The honeymoon is over, if there ever was one. David Moyes came in, we lost some games (business as usual), then won some games (things were looking up!) and now, we seemed to have returned to the form we had at the beginning of the season: a potential candidate for relegation.
I don’t think anyone could have been unhappy with how the team had been performing over the last few weeks as they looked a rejuvenated side under David Moyes. But then we returned to this season’s version of West Ham United: some flashes, but not enough. This is also while bringing out the best in the opposition every single week, no matter their place in the table. Witness today’s game against BHA (hadn’t had a win in what, 14?): a goal 8 minutes in, we tie the game, we go down on a stunner and have chances to potentially tie the game, only to go two down and limp to the finish. Kind of how this season has been on the whole, so close but so far away. (Same with the table after today’s match: we are so close to being comfortable, but so far away at the same time.)
I’m not saying that this team doesn’t have heart, because they are showing some fight. (They also have Joe Hart, but if he sits on the bench, does he really exist?) However, the injury crisis has the team looking exhausted and it showed today. Three games in a week is a lot for any professional, but when your squad rotation is minimal and you have to play your best against a Championship team in the FA Cup, the lack of depth begins to show. We can go on about transfer policy (everyone’s favourite topic) or the lack of youth (why was Reece Oxford loaned out again with Pedro Obiang lost for the season?) but the fact of the matter is this team is one of the most underperforming teams in Europe per pound (but we are still behind AC Milan, yay?)
This is not a doomsday article but rather a sobering one: while we do have the quality and the tactics to stay up and finish the season well, we need to put together a nice run of form before we finish the season Chelsea-Stoke-Arsenal-Manchester City-Leicester-Everton (yikes, can you imagine having to play Big Sam’s Everton with relegation on the line?) Getting a few players back from injury will surely help, as well as a singular focus on the league, but will it be enough?
This squad look as though they need a major overhaul over the summer and that is going to happen because we will be forced to due to playing in the Championship or because we have underachieved and it just hasn’t worked. Either way, we are in for a nervy ending to the season, no matter what.