Third of the season down, some conclusions

#1
Given we are now a third of the way in to the season, thought I'd share 13 conclusions from the first 13 games of 2018. I still have no idea whether this will be a great season or not but some more memorable moments so far...

1) 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Brooks and Lerma couldn't have dreamed of better starts and haven't needed the usual Eddie bedding in period for new signings. Both added exactly what we lacked last year - midfield bite and clever play around the edge of the box. Rico has had a slow start although shows promise. We need him to come good, as I think Daniels is slightly beyond his best

2) I think Franno has upped his game. He doesn't play the blind pass as much, still looks decent on the overlap and is strong in the air. What a servant to the club he's been, and takes some completely unwarranted flack.

3) My player of the season so far might actually be Begovic. I can't recall a single big mistake. He looks so assured, with some world class saves thrown in for good measure. Really strong in a 1 on 1 situation and decent distribution as well. Please let him stay fit for the rest of the season!

4) No wins against the big guns so far this season, but funnily enough we look more evenly matched against them than ever before. We gave United, Arsenal and Chelsea a good game and were really unlucky to lose to United. Offensively, we aren't afraid to get at them - with King, Wilson, Fraser and Brooks buzzing around we will always create chances. But defensively we still get a bit leggy and panicky especially in the 2nd half against those top sides, and find ourselves boxed in for long periods. Think we need a bit of calmer distribution from the CBs and Cook, Gosling and Lerma in these periods.

5) Ibe is not the answer. Needs to go out on loan somewhere to build some confidence or we sell him altogether. Unfortunately just doesn't seem to have some of the 'uncoachable' elements it takes to be a top PL player; awareness, football intelligence and positional sense.

6) Cook and Ake are a superb defensive partnership. Ake's ability to snuff out danger in the box is unbelievable. However I think they sometimes get exposed by a lack of pace either side of them (Daniels and Francis). We will miss Smith's energy while he's out for this reason and teams can still get at us down the wings which drags Cook and Ake out of position.

7) Our new style of play, with emphasis on counter attack and less possession, makes us much more effective when it comes to away games, Watford and Fulham obviously the prime examples. Fair play to Eddie for the tactical switch and it's definitely made us much more resilient in away game. Hopefully Newcastle was just a blip.

8) The long throw is still completely ineffective. We should either switch up the approach or ditch them altogether.

9) Early on in the season, I thought our bench looked excellent, now I find myself less inspired by it. Mousset needs confidence and game time, Defoe has been ineffective in the cup and off the bench, and it's always hard for a centre midfielder to influence the game off the bench. Pugh also looks to be past his best. Today, Stanislas made a difference when he came on, but we're not really overwhelmed with attacking options especially if we get any attacking injuries. Could maybe do with an attacking option in Jan.

10) December will be tough, but we have 2 very winnable games at home within the tough fixtures which would help us to keep momentum. Win those, plus away to Wolves and we'd be on 29 points, 9 points ahead of where we were end of December last year. Then the games against Liverpool, Spurs and City can be treated as free hits. That's why it's so important to not lose perspective after disappointing games like today against the big guns. However, lose the Hudders and Brighton home games and there's a danger that confidence drops and the season peeters out a bit. Let's be honest we will likely get beaten well by City so it's important to try to keep it respectable bearing in mind they're one of the best PL teams I've ever seen.

11) The Twickets idea is excellent but we should consider whether some of the returned season tickets can go to kids. It's so important we capitalise on our current status to build the fan base. If we're not going to extend the ground (incredibly short sighted IMO) we at least need to make the home games a little more inclusive. I'm a fan of 25 years and can no longer go to home games because of lack of points, which kills me, but at least I can go to away games as I live in London. I fear others will just give up and our fan base won't be extended or refreshed. I'm sure most of us started going to football with our dads, uncles etc. and it really worries me that this can't happen now.

12) Lewis Cook still divides opinion, and even divides my own opinion! He can certainly pick a pass (today to Stan, United game to Fraser) but he needs to concentrate more and stop giving the ball away. If he's a ball-playing holding midfielder (as in a Xavi) then he needs better retention, the odd Hollywood pass isn't enough. I think he just needs to sit down and watch tapes of David Silva. I still think him and Lerma is the right partnership long term, but he needs to step up now, otherwise we need to think about CM options in January.

13) Wilson looks a more complete striker than ever; stronger, quicker and more composed. The England call-up was well deserved but I think he'll stay with us for another season and is not quite ready for a top club yet.
 
#3
12 out of 13 for Liam, very honest and accurate .....but I just don't get ' Free Hits. I understand what is meant by the term but think it is unhe althy thinking....yes those sides will control and usually win big but if we have that frame of mind..it's a bit Tinpot and almost invites a Tonking. If we have that overview and also lose the 'nailed on' bankers against Soton ( if you see what I mean), Brighton and more so Huddersfield ,Wolves etc we are up S##t Creek! ( Expensive Misses?)
Holding out for 45 minutes against City or Liverpool and a shock goal early second half should always be a benchmark given in pursuit of a point or three if you get lucky! Then there is goal difference/ damage limitation to consider.
I can remember Graham Taylor reflecting on this when he got Watford to Second place in the old First Division!
Free Hit....a modern frailty? If you started saving players for example against City , ready for Huddersfield you might disrupt the flow and lose that...it seems to me that is what might occur!
Just a thought!