We’re in the midst of a slightly disappointing run. Since our 5-0 thrashing from Spurs we’ve only managed two draws. We seemed to lack resilience and second-half ‘attitude’ against Wolves and threw away a 2-0 lead. Against the mackems it was the other way around and we clawed our way back into the game in the second half to snatch a draw. We’re up against Arsenal next of course and I can’t help but feel pessimistic about our chances of coming away from The Emirates with any points.
So what can we do to improve?
One of the criticisms of the team I’ve heard a lot is that our midfield plays too deep and this isolates our strikers a bit, and it has been suggested that introducing Ben Arfa into the mix helps to alleviate this problem. Yet Alan Pardew seems reluctant to start with Benny and has insinuated that this may be because Benny doesn’t defend well enough and thus leaves us open at the other end.
Maybe Benny will forever be seen as a ‘luxury player’, so could it be that Alan Pardew thinks that he’s a luxury we can’t afford on regular, starting-the-game basis? We’ve used luxury players with some success in the past – Keegan’s use of Ginola, Robson’s use of Robert etc. – so what’s the difference now? Is Pardew’s reluctance to use Benny simply because he doesn’t think the rest of the team is solid enough to allow that on a regular basis, or is it some sort of ‘defensive-prejudice’ that Pardew has (he is the defensive coach after all)?
Why, I wonder, has Gabriel Obertan fallen out of favour on the right win recently? It seems that Ryan Taylor is getting the nod ahead of him lately. Since playing 84 minutes against Liverpool back in December, Obertan has been on the pitch for less than 90 minutes in 8 league games.
Sylvain Marveaux is still a month away from recovering from his Gilmore’s Groin injury but will his return to fitness signify any sort of change that might be considered a ‘tactical improvement’? It would seem unlikely given that he’s only got 1 full start and 5 substitute appearances to his name.
Could it be that we simply need some new players to take facilitate improvement? Few would deny that we have over-performed this season so far. In fact in our poll at the start of the season, 60% thought we’d be ‘mid-table battlers’ (18% thought Europa League, 15% though ‘scraping through’, 4% thought relegated), so our current 6th place should be a pleasant surprise to most fans. Maybe we have a team that’s capable of a 6th/7th place finish but not yet a team that can climb beyond that.
So basically my question is: How do we improve from here both in terms of the rest of this season and in the next?