Einstein Would Have Sympathized With Wenger’s Predicament

January 23, 2010

Arsene Wenger came out and apologized for the mistimed tackle by William Gallas. How many managers do that!? He also gave a very objective analysis of that particular incident and quite a few others from the two games with Bolton. But if you read reports covering the press conference, most of the headlines are saying “Angry Wenger” or “Wenger Hits Out” and things like that.

In itself it would be incredible, but as Arsenal fans we are so used to such mindless and biased coverage that any kind of an objective press report would indeed be hard to believe.

In November, Le Boss predicted Chelsea will drop points. He was quite objective even when the team had lost playing poorly against one of the main rivals. Did anyone bother to analyze what he said? No, people were happy with their own limited understanding and misplaced judgments and the boss was ridiculed for his considered thoughts.

A few years ago I was a cocky young college student who thought he knew everything about the game. I laugh at that now but it was an important part of my learning experience. I criticized Wenger every time Arsenal lost and always thought I had all the solutions. The main reason I was able to improve from that state was that I used to listen to and read everything that Le Boss said. Over a period of time I realized that every single problem was much more complex and the manager knew everything I did and much more. That is also the foundation of my unflinching faith in Arsene Wenger.

I believe two things that helped me improve were respect for the man and a willingness to accept that I might be wrong. After that it was just natural progression. These days it makes me wonder if many people in the media and the blogosphere, who constantly criticize Le Boss, actually respect what he is and what he has done. Maybe they do but are too full of themselves, or they are plain incompetent, who knows.

From what I have read, the single biggest line of defense for the Media is that they have to sensationalize to sell the papers. That’s a strange explanation. Firstly, it implies that people are dumb and cannot appreciate the facts of a story unless they are spiced up. Secondly, I don’t know too many people who actually like the sensational stories anyway! If you read around the internet, almost everyone is upset with the media. So where are these lots of dumb people who buy the papers because of the sensational content!?

One of the longest serving and most successful managers in England is castigated almost every time he comes up with something every football lover should think about. I have been trying to think of the reason behind this and a few words by Albert Einstein, another man whose writings have influenced me a lot, come to mind.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

I realize that these are separate individual quotes, said at different times, and in diverse contexts. But, to me, the wisdom in these words seems universal and to a great extent applicable to the situations Arsene Wenger often finds himself in.

For instance, every pioneering effort from Arsene right from bringing foreign players to the league to developing youngsters and blooding them in the Carling Cup has met with violent opposition even if it wasn’t of the physical kind. (Thankfully!)

The relevance of the second quote will not be lost on anyone who regularly listens to Le Boss. One obvious example is his insistence that foreign players have made the English game and team better.

The third one is quite a beauty. To me it applies perfectly to the tiny Tots and to quite a few of the doom and gloom brigade who can’t see beyond buying big name players.

I guess if the great scientist had been with us Wenger would have found a sympathetic ear!

Classification Of Arsenal Games Based On Passing Statistics

January 22, 2010

I was looking at some statistics and the passing stats interested me. I think Arsenal games can be classified based on these numbers. It’s more of a post game classification rather than a pre-game one, although it wont be difficult to predict in many cases.

First up are the games we dominate

(c) DesiGunner

Amongst our recent games, the wins over Portsmouth, Hull and Stoke are in this category. We tend to have 550 passes or more with a high success rate that translates into a very healthy possession count. This means we keep the ball for long periods and move it at speed which implies that our pass and move game is working, and normally we get enough chances to win the game.

Only on rare occasions, like the recent home game against Everton (569 passes with 86% success), we fail to create enough opportunities in the final third.

The second type are the games that are really close and tough.

(c) DesiGunner

These are the games where we typically manage between 350 to 400 passes with a relatively lower success rate. Obviously, our possession stats are also affected. In these games the opponents close us down well, denying our players space and time on the ball. The other team tries to give as good as it gets and the results are often decided by individual moments. Needless to say these are the games where we really have to fight for the points.

The third and final category is everything that falls in between these two.

(c) DesiGunner

Sometimes the opponents are happy to let us keep the ball. They try to keep the defense tight and hit us on the break. Occasionally, they enjoy sustained spells of pressure but most of the game is about Arsenal trying to break the opposition down. We have seen mixed results in these cases.

