Seven games played, four points!

A review of the season to date as we go into the second international break of the season.

Embed from Getty Images

The first four home games of the season have been played. Bournemouth, Watford, Southampton, and finally Middlesbrough. Three games away at Chelsea, Manchester City and WBA. Before the season began, when we looked at the seven games that the fixtures computer gave us in the run-up to the second international break, how many points were we hoping for at this stage? If we were going to be making a realistic challenge towards the top, as we did last year, then I would have said a minimum of 11, and possibly anything up to 15, based on those games.

So our return of 4 is way below expectations, puts us into the relegation places, and leaves us with a fight to climb the table from this point. Our only realistic aim in the league this season is to obtain a comfortable mid-table position. Even at this early stage it would be unrealistic to even contemplate the possibility of a finishing position similar to that attained last year. Last season we had 20 points after 11 games, so we can measure ourselves against that position after the four games that come up following the resumption after this international break.

Those four games are away at Palace, who currently sit eighth in the table, and Everton who are fifth, both of whom have had good starts to the season. With our current form we wouldn’t expect to get anything out of those two games, but we really need to start to win away from home. Last season we won both of those away games, scoring three goals in each, and we must really be hoping for a repeat, however unlikely it seems at the moment.

Our run of “relatively easy” home games, you know the ones that look easier on paper, continues with the visits of Sunderland and Stoke who occupy the bottom two places in the table after seven games, with neither having managed a win yet. Of course these are games where we often don’t perform as well as we should, and in the comparative fixtures last season we only scored one goal (in the 1-0 victory over Sunderland, the Stoke game being an entertaining 0-0 draw).

So who knows what this year will bring? To bring us up to the level of averaging a point a game (which is something we need to do as soon as possible) then we would need 7 points from the four games between this break and the next, and this is the minimum that we must hope for. Because even if we have 11 points after 11 games, our next four fixtures are away games at Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool, and a home game against Arsenal, four of the teams currently occupying the top six places in the league.

We then return to four of the easier games on paper against teams currently in the bottom half, with home matches against Burnley and Hull, and visits to Swansea and Leicester. At that point we will be exactly half way through the season, having played 19 games, including every other team once, by 31 December. We really need to have at least 19 points by then, giving us an average of a point a game. Even with this tally we would still be in a lowly position, so let’s hope we are above that level.

Last season only the three clubs who were relegated didn’t achieve a point a game. Newcastle, who finished third from bottom had 37 points and were relegated, Sunderland just escaped with 39 points. Even a point a game is no guarantee against going down, so we must really start to improve very quickly if we don’t want to be in that position.

The Middlesbrough game was an improvement defensively, although in a creative attacking sense there is a lot more needed. Let us hope with the return to fitness of more players, and a nearly full squad to choose from, that we can start to climb the table sooner rather than later. Once teams become embroiled in the relegation dogfight, then psychologically it becomes more difficult as fear of losing inhibits performances.

On paper, when you look at our squad of players, then most people would say we are too good to go down. But that’s what they said in 2002-03. In the 2001-02 season we finished seventh, and hopes were high for the following season. But we finished third from bottom and were relegated.

Last season we also finished seventh, and hopes were high for a repeat performance this time. Let’s hope we don’t get an exact repeat of what happened following our seventh place finish in 2003!

Don’t Panic! (How Could We Possibly Recover From That?)

More difficulty starting than an Austin Allegro!

West Ham 1970sFollowing on from my “Don’t Press the Panic Button” article, for any readers that are younger then me (and most will be), I thought I would relate my “beginning of each season” experiences as a young supporter of West Ham in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Traditionally, of course, we have always had a reputation for performing badly in the second half of the season (down with the Christmas decorations?), but how did we fare in our opening games?

I’ll start with the 1965-66 season. I was eleven years old and had been at Wembley when we had just won the European Cup Winners Cup in May, after winning the FA Cup the season before that. Hopes were high that we would push on in the league. So what happened? We won just one game out of the first eight (a 2-1 victory over Leeds who were to finish runners-up at the end of the season). Five of those games were lost, including three consecutive games (two of them at home!) in one nightmare week where we conceded five goals in each of them (15 in total!). How could we possibly recover from that?

