The Blog that's not always wrong.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Enthusiasm returns

The time for boldness has arrived. We definitely won't be relegated. We just might get into the top half but its by no means certain. Its not all over yet by a long way; the fat lady hasn't sung, but at least she's standing in the wings.

A lot of fans have gone from desperation to over enthusiasm but I'm just sticking with not being desperate. Aaron Lennon on the back of improving performances over the whole season culminating in a mini master-class against Middlesbrough and the presence of Capello in the crowd twice running is not only being tipped for an England recall but is talking up our chances of qualifying for Europe again this year. As Michael Winner would say 'calm down dear'.

But the signs are there: the return of Keane who scored and had a hand in all three goals on Wednesday; the excellent team performance against Man. U; the late winner against Hull even though the impartial observer would have conceded a draw; The thrashing of Middlesbrough who might have gone a goal up early on ( the Tuncay offside was very marginal); the acceptance of 'Little Luka' as a creative force; even Zokora and Jenas have had good games by almost common consent.

So we're on the up: team wise, individually wise, league wise and every other wise. We're getting the run of the ball and I've forgiven Harry for prioritising the league, but only because it seems to be working. But that's only the second time we've won consecutive Premier league fixtures this season and the last success against Liverpool and Man. City in November was followed by a dire performance against Fulham.

However you're only as good as your next performance and although a draw would probably do against Sunderland what are the odds against a third win running? However football is a game played in the head as well as on the grass and it seems to me that fans, myslf included, will see this as one of Harry's five wins for survival. Lets hope that the team agree.

It will partially depend on tactics and Harry has been somewhat conservative in this area. We need to play at a higher tempo, defend a little higher up the pitch and play 442, although Harry might say 'If it ain't broke why fix it'. We definitely need to compete from the start and not turn up 15 mins late as we did against Man. Utd. and Middlesbrough. We could have been punished in both games but got away with it.

Now that the boys are showing signs of throwing off their mental shackles Harry should encourage them to play. We have quality all over the pitch, Palacios has made the midfield more secure, with Gomes back to form and Dawson playing to his best, Ekotto much improved and plenty of cover along the back four we can indulge ourselves and play good football, and that's what we should do.

Now we don't know what would have happened if we had gone for it on all fronts. Just as we don't know whether Ramos might have turned it round. We do know that replacing Jol didn't work and that the constant turnover of players and managers doesn't work. 100 players in ten years, 9 managers in 12yrs. I know I've said it before but we don't seem to stop looking for that missing piece of the puzzle.

We might just have it our hands already as my grandson did the other day. We searched everywhere for a missing piece and when we gave up he had been holding it all the time. The second team played well at home against Shakhtar and we have talent we haven't fully explored yet, Taarabt and Giovani for starters. There's Bale to come back to form and hopefully Bentley, Gilberto has suddenly risen from the dead.

The more I think about it the more enthusiastic I become. This is usually the prelude to a return to earth a lot faster than the take-off, but I've just got a feeling that the mood in the club has turned, that the Carling Cup performance rather than the result might be the turning point. I can see stirrings of belief on the pitch and not just on the terraces.

We need to put down a marker for next season in this year's run in and give ourselves a boost rather than the depressing let down of last season which raised doubts in my mind over the magic of Juande. Sunderland is a winnable game and we should win it on the back of our most recent form.

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