attack which failed to impress for most of the game – one fleeting moment apart when Adebayor fed Soldado with the perfect chance. And for once Bobby Soldier took a touch, and instead of trying to blast the ball home, he simply flicked it into the corner of the net.
If we are going to persevere with that two pronged attack – and I for one am against the idea – there has to be a lot of give and take. Both partners in that attack have to give and give back. It seemed as though Adebayor was prepared to do his bit, he was constantly feeding Soldado with balls, but whenever his Spanish partner had the ball he would never give it back. It was almost as if Soldado was envious of Adebayor´s recent success and didn´t want it to continue. When he was in possession he would play it back or sideways and never into our Togolese striker.
Against a team that puts out a flat back five and four midfielders we need players with movement and guile, capable of threading a pass that will undo the opposition´s defence. Against Cardiff we had no such player.
Our only truly creative player of that ilk – Christian Eriksen – was missing due to injury, but lately whenever he has been picked he has generally been assigned to be our wide left player- something he is not.
Deployed wide left Eriksen always drifts infield, leaving his left back exposed to counter attack and this has proven to be our downfall on more than one occasion this season. If Eriksen plays – and I believe he should be in our starting line up every week – he has to be deployed behind a lone striker – and currently this simply has to be Adebayor.
With two wide players, and we have enough of them to choose from, all offering outlets to attack at speed, that leaves just two central positions to be filled by our big, strong, powerful central midfielders – a choice of Paulinho, Sandro, Dembele, Bentaleb and, when fit, Capoue.
When fully fit Sandro simply has to play – especially against other top teams – as he is our only midfield player capable of stemming the inevitable flow of play coming against us.
Which leaves just one central position available, unless we allocate one of the wide positions to one of our central players. We have recently seen Dembele deployed on the right flank where he has been efficient, but surely as a predominantly left footed player he would be better occupied on the left flank, and provide a more effective outlet, plus his defensive capabilities would assist whoever is at left back
The simple choice of central “box to box” midfielder then comes down to Paulinho or Bentaleb and the big Brazilian has to get the nod over the young Algerian.
But all this is very much academic. I am not the chosen one who picks the team, who sets the tactics, that is down to Tim Sherwood.
Whatever happens, whoever he picks, they all simply must improve on the performance against Cardiff. Anything less and we will see another capitulation, yet another embarrassing defeat.
Pick the right team, send them out with the correct mindset, the correct attacking intent and maybe, just maybe, we can dare to dream that we can gain a famous victory at Stamford Bridge. It has happened before – not too often granted – but it is not impossible.
But we have to go out from the very first whistle with intent and not rely on opposition deficiencies, because there are so few, but to attack and impose our will on them.
If we simply go with the same ideal as we did against Cardiff, we will lose and that simply is not good enough.