I’ll move on to the following season, 1966-67. England had just won the World Cup and, as we all know, West Ham were very instrumental in that. Hopes were high once again. So what happened? This time we won just one of our opening seven games, including defeats in the first three. How could we possibly recover from that?

The next season, 1967-68, we won just one of our first six games, conceding 18 goals in the process. Four of the games were lost. How could we possibly recover from that?

Let’s move on to 1969-70. We won our first two games to go top of the league, and then didn’t win any of the next seven, including five defeats, to plummet almost to the bottom. How could we possibly recover from that?

The following season (1970-71) we were at it again. This time we didn’t win any of our first ten league games. That’s right, ten games, no wins! How could we possibly recover from that?

Moving on to the following season (1971-72) we lost our first three games and drew the fourth 0-0. One point, bottom of the league, and not a single goal scored. How could we possibly recover from that?

By 1972-73 we were improving very slightly in our early season performances. This time we incredibly managed to win two of our opening seven league games, which included three consecutive defeats. How could we possibly recover from that?

But by the following year (1973-74) we were back to our old opening form. We didn’t manage to win a single match out of the first eleven league games played, drawing four and losing seven. We were bottom of the league at this point. How could we possibly recover from that?

And finally 1974-75, the season that ended with us winning the FA Cup. We won just one of our opening seven league games, and at this stage once again sat rock bottom of the league. How could we possibly recover from that?

The observant readers among you will have noticed that I missed a season out. Nine seasons out of ten we had dreadful starts. But one year was an exception. In 1968-69 we only lost one of our first eleven league games and were challenging at the very top.

So there you are, ten consecutive seasons taking me from age 11 through to age 21. In nine of the ten our start was equivalent to what we’ve seen this year. So which of the ten seasons do you think we finished highest in the league? Just looking at the bare facts you would probably opt for 1968-69. But you’d be wrong. In 1972-73 we finished in sixth place. And for all those poor starts, how many times did we get relegated in those ten seasons. That’s right, we didn’t. Not once!

And what about all the excuses that are being put forward for our poor start to this season? Did they apply then? Time and time again I keep hearing the same thing. Our poor start wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t moved to a new stadium. Well as you know, throughout those ten seasons we played at Upton Park. Fans citing that as an excuse for our poor start this year need to remember that Upton Park was not always the intimidating fortress that they remember.

Yes, our start is disappointing, especially after all the optimism following last season. Perhaps we set our expectations too high? The performances have been poor though. Throughout the years that I covered above we had players of the calibre of Moore, Hurst, Peters, Brooking, Bonds, Byrne, Boyce, Lampard, and Pop Robson. And we played at Upton Park! But we still had some appalling starts to seasons and recovered.

“Don’t Panic” is a Coldplay song. “Don’t Panic” is a famous phrase from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. “Don’t panic” is one of Lance Corporal Jones’ famous catchphrases from Dads Army. “Don’t panic” is my message. We’ve been there so many times before. I could be wrong but give it a bit longer. I’m confident we’ll be OK.

5 Points From The Recent Weekend

Sorting through the garbage from the Premier League weekend and wondering how our on-loan players are faring.

Five Things EPLCity Slickers 2: The Sequel

At this stage last season Manchester City sat at the top of the Premier League with a 100% record from the first 5 games before successive defeats to West Ham and Tottenham took the spring out of their step and resulted in an indifferent (by their expectation) 4th place finish, and snatching the final Champion’s League spot. This year they are again top of the pile with a flawless record and even though it is “early doors” (©Big Ron) it is difficult to see who is going to stop them this time around. In Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero they have probably the best player and best striker in the league backed up by a very deep and talented squad and a manager who really does look like he is making a difference. Their city neighbours, on the other hand, resemble a cross between the Harlem Globetrotters and a circus freak show without any real tactical plan; a little like Chelsea last year you might say. Chelsea themselves require a lot more rebuilding before they can mount a serious title challenge while Liverpool and Arsenal will veer from the sublime to the unconvincing. Tottenham will act all mouth and no trousers again and along with Everton, as the new Southampton, will be tussling for Europa League qualification.