For instance, against Villa the game was tight but an inspired cameo by El Capitan changed that into an impressive scoreline. On the other hand, against Chelsea we had enough control but a five minute spell before the break resulted in a depressing final score.

These games are deceptively tough and the score often does not tell the complete story. Being hard fought, these games too are influenced by individual performances and mistakes.

At times, we see a mixture of the first two types. For instance, the Bolton home game was very tough for us in the first half when we didn’t get our passing game going and we really dominated it in the second half when we played at a higher tempo.

The big question is, which category will the next four games belong to?!

Arsenal V Bolton: Comeback To The Front

January 21, 2010

Wow! That was some game. Arsenal’s credentials as league leaders were challenged and the team completed a phenomenal comeback displaying grit, determination, fighting spirit and all round quality.

At this point our place at the top of the league is well and truly deserved.

This game was ironical in many ways. Firstly, the visitors scored from freak chances and went up by two goals without really creating much. It’s ironic and perhaps poetic justice of some sort considering our clean sheet from the game at the Reebok when Bolton had some good chances. Secondly, Bolton actually came and played a clean game without a single dirty tackle only to suffer from a horrific one. Finally, Arsenal literally kick started the march to the top!

It was a lively start and within the first five minutes, Diaby and Arshavin had clear openings from outside the box but they could only manage tame attempts straight at the keeper. It was clear why Bolton have failed to keep a clean sheet and there was no doubt Arsenal were going to score a few in this game.

The first goal came from some crazy defending even by Arsenal standards. First, Diaby headed the ball straight up inside the penalty box while trying to clear a cross. Then, inexplicably, Clichy tried an extremely difficult clearance that looped the ball back towards the edge of the penalty box. Mark Davies beat Vermaelen to the ball and Cahill found himself in a position to tap in!

Apart from the obvious mistakes by Diaby and Clichy, you have to wonder how come Davies was free at the edge of the box? You also have to wonder why Diaby ran forward before the ball was out of the Danger area leaving Cahill free? The fact remains that most of our players are very poor at defending and we need serious work on this.

I wasn’t really worried by the goal as an Arsenal goal looked inevitable. Our players were moving well and it was only a matter of time before the final ball arrived. Cesc got a good chance with only the keeper to beat but the angle was too tight. There were some other half chances too as Bolton sat back for most parts.

Just before the half hour mark Denilson lost the ball near the half way line and Bolton moved it forward with pace to win a corner. A clumsy challenge from the Brazilian conceded a penalty. Almunia, having guessed right, dived to his left but failed to keep the ball out. Normally, I don’t like to blame a keeper for not saving a penalty but when you have reached the ball it goes down as a mistake.

I was still hopeful that we can win this one. Memories of the comeback at the Reebok a couple of seasons ago came flooding back. What we needed was a goal before half time. Bolton were able to frustrate us for a while by sitting deep and defending in numbers. It all changed in a moment of magic form Rosicky.

Fabregas wriggled away from Muamba who had been marking him all day before rolling the ball to little Mozart in an innocuous area just outside the box. As the Czech international strode forward it looked like he will have to turn back to avoid running into Zat Knight. In stead he let fly with a very short back-lift and the ball was in the back of the net before anyone could realize what had happened.

The second half started in a similar manner. With seven minutes gone, Gallas strode forward in support as he had done a few times during the first half. He misplaced a pass that was intercepted by Mark Davies and both players went for the loose ball. Gallas was late with his tackle and went high and studs first on the Bolton man’s ankle. If this tackle had been on an Arsenal player I would have been fuming so there can be no defending the Frenchman’s mistake.

It might not have been a big controversy had the tackle not lead to the goal. As Davies was lying on the ground in pain, Arsenal moved forward. Bolton players were guilty of losing their concentration and Cesc must be commended for maintaining his. After a mini pinball El Capitan kept possession, darted into the box and scored from a really tight angle.

Now it was only a matter of time as the momentum was with the home team. Another surging forward burst from Gallas resulted in a corner when Diaby tried to play the defender in. Bolton failed to clear the corner and Diaby won the second header. Vermaelen created some space for himself by letting the ball run across him before smashing a half volley in off the post. This goal showed the importance of missing the first man and the goal keeper on set piece deliveries. As long as we can keep the ball alive and make the defenders work, set pieces can always yield unexpected opportunities.

