A Pint Of Christmas Spirit Please

The stats don’t look so hot at the minute, do they?

We’ve now lost two in a row for the first time in three years, five all season – the amount we lost the whole of last season – and taken just five points from 24 away from home. To top it all off, we’ve not scored for four and a half hours. Merry Bastard Christmas to the lot of you, bah humbug.

Two things: Firstly, compared to many of the other tackles flying in, Gilberto’s half-hearted attempts to take the ball were not worthy of a red card, even if by the letter of the law they were both clumsy fouls. Secondly, it’s really irrelevant whether Shearer overstepped the line. He’s been doing that, I suspect, since his first Sunday morning game aged six, and he’s extremely good at it. That’s what he does.

The fact is that once again we couldn’t cope with it when we should have rolled our sleeves up and got stuck in. The midfield has been lightweight since Vieira left, and no amount of PR can gloss that over. There’s surely now no doubt that we’ll sign, at the bare minimum, a tough-tackling midfielder in the transfer window, and when it comes it will be the nearest thing to an admission of culpability that you’ll get from the boss. He got it wrong – not so much by selling Vieira, but by not replacing him.

Who knows how this league season will pan out now, but I think second is not beyond us, so long as we rectify our away-day problems. And soon.

More Stats

Sorry, I’ve gone a bit stat-happy.

Below are the tables from last year and this year, after 15 matches.

2004-5

P15 W9 D4 L2 Home W4 D3 L0 F20 A9 Away W5 D1 L2 F19 A11 Total F39 A20 GD +19

2005-6

P15 W8 D2 L5 Home W7 D0 L0 F16 A2 Away W1 D2 L5 F6 A11 Total F22 A13 GD +9

This season, we’ve scored four fewer at home than last, but have conceded a miserly two goals in seven games (seven fewer), so we’re flying. Full marks. It’s just away where we have fallen down. We’re thirteen goals lighter away from home, but have conceded the same amount.

So the point here is that, believe it or not, we’re defending far better this season, having conceded seven fewer goals at this stage. Nor are we troubled by scoring at home – sixteen goals in seven games is not bad at all, an average of just over 2.28 goals a game.

What we are not doing is scoring on our travels, and that must be down both to poorer service from the midfield and a lack of goals from our forwards.

2004-5/2005-6

Bergkamp: 3/0
Henry: 11/8
Reyes: 6/1
Van Persie: 1/4

But, crucially, our midfield is not scoring either:

2004-5 14 (Pires 7, Fabregas 1, Ljungberg 4, Vieira 2)
2005-6 3 (Pires 2, Fabregas 1)

Ljungberg and Pires are simply not scoring this season – Pires has scored just twice in the league, and Freddie not at all. Last season, at this stage, they had eleven between them. So our midfield has contributed just three goals in 15 matches – not a great record.

So, to sum it all up neatly, our midfield needs to get the boot it and start scoring, especially away from home.

Simple when you know how.

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