What a week. A narrow home victory against Fulham sandwiched between two comprehensive defeats, both as unwelcome as Joe Cole in a Scouse shirt. It’s not like the game against Sunderland hasn’t been coming – our performances have been steadily dropping for the last five or six weeks.
The evidence for our ongoing decline is overwhelming. We scored 21 goals in our first five Premiership games yet in our last six games we’ve totalled just 5, an average of less than one a game. In these same recent games we’ve conceded six and, bluntly put, conceding more than you score is a sure fire way of descending the table.
That we’re still top of the league despite losing three games is a reflection of the most open, unpredictable Premiership since its inception in 1992. Every team, from top to bottom is experiencing the most unlikely results whether it’s Villa conceding 6 at Newcastle, United consistently letting leads slip, Arsenal getting beat by Newcastle and the Baggies at home…..wherever you look each team in the Premiership is inflicting surprise results on the teams around them.
Sunderland are a case in point. Smacked 5-1 in the Tyne Wear derby just two weeks ago, they promptly rolled up at our place and played a blistering game of attacking football, as good as anything seen at the Bridge since Man City rolled up and trounced us 4-2 earlier this year. CFCnet can’t remember being beat so comprehensively for a very, very long time.
The game showed us nothing we don’t already know. Without our world class spine of Terry, Essien and Lampard we look a soft touch. Those players that ride on the coat tails of our global superstars are shown up as lightweight and ineffective. Everyone knows who they are. Add in our lack of intensity – something we harped on about last year – and you’ve got a mix of players and performances that’s just asking to be beaten.
Lampard in particular is a glaring loss with his ability to link midfield and attack. What other team wouldn’t notice the absence of the Premiership Player of the Decade? We’re missing his goals and we’re missing them badly. Come back Frank, and make it quick.
On a separate subject, all the staff at CFCnet were choked to see Ray Wilkins no longer sitting beside Ancelotti in the dugout. Whilst the official statement put out by the Club shed no real light on his absence, our message boards have been inundated with conspiracy theories as to why Wilkins has gone missing.
Our youngest ever captain at just 18, Wilkins was a reassuring presence around the Club not only because of his genial professionalism but also the fact he represented our traditions and history. He was a true link with our past.
The only reason that could go part way to explaining his sudden departure (at half time in a reserve match against Bayern) is that he’s accepted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s old position as Man Utd’s reserve team manager. We can’t quite believe that as it’s hardly a step up and Wilkins’ home is in London. One thing we do know is that his departure was announced to all the coaching staff and directors by email. Classy.
If the real explanation for his absence is a ‘cost cutting’ measure, we feel that the timing of it is odd to say the least. Why destabilise the team a third of the way through the season? We need to put it on record that we’re angry and disappointed with what’s happened to Ray and we’d like to thank him for representing our Club so magnificently over the years.