After the third goal Arsenal relaxed a bit and Bolton had their first period of sustained pressure. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t create any clear opening in the fifteen minutes or so when Arsenal were taking it easy. Out of nothing Arsenal got the ball to Eduardo on the edge of the Bolton box. His touch towards Arshavin wasn’t ideal but did enough. Once again after a bout of pinball, the ball fell to Arshavin who beat the last defender and slotted it past the keeper.

The Russian had another glorious chance towards the end when he could have scored or collected an assist but his finish was not up to his usual standards.

In the end, Arsenal had 21 shots with 13 on target for their four goals. Bolton had 4 on target for their two goals. The visitors can’t really complain about the result. The tackle from Gallas was dangerous but I don’t believe it affected the outcome of the match. The common excuse that we often hear when our players are taken out is, “He is not a dirty player and there was no malice in the challenge.” Same applies in this case. I am worried that since Alan Wiley did not see the incident Gallas might face some action based on video evidence.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Decent effort but could have done better on the penalty.

Sagna: Made a couple of mistakes at the back but nothing serious. Overall another efficient game.

Gallas: Had no clue how to handle Kevin Davies. Put in a number of forward runs.

Vermaelen: Struggled against Kevin Davies. Otherwise a decent outing and picked up  good goal.

Clichy: Good effort for a comeback game. Needs to offer more going forward in the coming games.

Denilson: I thought the last game against Everton was his worst for Arsenal but this one might just beat that or might be forgotten as the result was positive. He really struggles in the defensive third, not a good thing for a defensive midfielder!

Diaby: Needs to work on his headers both defensively and offensively. Also has to work on his tackling, we cannot concede free kicks just outside the box against better teams.

Cesc: Not as good as he can be, but still the best player on the pitch.

Rosicky: Great goal, good defensive work rate, always looked lively. We have to keep him fit. Also good to see him getting his speed back.

Eduardo: Worked hard but he has to improve his shooting technique. I don’t think it is a problem due to the injury. He always had inconsistent shooting.

Arshavin: Will blossom if he plays regularly with Cesc and Rosicky. Work rate was excellent in this game.

Subs: Eastmond, Vela and Walcott didn’t get much time but they might have their day in the Cup tie.

Arsenal V Bolton: Booby Trap En Route To El Dorado

January 20, 2010

When you have such a massive ten day period coming up, it’s difficult to focus on a game against Bolton. But focus we must for the points table does not care about who the opponent was. Three points give us the opportunity to go top of the league, a feeling many have forgotten.

From a tactical point of view there isn’t much to say. Bolton will be Bolton, well at least till Coyle gets a chance to treat them. They have a couple of decent individual players, the striker Klasnic looks top class, but the core of the team and their footballing ethos remain the same.

The lack of tactical thoughts means there is only one word in my mind – injuries. Our treatment room is overcrowded and many of our players are just returning to fitness. It is quite likely that some of them have been pushed out of the sick bay simply because there isn’t enough room. In other words, I’m afraid the likes of Denilson and Walcott might have been rushed back.

In the last game I had a couple of heart-in-mouth moments when the Bolton players went after Fabregas. This game too will be edge-of-the-seat stuff from the tackling point of view even if the game itself is not that close.

Denilson, after playing for a long time without any injuries, has suddenly morphed into a brittle hard-man. Clichy is coming back from a long lay-off from an injury that the Brazilian has been unable to shake off. Eduardo and Rosicky have a long way to go before they can be considered fully fit and it would be typical of Walcott’s season if he came on for a late cameo and suffered a rash tackle! Man, the pessimist in me takes over at times!

In short, this game is a potential minefield on the way to a period that can define our season and perhaps even the future of this squad. To be frank, I am not sure if I am more interested in three points or an injury free outing. Both would be ideal but given our luck there is no point dreaming about the best possible outcome. I am tilting towards an injury free ninety minutes.

That’s not to say that I doubt the result. Unlike the last game, I am quite confident that we should get a win in this game and emulate the average score at the Emirates, 3-1. As long as Cesc is playing the way he is, we are the favourites. And that is precisely why we want El Capitan to be fit for the remainder of the season.

