Thursday, 30 December 2010
THE FESTIVE NAIL-GNAWERS
Silly old Younes Huthart, as my girlfriend christened him after the Emirates Miracle. Yes, Cheick Tioté is incredibly annoying, but Kaboul's no longer a green Premier League teen. He'll be 25 next week and should know much better. Still, he issued a nice little apology and we march into the Fulham game on New Year's Day full of beans.
Seeing off the snarling Geordies was no mean feat, particularly after Kaboul's unhelpful head twitch. With their unholy trio of rage packing the middle, it was probably always going to take on moment of Taste The Difference quality from our lot to nudge us over the line. Luka was again superb (since the Liverpool game he's been our best player), Lennon and Bale kept probing and earned their rewards, while Dawson marshalled a granite-tough defence to their first Premier League clean sheet since 1995. Well, August.
Our two festive victories signed off our year showcasing exactly how far we've progressed. Of course, our effectiveness has as much to do with the winning, resolute mentality instilled by Redknapp, Jordan and Bond (not to mention Ferdinand, Sherwood, Parks and the 27 other fellas 'Arry's got on his payroll) as the quality of our players now. Van der Vaart proved yet again against Villa that we've nabbed someone world class. Just as satisfying, Bale and Modrić have blossomed into world beaters right before our eyes. We're now a very, very good team who people say lovely things about. But can we take it on?
Regardless of any January signings - Oldenballs or otherwise - imperative to success is keeping the core group of players fit. We can't afford another 5-6 games on the bounce without Van der Vaart. Lord knows how many more goals (and points) we'd have bagged with a fit and unsuspended Jermain Defoe. Same in reverse for Michael Dawson. Combine sustained fitness with the levels of form they're showing at the moment and we'll continue irritating the big boys.
Despite this, I don't think many of us are actually entertaining the notion of a title challenge. I understand Redknapp's 'shoot for moon, get stars' mentality, but reclaiming 4th is the only priority. Who's going to drop out of that current quartet though? Man United have yet to lose a game and ultra-dull, ultra-miserable City swerved disaster in tying Tevez up. Wily old Chelsea could easily win six on the bounce while Arsenal seem capable of anything (fortunately this includes losing at home to two promoted sides and us). Our best option is simply ploughing on and not worrying about that horrible lot. And if we do add a fourth world classer? Then we can't accept anything less than the Top Four.
Posted by Charlie Parrish at 19:38