What’s going right?
Since the start of the season we’ve shown an ability to go forward effectively and score goals, troubling most of the teams we’ve faced when attacking. Rickie Lambert has adapted well to the Premier League, and provides a physical threat which most defenders struggle to deal with, and the attacking trio that sit just behind him in Jason Puncheon, Adam Lallana, and Gaston Ramirez have all shown themselves to be well suited to the Premier League. Finally, I’ve been happy with the way we’ve adapted to the division. After a very difficult start we have now begun to look far more competitive in most games that we’ve played, particularly at home, and have, as a result, given ourselves a fighting chance of avoiding relegation.
Defensively, we have had real problems all season, particularly at the start where we shipped a record 26 goals in our opening 9 games. We have seen a vast improvement in recent matches, and look a much more solid unit, but we are still giving away silly goals, either through defensive errors or, as has been the case recently, goalkeeping errors. This has led to us dropping silly points in games that we should have won during our improvement. The draws at Swansea and Norwich spring to mind, where inexperienced Goalkeeper Paulo Gazzanigga made costly mistakes when we were ahead, leading to two 1-1 draws.
Got the right manager?
Despite much debate and talk over his future, yes. Partly because of a lack of a better option but also because he’s done so well at the club during his time here and needs, like the players, time to adapt to the division. Some of his selection decisions have been strange, Jay Rodriguez getting so many starts is perhaps unsurprising given the money spent on him, but he has looked like a player out of his depth at this level, despite trying very hard. I haven’t written him off yet and don’t think Adkins is wrong to give him playing time, but I do feel that when he starts, the 4-4-2 system makes us far less effective than the 4-4-1-1 system we have played at our best with, and would prefer to see him used as an impact sub more regularly.
Jack Cork or Jason Puncheon, I noted the difference that Cork makes to the team in a previous article and have been hugely impressed by him since his return but Jason Puncheon has produced an outstandingly consistent season, which is even more surprising given that this time last year he was destined to leave the club permanently having been loaned out for long periods of Adkins’ reign. His change in attitude has been exceptional and this has been reflected with his performances on the pitch and the fans warm receptions to him.
Who would you like to sell in January?
Danny Fox, if we can get a suitable replacement at left back to challenge Luke Shaw for a starting position. Guly: clearly not cut out for this division, it is staggering that he continues to make any kind of an appearance at this level. Also, the large amount of players not getting a look in; Ryan Dickson, Jonathan Forte, and Steve De Ridder amongst others.
Who do you want to sign?
A new centre back is urgent, big and strong the ideal. Michael Dawson would be great but seems more likely to go to QPR if he does leave given Harry’s relationship with him. Also another left back, as Fox is clearly not good enough and Shaw can’t carry the burden alone. A new winger would help provide strong competition to Puncheon and Lallana without having to move Ramirez out wide when one of those two is unavailable. Finally, getting Billy Sharp back would be excellent as he offers something different to Lambert up front and continues to show his finishing ability in the Championship with Forest.
Best chant so far?
Difficult not to love “Jose Fonte baby, Jose Fonte oooohhhh” to the tune of the Human League’s ‘Don’t you want me Baby’.
Best opposition player / team you’ve seen this season?
Arsenal who totally outclassed us at the Emirates, winning 6-1 with Santi Cazorla the stand out player, dictating things wonderfully from midfield. A player I have long admired, it is a real privilege to see him in the Premier League.
Biggest **** of the season?
I’ll have to go for the obvious and say Luis Suarez. A naturally annoying, though obviously extremely gifted, player, his handball over the bar against us is really the only time I can think of whereI have been extremely irritated with a player, although Jason Roberts gets a special mention. A superb pundit, and clearly a very nice man off the pitch, his constant moaning towards the officials during our victory over Reading at St. Mary’s caused me annoyance.
End of season prediction
If we’re above the relegation zone at the end of the season then that will be more than good enough for me. It will be a long, hard struggle but if we can keep getting points against those teams around us in the league then we can definitely survive and look to build on that for next year, where I feel we will be in a much stronger position, as the teams coming up from the Championship often struggle to adapt to the Premiership, as ourselves and Reading have shown.