Light Blue Touch-Paper and Retire

On Guy Fawkes night, the 5th of November, the fixtures computer has paired West Ham with Stoke City and on the evidence of recent defensive performances we could well see some fireworks that day. There has been much debate on West Ham forums as to whether our own poor defending is down to individual blunders or collective incompetence. I tend to believe that the two are related and that haphazard organisation is often (but not always Arthur) the catalyst for mistakes. One imagines that having already conceded 4 goals twice this season Mark Hughes would have spent much of the week preparing his side to stand firm against the expected Crystal Palace aerial threat from set pieces and yet they surrendered two routine goals in the first eleven minutes. Unless both the Stoke and West Ham defenders get a rocket before the two teams meet the game might yield a whole youtube bloopers compilation by itself.

Goals with a Lustrous Finish

Speaking of rockets that is how a shot from outside the box that whistled into the back of the net was once described. Or else it might have been a screamer, unstoppable or a piledriver. These were all good masculine sounding words that conjured up the image of a glove free warrior with no shinpads, crepe bandage barely concealing a gash on the head, ploughing through the mud and letting one rip with his Gola Speedster boots. Now a commentator feels that they are allowed to describe a goal as ‘sumptuous’ as with the Jordan Henderson strike at Stamford Bridge; what next – gorgeous, luscious, lavish, opulent, orgasmic, splendiferous….? The long range shot is more often than not top contender in the goal of the week/ month/ season compilations but give me a slick passing, quick movement team goal any day. It was good to witness a few of these over the weekend. Also good to see converted Right Back, Michail Antonio still leading the goal scoring charts which in the absence of the illusory 20 10 goals a season striker is most welcome. For teams that do have functioning strikers there were further goals for Costa, Lukaku, Deeny, Kane, Rashford and Iheanacho while Leicester look to have done shrewd business in recruiting Slimani from Sporting Clube de Portugal.

The Not-So Special One

I was among many who believed that Manchester United under Jose Mourinho would be a force to be reckoned with this season. Instead they appear to be a ramshackle assortment of spare parts that have been assembled without access to the necessary instructions. If you scan through the list of names of the teamsheet it might look impressive at first glance but it is not a team rather a collection of individuals, some of whom are well past their best. The manager gives the impression of being perplexed about the whole business. There was a perfect description of Jose’s demeanour in a recent Guardian article which I repeat below:

“More recently José Mourinho seems to have decided the best approach at Manchester United is to spend his first few weeks standing on the touchline looking crumpled and sad and heroically betrayed, like a man on the hard shoulder of the M6 staring balefully across the nearside lines above his raised bonnet, rain gluing his shirt to his back, phone dead, credit card maxed out, kids living in Bicester, golf clubs repossessed, 800 units of polyester carpet samples scattered across the back seat.”

Naturally, the 3 defeats in a week for Manchester United are not the fault of Jose himself but are down to poor refereeing and Luke Shaw. In the game against Watford (good team!) they were second best in the first half and it looked ominous when Watford surrendered the initiative during the second period yet the Hornets showed great spirit and resilience to claim all 3 points from their largely uninspiring opponents.

Loans and Miscellany

Most Premier League teams have players out on loan at other clubs. This can be to give younger players experience or simply to remove some cost from the wage bill. It is well known that at any time Chelsea have something like 30 players loaned to other teams. As far as I know West Ham have 10 players out on loan so let’s take a look at what they were up to at the weekend. Enner Valencia had his first run out for Everton as a 66th minute replacement for Lukaku and was caught offside just the once, so encouraging signs so far. Neither Reece Burke nor Kyle Knoyle took part in Wigan’s goalless draw with Fulham (my assumption is that Burke was injured); Martin Samuelsen was a 90+3 rd minute time-wasting substitute for Blackburn in their 4-2 win against Rotherham but there was no place in the squad for Stephen Hendrie. Josh Cullen played 90 minutes for Bradford as did Lewis Page for Coventry in their respective drawn games but there was no game time for George Dobson (Walsall), Luca Belic (Motherwell) or Doneil Henry (AC Horsens in Denmark). The most notable action from any of these games being a hovering drone stopping play for several minutes in the Bradford – Bristol City game.

The First International Break (A Review of the Season To Date)

A look back at the season so far before it all stopped for the Internationals.

EPL TeamsSome things in life just don’t seem to make sense when you analyse them in the cold light of day. Last season’s Premier League season ended in the middle of May. We then had a three month break before resuming mid-August. Almost ninety days without playing a Premier League game. So we start again, play for three weekends, and then we have a fortnight break just as we seem to be getting into it again!