The team selection for this game will be interesting. Eastmond will surely make way for Denilson, even if he is half fit. A more important decision pertains to the left back. Traore has come in for some flak after the last two games and almost all of Bolton’s attacks at the Reebok were through the right. Although the obvious answer is that Clichy will be right back as the left back, my choice would be to persist with Traore and ease our first choice player in by giving him half an hour at the end. With better support from Denilson, Diaby and the left sided attacker, Traore can safely help us minimize the risk with Clichy.

The rest of the team would be pretty much the same from three days ago unless Rosicky is not fit enough to play twice in quick succession. Vela might come in for him in that case as I can’t see Walcott getting a starting role. The Englishman’s presence on the bench, however, does give us an extra dimension just in case things aren’t going to plan.

I would like to see the following line up, although Le Boss might go for Clichy at left back.

Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore; Denilson, Diaby, Cesc; Rosicky, Arshavin, Eduardo.

Before I finish, Owen Coyle deserves some credit for his opinion about Arsene and Arsenal. After all, when was the last time a Bolton manager had genuine words of appreciation for Wenger and his team?!

Detailed Look At Our Left Channel Weakness Against Bolton

January 19, 2010

I believe there is a general consensus that our left side was quite weak against Bolton. It’s not rocket science and most of us saw that their attacks originated mostly from the right channel. We were under pressure in the second half and I thought it might make sense to analyze this in detail. I have taken the 45-70 minute period for this analysis. The following image clearly shows that Bolton attacked mainly through the right.

Traore was widely criticized for his performance in this game with many people, including myself, wondering what’s happened to his game. One thought that bothered me was, would a player who has had a good start suddenly perform poorly in a couple of games? It is possible but there could be other reasons as well. So I looked at the involvement of Arshavin, Eduardo, Diaby and Eastmond during this period.

The following image shows the passes made by each of these players in this period.

Apart from Diaby no one really had any contribution on the left channel, especially in a defensive role. I know that Eastmond was substituted just after the hour mark and there is no point in criticizing a young debutant but Song would certainly have given Traore more support.

Similarly both Eduardo and Arshavin failed to track back. I think Dudu was playing up front and can be excused to some extent. In this case the bulk of the blame would fall on the Russian master for not doing enough to help the defense. AA23 recognizes this problem and was quite honest about it while speaking to his website

We changed the scheme of the game today. My task was to play left field. I was not able to fully help out in the defense but thanks to the guys who corrected my flaws.

I am not sure if he was aware of this during the game or if Wenger pointed it out to him later on. My guess is that it would have been later as it’s difficult to think he wouldn’t have corrected the problem if he had realized it on the pitch. Although, one can always ask why didn’t he get the message from the bench during the game?!

The point of this article is not to blame Eastmond or Arshavin, nor am I trying to defend Traore. The point is, sometimes we see some problems during the games and jump to the obvious conclusion but the truth might be much more complex.

I don’t claim that these images prove anything conclusively. I would certainly like to see data on where players received the passes and how they ran during this period. In the absence of other details these images do give us enough food for thought.

My conclusion is that Traore didn’t get enough support from the DM or the left sided attacking player and under pressure he made some mistakes. We will have to address this balance against the bigger teams with more clinical finishers. I guess this is one of the reasons for Eduardo playing on the left in stead of Arshavin and we might see him back in that position for the return fixture.

In case you want to explore further, do visit the guardian chalkboards. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject.

Bolton 0 – 2 Arsenal: Fighting Spirit Outshines Bravado

January 18, 2010

I am feeling fine again. Before the match I was a little nervous as I didn’t have the right feeling, during the match till we got the second goal the same anxiety dominated. Once the second goal went in I had a sense of relief and now that I have thought about the game a bit, there is even more belief that we are up for it this season.

It’s not that I didn’t believe we can do it, I am quite a believer as regular readers will know. But in the recent past we have shot ourselves in the leg quite often and every potential pitfall of a game brings back some concerns. In the same vein every good result, and this was an important win, serves as a booster dose of confidence.

After the game I read some reports that said the result could have been different if Bolton had converted their chances. I beg to disagree. Arsenal had two clear penalty claims and a couple of other gilt edged chances. Bolton, as far as I can remember, had only one clear chance when Taylor had a sight of goal with only Almunia to beat. The others were half chances or snapshots from outside the box.

