Rafa’s mags are struggling at the moment and whilst our league position isn’t something to panic about just yet, our form as we enter the winter fixture crunch is a concern. It’s important that we think back to 31st August and remember how we felt then. We all knew that Rafa had not been given the resources to achieve anything this season. That we somehow got us off to such a good start should not be underestimated as we have now come to realise that the teams “around us” are actually better than we thought.
It was always going to take a miracle for this squad to get through a premier league season, in that as soon as we have a couple of injuries or suspensions and a couple of players out of form, we look really short of Premier League quality. At full strength we can just about compete but the last few games have exposed the once again criminal lack of investment in our football team and manager. Winning 3 in a row as the transfer window closed was sooo Newcastle United and the resulting heightened expectations have left us in a confused state over where we are right now.
I must stress again; we knew it in August. I therefore continue to be disappointed at the level of vitriol amongst a growing, albeit small, section of our support aimed at the manager and players in the past few games. We are all frustrated at what has happened this month. The manager and team will be even more frustrated. As a fan base though we are letting ourselves down at the moment.
After the aforementioned transfer window debacle, Rafa stressed to the media the important role that we as fans must play this season and the difference it could make given the squad we were starting our return to the Premier League with. We saw that in the opening games and especially against West Ham and Liverpool.
Since we have hit our current poor form though, the same old sense of expectation and entitlement is coming through from (I presume) the usual suspects. This team isn’t good enough to give these people the performances that they want every week. That doesn’t however mean they are not worthy of your support, quite the opposite in fact. Listen to Rafa.
Just to clarify, I’m not saying that Rafa and all of the players are immune to criticism. Mistakes have been made by the manager and some of the performances, especially Saturday’s, have not been good enough from a number of players. That doesn’t however justify the reaction I’m talking about above.
Firstly, Rafa and these lads should have a fair amount of credit in the bank for their achievements last season. If you need reminding, have a look at where the other 5 relegated teams from the last 2 seasons are (4th, 7th, 14th, 20th, 22nd). These lads won that league and that achievement should not be taken so lightly.
Secondly, I just don’t understand what people think could be done differently. We can debate Mitro instead of Joselu all day but does anybody seriously think that our 4 goals in 25 in the championship striker will really make the difference? Beyond that, look at the options we have available and seriously consider what else Rafa “should” be doing. He’s even tried 2 up front by popular demand, it’s not worked. We just don’t have the luxury of a wealth of options here and if Rafa chooses to go back to 4231 in this one and continues to leave Mitro out, I will understand. If he gives Mitro the nod, I will understand. Not everything will work and we will lose more games. Winning in this league is hard enough with the resources available. Let’s not forget that and make it any more difficult.
In terms of how this one will shape up, West Brom haven’t won a game since August and sit manager-less in 17th. This is the perfect game to stop the rot against a side also lacking confidence and we really need to get something here. If we can’t get points in this game, then we really will be limping to January and hoping for big investment to ensure our safety this season. Just one win here could put us as high as 9th and on a healthy 17 points. We’d have taken that in August pressure relief would be huge.
We can only hope that Mikel Merino is better for a few more days’ rest and is fit to start. If he plays we can beat anybody. Paul Doomet would be a welcome sight too after our fullback’s shortcomings were embarrassingly exposed on Saturday. I’m sure there will be rotations though wherever physically possible such is how Rafa works when we have 3 games in a week. Let’s trust him to get three points here, however dirty. A goal from the back of Diamé’s foot will do here.
A huge 1-0 for Rafa’s mags