We've discussed plenty of times how we have been Jekyll and Hyde so far this season. Because of our stop/start play, we've yet to really stamp down an authoritative swagger on a match from start to finish, convincingly and emphatically.
City Home Draw 0-0 - Breathless first half, stagnating second half.
Young Boys Away Loss 3-2 - Keystone cops first half, dug deep second half.
Stoke Away Win 2-1 - Beastly first half, holding onto dear life second half.
Young Boys Home Win 4-0 - Probably the most comfortable 90 minutes of the season.
Wigan Home Loss 1-0 - Hangoverish. Got worse in the second half until disappearing completely
WBA Away Draw 1-1 - Mish mash.
Werder Away Draw 2-2 - Best 44 minutes you could ask for. Lacklustre defending, but not a terrible second half all things considering.
Wolves Home Win 3-1 - Laboured a little what with finishing, but had all the chances, and in the end, endeavoured to finally make the break-through. Not a win to be dismissed in terms of once more digging deep.
Scum Home Loss 4-1 - Second/third string that hardly performed and yet could have won. In the aftermath, it's quite cute how hard them lot are trying to justify the significance of the win as something tangible. The fact that it wasn't our first team should therefore have no negative impact on the mentality of the side that plays on Saturday.
Looking at the EPL games only, that's DWLDW. It's a case of C+ when we were hoping for more of a B, B+. But to be completely fair, had we won the Wigan home game, I'm not sure many would be that concerned, probably preferring to cite how we are not playing brilliantly but still picking up the points - a sign of a dogged side that churns out the results. Instead, we find we are lingering on a few worrying aspects of the performances. For example, our lack of grip on the second half of games. The struggle to be clinical in front of goal. The form of some of our players (Corluka, Palacios, Lennon), the loss of Modric (be it for a few games) and also the signing of Rafael van der Vaart.
Now the latter is not actually a worrying aspect at all. It's inspired. Levy bagged an extra dimension in Rafa for Harry, which will allow for decisive depth which IMO spoils us. We could, for example, rest Luka and play Rafa. Or play them both. Or have at least one available if the other is injured. Thus no reason to be down-hearted if we are missing one of them but including both in the starting line-up should be nothing less than majestic. Of course, there are tactical responsibilities to be understood in terms of what to do if the opposition attempt to flood the midfield or nullify one or both of our lefties.
Both are quite similar in terms of being able to play out on the flank and through the middle. Modric, a crafter of creation, dinking in and around the box with sublime touches and passes. Rafael, a technician of tricks, offensive-minded and equally superb in play-making, with the added bonus of knowing where the back of the net is.
Both (regardless of the obvious difference in physical stature) know how to handle themselves on the pitch. Modric can get stuck in. vdV is also not afraid. For anyone who had reservations about his work-rate, re-watch the first half v Werder Bremen and how superbly he covered the pitch, closed down opposition players and took responsibility with wanting the ball. He was equally important in the Wolves win. A touch of leadership about him in terms of how he's always looking to push the team forwards.
So nothing worrying about the inclusion of vdV in our squad. Of course, Harry has to be certain of the mechanics of the team and how they can work best. Fluid functioning 451 success isn't going to happen over-night. 15 games in, if it's still fragmented and we are not progressing too well, then sit yourself in the corner and do that back and forwards slow movement, staring blankly into space, foaming at mouth thing you do when you know a transitional season is on the cards.
So is all the lingering doubt really worth it? The scratching of heads? It's not exactly Everton all this. Or Liverpool. Not that we should ever want to be using other clubs problems as a gauge of how well we are doing in comparison. We can see what's not quite right, and it's all fixable. Look up, not down brothers.
Talking of looking down. It's vital we win on Saturday. The main reason being, it's two wins from five, and this would make it three wins in six. It will be a testament of our guile and determination. Had we not lost Modric at WBA, the game might have turned out differently. My point being, it's time for some convincing football, across 90 minutes, away from home. There is no room for the team, the players out on the pitch, to knee-jerk if say a player goes off injured. We've seen that happen this season, so time for Harry and players to excel and look towards that B, B+.
It's swagger time. Screw B. I want A+ with distinction.
West Ham, no matter how abjectly shit they are, which they are most of the time, always turn up for this fixture. Well, I say always turn up, they still had around 1,500 tickets available for the game earlier in the week. I guess some are holding out for a seat in the Olympic Stadium.
Their players rarely fail not to play with fire in their belly at Upton Park. No matter their form in prior games. And what with their woeful start to the season, they've apparently half turned a corner with their point away to Stoke and the cup win at Sunderland. A win for them would be deemed an important kick-starting turning point. Historically, for all their plucky efforts, it hardly ever goes their way. Unless of course we get poisoned.
I've got to be honest. Anything less than three points will be massively disappointing.
We are better than them on paper, on form, in Football Manager 2010, better than them even when we are abjectly shit. Losing this will hurt just as much as losing to Wigan because it's completely avoidable and unnecessary. Losing to Wigan is probably worse because that was a home match, but you get what I mean.
We always take points off them. And we never take it for granted, so no change in attitude is required. Our players are just as aware of how high tempo these games can get and that there is - like all London derby matches - the matter of pride. Be it far less important than Arsenal and Chelsea. It can turn out to be tenacious and ferocious and their players via the vocal power of home support, can elevate themselves onto a higher level playing field and blah blah blah.
I don't care. Ruin them thank you very much. Take those lingering worrying aspects we've kept in our possession since the opening day, stick 'em in a box, and throw it into the canal.
Things I want to see:
Bale marauding through the West Ham defence like a hot samurai sword through butter. Although to be fair, you could blunt a knife or just replace it with a feather, you'd still manage to get through their defence. Very accommodating, knees up and such.
Start Hutton. Bench Corluka.
Our midfield dominating the midfield. Scott Parker does a sterling job, but if we can't go to Upton Park and strangle the life out of them, then shame oh shame.
Crouch looping header of a despairing Rob Green.
If a DM is to be used at some point. Use Sandro, not Wilson.
I'd drop Lennon, but I'm struggling to work out if that would be more so detrimental to the side even with his current form being very average, because the alternative(s) are not great. Lennon, at least manages to assist. He might actually re-discover something so, in conclusion. Play Lennon.
No. More. Fitness. Issues.
Attack. Attack. Attack. Attack. Attack.
So something sexy like this will do me just fine:
Hutton King Bassong BAE
Lennon Huddlestone Modric Bale