So here we are 7 points from 9. I'm probably not alone in thinking, back when the fixture list was published, that 7 from 9 would be the maximum we could expect from the first three games...
Naturally, I was looking at a draw at the Library, and was hoping for a win at Sunderland in light of their Darren Bent deprived side's goal shyness. Had the decisions gone our way we could have exceeded my expectations and had 9 from 9.
So looking ahead, our next 5 are Stoke and Spurs away, Wolves at home, our beggered neighbours at the pit and finally fiercest rivals at home. We'll have a better view of our progress and indeed, Kenny's view of players in the pecking order.
Stoke are traditionally robust and testing, and their start to the season has been reasonable. Their defence is strong as ever, and I think movement and pace on the break will be a key to breaking them down. I expect Downing and Suarez to be key to this.
Spurs away, and it could be the best time to meet them. They are currently in apparent chaos at the moment, with Modric apparently not mentally settled and disrupting the team consequently. Harry doesn' seem to know the comings and goings, and they've not really strengthened over the summer. If Lucas and Adam can boss the central area, we should come away with at least a point, which will be a welcome change from the previous two seasons...
Wolves are improved, but they'll be coming with a limited remit to try and limit damage and perhaps steal a point. We should be looking for all three points here, showing the ruthlessness that other teams show the lesser lights at home.
Everton - ah, our beloved neighbours. We might have stolen Coleman from them by then. Again, with their limited resources and a few injuries, we should get three points from them, but its a derby, so all bets on form are off.
And our sternest test, United at home. We should look to this game as a true barometer by which to measure our progress. If they are distracted by Europe and we are performing, it will be a fascinating encounter, worthy of an article all of its own...
My comments on another thread:
Next five games:
Away to Stoke
Away to Tottenham
Home to Wolves
Away to Everton
Home to Man Utd
That is very tricky. I would expect three points from Stoke and Wolves, possible Everton too although that is a toss of a coin most games. Tottenham and Man Utd will be very tough. The Tottenham game is the one we need to win if we want to get fourth.
Stoke: I expect us to start with Suarez and Kuyt up front. Like you said, movement and pace is key to beating them, we won't get much joy in the air so no point in starting with Carroll IMO. Our fullbacks will need to be on form to prevent theirs wingers creating chances but other than that, i think we can cope with them defensively.
Tottenham: This game could come at a good time for us, they seem to be heavily involved in the transfer market today and their team won't be 100% settled. Having said that, we could also face a backlash from how they have started. It as been a while since I have expected much from WHL and this will be no different - I want three points but will be happy with one. I think I'd stick Carroll in for this one with Downing and Suarez causes damage either side of him. Hopefully Gerrard will be back in time too, he can play in the AM role behind Carroll. It would definitely help our challenge for fourth if we won!
Wolves: I expect us to win at home no matter who we are playing, when playing sides outside the top six it becomes a must IMO. As with Stoke, I'd go for pace and movement in Suarez and Kuyt, not much change from crosses against Wolves so lets keep it on the carpet.
Everton: Well, anything can happen as the saying goes for derbies. I can honestly say I am not sure whether to go with Kuyt or Carroll in this one, either could cause them problems although Kuyt as proven he likes a goal in these matches. Home or away, I want and expect three points from these games. (Coleman won't be joining us. We don't need him nor would Everton let him go cheaply)
Man Utd: Because we are at home, I expect us to go for the win. If Vidic is fit, I'd go with Suarez and Kuyt. If not, maybe Suarez and Carroll instead. Not saying that Jones is not good in the air, but he is not as good as Vidic, not yet anyway. I am under no illusions that this will be the toughest test of the first eleven games (Home to Norwich, Away to WBA and home to Swansea come next before a visit to Stamford Bridge) and the team will have to be on form, but anything less than three points at home is disappointing to me.
From those five games, I expect at least eleven points giving us eighteen from twenty-four. that, I realise is a very tall order, it would be near championship form too, something I do not expect us to be doing come the end of the season.
I think Spurs are in such disarray at the moment, and Appy Arry is at every pre-match saying the lads are up for it, and every post-match saying Modric is not mentally right and its distracting. Interestingly, Opta Joe came up with an interesting stat showing Spurs results have been better when they've been without Luka. I don't know how much longer this vulnerability will last, so getting our visit there over asap falls nicely for us. We're in a bit of form, got all three points from the Library for the first time in ages, and we could have scored a hatload against Bolton.
Everton have been desperately bad and have no idea just how Blackburn conspired to miss two pens and lose that game. If they keep it up, they've have a grim season ahead of them. And I mentioned Coleman, because he fits the moneyball criteria - he'd be one for the future and we could be looking to integrate him into the side in a couple of seasons time, not immediately - and they desperately need the money.
Finally United, I have to agree with you - Smalling and Brown looked clueless against Suarez last season, and I wonder how Vidic would cope with the pace and movement - I think he'd certainly feel much more comfortable against a conventional striker like Carroll. With United, you'd always have a bit of uncertainty over their pace on the counter, and our backline isn't the quickest...
We've never beat Stoke away since they've been up, it would be nice to turn that around, but a point would be good. It's hard to go there, but we need to be bold in our tactical plan.
Agree with you on Spurs, we simply can't leave there without some kind of result, we imploded against them the last two times, I do believe we were leading in both mathces.
Wolves are much more resilient, so we'll need to ensure that we treat it like the Bolton game - go out, attack them, and make them pay early and often.
Everton? Who knows! I'd say a win, but it could as easily be a loss, they'll be up for it.
United at home. We must beat them to send a message. I have a feeling by then that some of the young hot-shots will be rotated, as you say, they'll be in the thick of Europe so maybe...
So let's say 3W, 2D?