The disappointing thing about the 4-0 battering we took at the hands of Liverpool was less the scoreline, and more how utterly inept our performance was. Defensively we were very shaky, we offered nothing going forward, and the midfield barely completed a pass all afternoon. Although defeats, and heavy defeats at that, were somewhat expected at Chelsea and Liverpool, the manner of our capitulation in both games is slightly worrying.
But with the opening five games out of the way, we can look forward to a run of games that is much more attractive. Six points is a tremendous return so far and there are plenty of winnable matches on the horizon. Four of our next six matches are at Turf Moor, where we have only lost twice this year, and a trip to fierce local rivals Blackburn Rovers is a match we can pick up a result from, too.
There are concerns, though. Goals will be a premium for many teams this season but our haul of just two strikes so far is paltry, and neither Steven Fletcher nor Martin Paterson, the two players we hoped would get the goals to keep us up, look like being anything near prolific.
But we have to look at the positives. We’re well placed in the table, and have an excellent chance of getting to around the 15 point mark by the end of next month. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t beat at least two of Sunderland, Birmingham, Wigan and Hull in the next few weeks.
Owen Coyle has showed a typical reluctance to change his team so far, and that could cost us in the long run. Only twelve players have started in the league so far this season. Our squad is much larger now, and the quality is relatively deep. We must start to utilise our resources effectively.
Away from home, our 4-5-1 shape hasn’t looked like yielding any positive results, albeit at three of the hardest grounds to go to in the league. I’d like to see us experiment with a new formation in next week’s Carling Cup tie at Barnsley. 4-4-2 could be the way to get more players involved in our attacks and to give us a chance of getting a foothold in matches on the road.
But first we have our first early kick off of the season in Saturday’s lunchtime match with Sunderland at Turf Moor. I spent the last three years in Sunderland at University, and saw the team play on a handful of occasions. Steve Bruce seems to have added quality as well as bite to their midfield in the form of Lorik Cana and Lee Cattermole, and Darren Bent has started in good goalscoring form.
The players will be glad to get back in front of their own fans after three weeks away, and Coyle will be quick to remind them of their terrific recent form at the Turf. We laid the foundations for the fortress with unexpected wins over Manchester United and Everton, now we must build on them with a string of home wins over the coming weeks.
This article was written for Fanzone TimesOnline.