It's a six horse race.
The JimmyG2 Column.
.Ten games in, just 28 to go, and the first checkpoint for our progress. We finished 2nd last year and at this point we were 5th. with a goal difference of 9 and a tally of 20 points.
This year with the added burden of playing our 'home' games at Wembley we are 3rd. with a goal difference of 12 and the same points tally and the Wembley 'hoodoo' vanquished at every level. So why the long face?
Well we are further behind the leaders than we were last year but unless we go out and spend 2/300 million pounds like Man.City, and match their wages we are always likely to be.
They are 8 points ahead of us after 10 games and have a goal difference of 29. Certainly a whirlwind start but the top six will undoubtedly all take points off each other. We need to play our part in this.
We have improved the squad in the recent window within our means and the return of Lamela, Rose, Dembele, Sanchez and Wanyama should give us further impetus, though rumours are rife that Victor is out long term.
Losing to W.Ham and Manchester United in the same week doesn't help to keep a positive outlook. Surrendering a two goal lead to fall out of the Carabao Cup at home to West Ham adds insult to injury.
Playing well enough to hold Man.Utd for 80 mins at Old Trafford and then losing 1-0 once again to a general defensive lapse having had the chance just prior to go ahead merely prolongs the agony.
If Dele capitalises on his own astute movement and converts Eriksen's most, and perhaps only, incisive pass of the game we probably defend a narrow lead for the last 15 minutes and win or at worst draw.
But he goes with the wrong foot and puts it wide. Earlier Sissoko had alerted the Manchester Airport Traffic Controllers with a shot that registered on their radar screens rather than put the ball in the net when well placed.
Jose had bigged us up before the game. 'Best team in the League' and all that: a win win for him. If they lost it was only to be expected and if he won it made his team even better by beating the best team in the Premiership.
We played quite well without anyone being outstanding. Eriksen was slow to get up to speed and his first four passes went astray. Winks had a good first half and then ran out of steam.
The defence played well until collectively conceding the goal. Which is bit like saying 'It's a great car except for the engine'. A simple header by Lukaku and a scuffed finish by substitute Martial whowas allowed to run free.
We were the only team in the top six not to win this weekend but maintained our position though the pack is closing in. Next weekend we play Crystal Palace which might give us some hope as four of the top six play each other.
Before that on Wednesday we have the CL game against Real Madrid who lost yesterday to newly promoted Catalonia team Girona in La Liga. There was a frenzied atmosphere given the political situation in a tiny stadium.
Girona pressed even after they went ahead and Real were without Bale and Kaylor Navas. Isco was their standout best player and Ronaldo is off form. They are vulnerable this season and even a draw might ensure our progress.
So win both this week which is by no means impossible and the long face disappears. Poch. will have some serious match planning to do and it partly depends on the availability of Harry Kane and the fitness of several other players.
The statistic that was stressed after the Man.Utd game was quite startling: only one win in 17 away games against teams in the top six. I feel a frown coming on. Neigh lad it's just not good enough. Sorry.
But as President of the 'Take a Draw Now' Society against rivals we have to turn the losses into draws at least to improve our record. (Played 17: W1. D5: L11) There are 13 other teams where the win is essential.
I always like to stress the positive and look on the bright side and there are plenty of stats to cheer us up: Sissoko is improving; injured players are returning; Llorente is due a goal; Aurier didn't get booked or sent off in his last game.
Son is getting quicker; Harry is getting better; Winks is the find of the Millenium; Poch is the best manager in the world; Lamela will make a difference; the Stadium grows by the day.
And even with these recent blips and a couple of bad days at the office we are still third.
So cheer up everybody: it's no big deal
Jimmy's Video Spot:
Their goal a catalogue of errors and failure to mark and track. Dele's miss: he made it by his movement and missed it for some reason. Fine ball by Eriksen. Lloris iffy on at least 3 occasions