Of course for West Ham, we began a little earlier because of our Europa League involvement. But from the date of our first league game on 15 August we then played five competitive games in a fourteen day period. And now we have a fortnight without a game! At best it could be described as disjointed, in reality it is madness. But from our point of view, because of our lengthy injury list, very welcome madness, and relief that we have the opportunity to get some of our first choice players back from a horrendous injury list.

The stop-start nature of the Premier League season continues such that we will hit the third international break early in November! And from the Manchester United away game at the end of that month we will then have a period of eight league games in 37 days. And some people are calling for a winter break on top of all the other breaks. I’m absolutely certain that the fixture list could be managed much more effectively!

As last year, we were handed two of the most difficult away games possible in our first four games of the season. Against all the odds we won them both last time, but this term we lost them both. Also, last season we lost our opening two home games. This time we won our first home game. And if we don’t win the next one at home to Watford then I suspect we may be in for a difficult season. The upshot is we have three points after three games, exactly the same as a year ago.

Even at this very early stage the Premier League table has a predictable feel about it. Three teams have won their opening three games, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Three other teams haven’t been beaten yet, Tottenham, and perhaps more surprisingly, Middlesbrough and Everton. Hull will also be delighted with their start. With two wins and a defeat to a very late goal from Manchester United, their six points puts them above teams like Middlesbrough and Tottenham, who despite achieving the much praised “unbeaten” tag, have both only got five points from one win and two draws.

In addition to the seven teams mentioned above, a further six clubs have yet to record their first win, Stoke, Bournemouth, Watford, Palace, Sunderland and Southampton. It’s much too early to draw conclusions but even now, I can see the teams in the relegation dogfight being those latter six with the addition of Hull, Burnley and perhaps West Brom. I predicted a seventh place finish for us before the season started and I’ll stick with that although we’ve not really justified it yet.

With thirty games of the 380 in the Premier League completed, eleven have been won by the home team, eleven by the away team, and there have been eight draws. Thirty-six goals have been scored by the home team and an equal number by the away side. In the whole of last season, around 41% of games were won by the home side, and 31% by the away team, with 28% drawn. So away wins are up this time, although it is too early and the sample is too small to draw conclusions yet. With 2.4 goals average per game this season to date, then goals scored are more than 10% down on last season’s average of 2.7, but once again it is perhaps too early to predict a continuation of the downward goal scoring trend. In an average round of matches last season 27 goals were scored, so three fewer goals have been scored on average each week so far.

Last season, of course, we were the favourite team of the “neutral” supporter who likes to see goals in games from either side. The 116 goals scored in our games (3.05 per game) put us on the top of that particular “league” with only Everton’s matches achieving an average of 3 per game. After three games of this season our games have had eight goals, but unfortunately we’ve only managed three of them, one in each. Manchester City, apart from being top of the Premier League, have also had the most total goals with twelve in their three games (4 per game).

So we have a band of seven teams at the top who have all won at least two of their games or remain unbeaten (on 5 points or more), and six clubs without a win at the foot (with two points or less). No team has drawn all three of their games. We therefore sit in the middle band of seven teams on 3 or 4 points, where the result of the next games will start to decide if we are heading towards the top or bottom groups, or remaining in mid-table.

Transfer Deadline Day

Oh What A Circus! (with apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Oh what a circus, oh what a show
Sky Sports has gone to town
Over the transfer of footballer David Luiz
They’ve all gone crazy
Reporting all day and rumours all night
Falling over themselves to get helicopters in sight

Transfer WindowOh What A Circus is a song from the 1976 musical Evita, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. David Essex (a West Ham fan, but more famous as a pop idol of the 1970’s, and very recently an actor on Eastenders) later recorded the song, which uses the same tune as the more well-known Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. It was a commercial success for him going close to the top of the UK singles chart in 1978 at a time when his career and teenybopper appeal appeared to be on the wane. The song compares the life of Eva Peron to a circus. I make the same comparison with Sky Sports coverage of transfer deadline day to a circus. Some might call it a pantomime.

The circus comes to town twice a year when Sky Sports cancels leave for all reporters and sends them to stand outside training grounds, hiding behind bins, to be attacked by sex toys, to be drowned out by excitable teenagers keen to show themselves up on TV, whilst trying to grab interviews through car windows with players and managers or indeed anyone driving past them.