The hosts started the game stronger but their pressure lasted for only a couple of minutes as Arsenal settled into a nice rhythm and controlled bulk of the first half. We didn’t create too many chances but looked threatening while going forward. Most of our attacks came from the center and the right while Bolton looked dangerous down our left side.

The first goal came when Rosicky sprinted to win a 50-50 and then put in a sliding tackle to win another in succession. The ball passed from Sagna to Eastmond who played a good ball through to Diaby. The center was crowded and Diaby lost the ball but we had four men pressing in that area and a slip by Steinsson meant that Cesc was in possession on the edge of the box. Within a split second he had played a neat one two with Eduardo and fired home through a defender’s legs with Jaskaleinen having no chance of saving it. I was really impressed with El Capitan’s shooting technique for this goal. It wasn’t a powerful shot but more of a fast paced through ball at a perfect angle.

Towards the end of the half Cesc, Eduardo and Arshavin got together to create another open goal situation but somehow the human side of Cesc took over and he missed. Given his form and shooting accuracy this season it was a big surprise. Eduardo’s movement might have distracted him but neither of them was at fault.

The second half was a bit surprising. I was expecting Arsene to address our weakness on the left side but Bolton came out with greater purpose and terrorized Traore. While watching it I was quite nervous but now I must say that the defenders dealt with most of the threat quite well and the keeper gathered everything cleanly. Gallas had a couple of loose moments and Taylor found himself free on one occasion but Almunia didn’t have to make any heroic saves.

Eastmond was replaced by Merida, a substitution I had expected at half time. In the morning when I heard Nasri wasn’t fit, my guess was that Merida will start. Like some of you in the comments, the boss went for Eastmond. It was a tough game for him and I will write more on his game in the individual section but the change seemed to help the team.

The second goal was fascinating. Bolton had numbers forward and the ball was floating around near our box. I think Vermaelen headed it out and it fell to Cesc half way in our own half. El Capitan held off two players before turning and setting Merida on his way. The commentator was excited and started talking of how Arsenal are dangerous on a break. The situation looked perfect for a counter but the young Spaniard didn’t have much support as he burst forward. In stead of running into trouble he held the ball and moved out right before playing it back to Sagna. The full back played it in the center to Diaby who passed it on to Cesc. Bolton had numbers behind by this time and I thought the moment had passed.

The hosts had lost their shape while rushing back and Cesc got a chance to run at their defence. He released Eduardo inside the box and the Crozilian’s cross was headed by Knight just as Arshavin was about to pull the trigger. The Bolton defender didn’t get much distance on the ball and Merida, who was lurking around the edge of the box pounced on the loose ball. His first touch was excellent and he reminded the boss of his talent with a classy finish.

Bolton’s bravado was well and truly stuffed. We had a disjointed final few minutes as we didn’t create much but the defence was firm. It was nice to see Clichy back and he looked quite like his old self.

The end of the match happiness was tinged by the news of injuries to Nasri and Ramsey. It seems like the injury gods are very specific. Towards the end of last season we struggled with defenders, this season it has been strikers and attacking players and now, just when Song is on national duty, almost anyone who can play as a defensive midfielder is marked out for a spell on the sidelines. Some might say Eastmond is blessed.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Had a solid game without being exceptional. Caught everything that came his way. Needs more such games to get his confidence back.

Sagna: Another solid game. Was a little more defensive in the second half and might have been told to hold back a little.

Gallas: Made a couple of big mistakes that could have been costly. Overall his body language is not very good when under pressure or when someone makes a mistake.

Vermaelen: Competing with Sagna for the most consistent player of the season. Another great game. I think he should work on his free kicks as he has the talent to be lethal.

Traore: He started well when Gibbs was injured but last two games have seen him struggle. Not sure if he loses concentration or is it something else. Won’t have a future at Arsenal if he doesn’t improve.

Eastmond: He looked a little nervous on the pitch. At times I also felt that the players didn’t even want to pass to him. Even Bolton players seemed to ignore him as was evident on the corner when he was completely free inside the box. It only goes to show the difference between Carling Cup and Premier League intensity. A good experience for the lad but he needs to show more confidence on the pitch. If the boss can trust him enough to put him in the starting line up, he has to have the body language of a player who knows he belongs.

