We are just two games away from the halfway point and sit on 14 points. Wins in our next two games put us on pace for 40 points, which is of course the mythical number that guarantees safety from relegation. The reality is that in the last ten years (I did not look further back than that) the most points any relegated team has had is 39 and it is usually about 37 points to really be safe. However, since the traditional number is 40 that is what I will assume we need for the purposes of this article.
Our next three fixtures are at home against West Bromwich Albion and then away to Fulham and Cardiff City. The reality is that all three of these games are winnable- but we haven’t done a great job of taking winnable games lately, at least not in league play. If we can get 7 points out of those three games however, we should feel good about it. Those three games also will take us to about the midpoint of the January Transfer window. What we accomplish in the transfer window will tell us a lot about what to expect going forward.
After those three games we have Newcastle at home, followed by Chelsea away. It would be nice to get 1 point out of those games that would put us on 22 points with 17 games to play. At that point we would need 18 points out of those 17 games, which should be a reasonable expectation – but we support a club that has fallen far short of expectations so far this season. Those 18 games also include matches against Liverpool, Arsenal, and both Manchester Clubs. Are final game of the season is away to Manchester City. Let’s assume that is a loss and that we need to be clear of the relegation zone before then to survive. That means we need 18 points from 16 games.
Out of those 16 games five of them are at home, against teams that currently sit 9th or worse in the table. Those are all games we should expect to win if we are to survive. Pepper in a few draws or another home win against stiffer competition and 40 points is well within reason for us by seasons end.
Of course it is all well and good to say that but given the current form of the team how do we expect them to achieve it? Getting Carroll, Downing, and now Morrison healthy are absolutely necessary. We are starting to get some goals from Carlton Cole, which is excellent and even Maiga has not looked awful the last couple of times I have seen him play. However, we have had to deal with an ever-increasing number of mistakes at the back. Whether it is Jussi or Adrian in goal we need to stop giving away cheap goals. The first Arsenal goal is a great example. That changed the entire feel of the game and led to a loss when we should have gotten some type of result after leading at the point we did.
I am going to close now with some thoughts about the direction of the club. The two things that need to be addressed are the coming transfer window and whether to continue with Big Sam. The transfer window is going to be interesting for us. There is great need for a quality striker, be it Demba Ba, Jermaine Defoe, or someone else. I really hope the club is taking that need more seriously than they did at the beginning of the season.
The question of what do in terms of a manager is both more complicated and more simple. There are a lot of people who want Big Sam gone; indeed, there are a lot of people who never wanted him to begin with. However, it is not so simple as “sack Big Sam.” The follow up question is who would he be replaced with?
It seems to me that the two most likely choices would be Di Canio or Lomas. Both failed in their last jobs (although we may well consider what Lomas achieved to be a great success.) I am unconvinced that either would be a step forward from the Sam Allardyce era. The other option would be to try to lure AVB; he had success at Tottenham. However, he is a young manager who is both unyielding and seems to have poor relationships with his players. Additionally, he has passions outside of the sport that appear to be ultimately more important to him. This, in my opinion, makes him a poor choice.
This all leads me to believe that, as much as I hate to say it, our best option is to live or die with Big Sam. Perhaps in the off-season we can look to other options but right now we have to consider that we are a team plunged into a relegation fight (yes, I finally admit it,) and riddled with injuries. Are best option, it seems, is to trust him to right the ship, bring in help come transfer time and get the points we need to survive.
I am definitely interested in hearing other opinions on the subject though! Tweet @jdanielford with your thoughts on all of this. Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I just a crazy American who doesn’t understand anything?