So we have reached the early stage of the season where most Premier League clubs have a blurred idea of what the season will bring and can have an educated guess at their prospects for the year. Liverpool fans vaguely know that relegation is more likely than a title (18/1 on if you missed Match of the Day), Arsenal fans also have an idea they may be putting another empty shelf up in the trophy cabinet judging by a few performances (*Cough* West Brom), but what have we learnt of our own aspiring club from these early games?
Certainly the season brought promise, if not wild optimism from many quarters, mainly due to our moderate spending coupled with the influx of some fairly handy, if a little overpriced signingsÂ at our main Champions League rivals Man City (Yaya Toure is worth 3 Van Der Vaartâ€™s according to them). Personally I was most disappointed with our lack of a top quality striker, as I felt this would complete an excellent midfield and push us to the next level to compete regularly with the clubs at the pinnacle of the Premier League. The first game against Man City and many of these opening fixtures, such as the Wigan game at home, have substantiated this claim with Pav and Crouch hit or miss, whilst Keane just missing to be frank.Â Furthermore our defence has been anything but watertight, with a serious lack of continuity meaning that cheap goals have been lost in these games.
However whilst I must say I was slightly reluctant at a few of our Premier League performances so far, my thoughts dramatically altered having been at the game at home to Aston Villa , all thanks to a pint-sized Dutchman. With Van Der Vaart roaming behind Crouch, looking to release the dynamic Bale, and (hopefully)the rejuvenated Lennon on the wings, and linking up intelligently with Modric in the midfield, he appeared to be the missing piece in the jigsaw; the X Factor that a Fabregas, Rooney or Drogba brings to these top class sides. It is rare that I have seen that indefinable â€œworld classâ€ player playing in lilywhite down the Lane, but in Van Der Vaart we have a player with the arrogance and ability to know that he can perform whatever the level. The bonus of having such a player is that aspiring top quality players such as Bale, Modric, Defoe even Huddlestone will learn that the defining feature of a stellar football player is endeavour to utilise the undoubted technique they have into practical weaponry to damage the opposition. Who knows he may even inspire Bentley to chase a ball (but realistically the only thing heâ€™s chasing is a swanky Porsche and an even swankier new barnet)
Consequently I believe this should not become a transitional season where our league form suffers due to European commitments but in fact a year when we can seriously compete with Arsenal, Man City and perhaps…..and this is still a long shot, even a depleted Man Utd. If we can compete with these teams home and away and avoid costly slip ups against poorer opposition it could be a very interesting season, perhaps seeing another one of the â€œBig Fourâ€ (Can we even say that anymore?) in the shape of Arsenal or United fall again.
By Matthew Pavli
What do you think? What are your thoughts on the season so far, and realistically do you think we can challenge at the top of the table and regain Champions league football?
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