The Season Begins Now
It's no secret that the first few league games prior to the international break were always going to be very tough.
The new recruits needed to gel together, the players needed to get used to the new level (not to mention the referees) and the manager needed to find out what his best eleven is. The fixtures weren`t especially easy either; on paper Wigan away perhaps offering the best chance of 3 points.
For me, the next three games are where our season will be shaped, where it will become clear whether we are likely to leave the exclusive firmament of English football by swiftly exiting out of the revolving door from whence we joyously came one sunny spring day.
West Brom at home, Bolton away and Sunderland at home. It doesn`t actually sound too difficult. Four points or more will show the rest of the league that we`re not far away. Any less will show how important the January transfer window will be and how we may require a Dean Ashton style investment to add to a cutting edge to our competitiveness.
Like most fans, I`ve been pleased with how we`ve played so far, but our defending decisions have looked naïve and this is a cause for concern, which I`m sure the coaching staff are working arduously to put right.
There`s been a huge investment in the squad this summer and it feels like we`ve added more than most. However once the transfer window shut, according to official figures, we`ve spent slightly less than Swansea and just £2m more than QPR, who belatedly signed a couple of free transfers on high salaries.
Our £8m investment is just about enough to keep us in the pack, talent wise. Is it enough? If we`re at Old Trafford on October 1st having reached 6 points or more in total, then yes I think it is. Any more than one point per game on average and we`ll be there or thereabouts come May 2012.
Of the established Premier League teams that were tipped to struggle Wolves seem much stronger, Wigan look to have found a gem with the comically named Franco Di Santo and Blackburn will only improve after adding Scott Dann and the experienced Yakubu to the returning Christopher Samba. Make no mistake - it`s certainly no easier than it was in 2004/2005.
Of the three players that left us last week, they were all good pros but sadly not quite good enough for what lies ahead. Many fans will bemoan the loss of the enthusiastic Cody McDonald, but being honest he was not going to help us stay up and needs to prove himself at Championship level first. Tom Adeyemi shows promise and will come back a better player from his year at Oldham. The player trading throughout the summer has again been very impressive.
So, with personnel finalised Lambert now needs to settle on a system and show that we`ve learnt difficult lessons from the first three games. I`ve got a feeling we`ll see the benefit of this on Sunday in front of the cameras.
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