Cesc: Can’t say much more about the best player in the league. Although his defending is quite good I doubt if he will be able to play the holding role, as suggested by some of you, simply because he is attracted to the ball all the time. If we play most of our game in the opponent’s half he will invariably end up moving forward.

Diaby: The present team composition doesn’t suit him. He needs more freedom but I was happy with his contribution. Could have done more to help Traore and Eastmond but it depends on the instructions from Le Boss. Based on the way he played, I wasn’t sure if he was given instructions to attack or defend.

Rosicky: Showed plenty of ability in the attacking third. Didn’t have much defending to do as most of Bolton’s attacks were down the left. I kept wondering why he didn’t switch sides with Arshavin as the Czech maestro is certainly better at tracking back. I was also wondering why we didn’t switch play to the right more often, instead of hoofing it clear down the middle when under pressure.

Eduardo: Played better through the center. He is improving with every game and I am hoping that he will be fit for the rest of this season. Nice to see him pick up a couple of assists.

Arshavin: Worked harder than what we are used to seeing from him. He still has a lot more to offer but this was a step in the right direction.

Subs: Merida was excellent and with injuries to Ramsey and Nasri he deserves the chance to prove his worth. Clichy had a good run out and Vela didn’t get much time.

I will end by saying that Bolton were quite ugly and Taylor deserved a red card for his vile and violent behaviour. I doubt that there will be any retrospective action but Fabregas deserves kudos for keeping his cool.

Bolton V Arsenal: A Thin Squad In The Thick Of Action

January 17, 2010

All the talk at the Reebok revolves around Owen Coyle and rightly so. Bolton have struggled this season and a new manager, with strong ties to the club, can only be beneficial.

The tactical battles will be interesting. Arsene reckons that a manager can only play with his style and Coyle will change the Bolton game to a passing one. Surely, no one can change the playing style of a team overnight! Especially, a style developed and perfected by such masters as Big Sam, Sammy Lee and Megson.

On one hand the Trotters will be fired up for the game, on the other they might find it hard to adapt to a new style. We have to wait and see which of the two has a higher impact. I am guessing that Coyle will not make too many changes to the way Bolton play, certainly not against Arsenal. They will come at us hard and fight for every ball while hitting it high and long at every opportunity.

Given their game style and our performance against Everton, some of us are still trying to figure out how Arsenal will adapt without Song. Throw the injuries to Denilson and Ramsey into the mix and it becomes a challenge even for Arsene. Le Boss was not very clear about the injuries to either of them but I am hoping he wont rush them back for this one if there is any doubt about their fitness.

Thankfully we have Rosicky back and hopefully he will stay fit for a longer period this time around. We really need a good show from him at the Reebok. Despite all our injuries we should have enough in attack to score a couple against a team that hasn’t kept a clean sheet all season long.

Our troubles are more on the defensive front and with the link between defence and attack. Diaby is the popular choice to fill that role and I have a feeling Arsene will ask him to curb his attacking instincts for this game.

I would like to Nasri in that role with Cesc too in a deeper position and Diaby playing the attacking midfielder. The main reason behind this thought is the worry that our lanky Frenchman holds on to the ball too often and could be a liability in, well, a holding role! The others will have to drop deep anyway, allowing Bolton to press us further up the pitch. So we might be better off allowing Diaby the freedom to roam in the Bolton half and take defenders on with his direct running.

There is some good news on the injury front with Clichy expected to make a return to the squad. Once again, I would prefer if he was eased in slowly. Back problems can be tricky and we can do without a Denilsonesque recurrence.

Our bench is likely to be full of youngsters even by our standards. In other words, the starting eleven has to do the job. The break must have given everyone enough time to regain their sharpness as we need the cutting edge against a physical side.

The starting line up is likely to be

Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore; Diaby, Cesc, Nasri; Rosicky, Arshavin, Eduardo.

To be frank, I have a bad feeling about this one. We have had some poor results in pairs like the losses in Manchester, draws with Alkmaar and West Ham and then the defeats to Chelsea and Citeh. After last week’s result and with the team looking for a new balance, I can see another tough draw on the cards. Here’s hoping I am wrong.