With Sunday’s game satisfactorily out of the way, I am going to make a bold prediction – if we win the next three games we are home and dry as far as the Premiership is concerned. Forget the defection of the African boys in January, forget any potential blips and forget any signings in January (and I will come to this later) – the league will be as good as ours.
I don’t say this lightly but the next three games, one of which is a home banker against Wolves, will decide the season for us. Following the Wolves game we have two away games at Arsenal and Man City. In the meantime the OT Whingers are at home to Everton and away to Portsmouth and West Ham, an easy nine points for them if ever there were any. Especially with Everton’s propensity to lie down and allow themselves to be steamrolled whenever they play United, FA Cup semi finals excepted. The Arse, who play us at home, have Sunderland away and Stoke at home, that’s six points if not actually in the bank, certainly on their way there.
If, and that is not only an if with a capital I but also a capital F, we get nine points from these next three games, we will have a five point lead over Man U and eight on Arsenal, who will still have a game in hand.
And then the fun begins. We have Everton, Portsmouth, Fulham, Sunderland and Birmingham at home and West Ham, Hull, Sunderland and the Brummies again away. Both Arsenal and United have some tricky looking fixtures in the meantime, including playing against each other on the 30th January, Sky permitting, who will probably move the game to the next day.
Hopefully by the time we meet Arsenal on the 6th February (make that the 7th because of Sky) we will be home and dry. It may all sound like wishful thinking but hey, in a world stricken by a recession, terrorism and Simon Cowell, I see nothing wrong in indulging in a bit of day dreaming.
For all United’s whinging and whining I thought Sunday’s was a fair result. Except for a few minutes here and there after our goal I felt we were comfortable all through the game. And for all the controversy kicked up Sir Red Nose, by far the worst decisions must have been the non-sending off of Jonny Evans (twice because I thought kicking out at players like he did to Carvalho is a straight red in the real world) plus Drogba’s yellow card for getting kicked in the chest. It will be interesting to see if the FA intervene in the matter. The rules are so convoluted with retroactive punishment that I doubt the bigwigs in the FA understand them themselves. All I can say is that Michael Essien had got a two match ban in Europe for a foul that had gone unpunished during a game against Liverpool in the Champions League some years ago.
Finally to the transfer ban and its subsequent suspension until the case is finally decided. Am I the only one who thinks that it might not be such a good thing after all? At the moment we have the best squad in England, possibly Europe. All the players that have come in when one or more of the regular first eleven has been missing have done well. We have four players who can play right back, four great central defenders (plus Mancienne if need be) and both Ivanovic and Ferreira do well when employed on the left. We have eight players challenging for four places in midfield. Without Drogba, we might be a bit light in attack, but then we can always go to 4-3-3 with Joe Cole and Malouda/Zhirkov out wide.
While we will be without the four African guys in January, in reality Mikel and Kalou will be no great loss. Essien’s place was ably filled up by Belletti quite a few times and Ballack did it in pre-season America. I can also see Michael Mancienne doing a good job there if need be. Up front, Drogba is irreplaceable the way he is playing at the moment so I think we would be better off changing the system with Anelka alone up front. Our January fixtures consist of 2 rounds of the FA Cup, home games against Sunderland and Birmingham and away games at Burnley and Hull, not exactly daunting stuff I dare say.
My point is that if we had sleeping dogs lie with the ban, we would have at least gotten one transfer window ban out of the way when we don’t really need strengthening and then fight tooth and nail to get the ban reduced to one window. I do have a feeling that the ban will be reduced. If that were the case then we would have been free to buy players next summer, which is always a better time to do business than in January.
But then who am I to make such a suggestion when we have people paid millions of pounds a year to run the club who think that it is acceptable to call our beloved home Stamford Samsung Mobile Phones, Fridges and Freezers, Microwaves Bridge. And they make washing machines and dishwashers too by the way.