Jim White, rumoured to be soon taking over the prestigious 10am morning slot on Talk Sport from Colin Murray, wearing his bright yellow transfer day tie, anchors the infamous evening shift in the Sky Sports studio as the clock in the corner of the screen ticks down second by second. You’d think a rocket would be taking off for the moon, but no, it’s just the countdown to the window slamming shut at 11 pm. The window is open for the whole of the summer, but come the last day of August it has to be slammed shut as the cooler nights of Autumn approach. And even though they’ve had three months or so to conduct their business, the clubs have to go mad in the last few hours, panic buying and frequently paying over the odds for any player they can lay their hands on, hoping they’ve got a bargain, but unable to return any goods that turn out to be faulty or unfit for purpose.

To be quite frank just watching for a few minutes can drive you mad, as reporters in front of cameras confirm what “Sky Sources” ticker-tape says running across the bottom of the screen, and then breaking news highlights what everybody has just been going on about for the last couple of hours. And then a sidebar on the screen tells you exactly the same thing. So much repetition and for what? You can look on the internet later in the evening or in tomorrow’s newspapers and see all the transfers listed there.

But apart from the window slamming shut we get all the final day drama with all the usual jargon, last minute dramatic swoops, pictures of helicopters that may or may not contain David Luiz, phones buzzing, alleged sightings at motorway service stations or petrol stations anywhere, Ronaldo or Messi shopping at the Westfield shopping centre, Valencia in the back of a cab in Swansea or Liverpool (or putting his feet up in Ecuador), everyone with their sources, players spotted at training grounds, Jack Wilshere driving his car to Bournemouth, last minute intervention by Daniel Levy who suddenly decides he wants Sissoko, and descriptions of transfers or done deals or rumours using words like amazing, dramatic, sensational, shocking, exciting, impressive or incredible. How Sky Sports and the media in general can make so much out of nothing is amazing / sensational / incredible! And of course we have the usual social media where people in their millions are reacting (mostly in the most negative way you could imagine with expletives galore about transfers that may, or more likely may not, happen)

Poyet is going but Payet is staying (was there ever really any doubt?). World Cup winning, 33 year old, ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid right back Arbeloa has apparently signed. I started to follow him on Twitter and noticed he has 4.5 million followers! Wow that must more than the rest of the West Ham squad combined! It was reported that the move was instigated by David Sullivan who wanted to buy anyone who has ever worn a number 2 shirt to be absolutely certain that Michail Antonio never has to play in this position ever again.

And what’s this? 10.45pm – it is being reported that Valencia has signed for Everton on loan with a view to a permanent deal. £14.5 million? Have they watched him lately? Plenty of new blind alleys for him to find in Liverpool.

Oh what a circus, oh what a show!

5 Things Learned From MatchWeek 3

Our collection of random observations from Premier League Matchweek3

Five Things EPLThe Super Sunday Contractual Obligation Match

It is difficult to believe that some high powered TV people actually sat around in a meeting room with white boards, flip charts and Powerpoint presentations and selected WBA versus Middlesbrough to be a live televised match. Ordinarily the only purpose of such clubs on TV is as opposition for one of the big boys to dispatch with ease except, on rare occasions, where they met each other in an end-of-season relegation six pointer.

The Premier League still has a number of these underwhelming contests but they are normally buried among the left over Saturday 3 pm kick-offs. The game certainly delivered what it said on the tin and even the referee seemed reluctant to tag on any added time.

You Don’t Always see them Given

Last year I watched a Development Squad game where Shay Given was between the sticks for Stoke City in front of a few hundred supporters. This week he was back in the big-time of the Premier League where his notable contribution was heading in Leighton Baines penalty after it had come back off the post.

The Baines penalty was one of those awarded under the new Grappling interpretation of Law 12. As usual there is much inconsistency between different referees in how the rule is interpreted causing apparent confusion with players, pundits and supporters alike. In some situations a penalty is awarded straight away while in others players have escaped punishment and let off with a warning. Personally I have always taken a possibly naive view that a foul is a foul no matter where it is committed and that there should be some form of intent, bad timing or negligence involved. It seems nowadays a simple collision, expecting a tackle or tripping over your own feet is sufficient justification.

Last year there were 91 Premier League penalties awarded (equal to an average of 2.4 each week).  The first 3 rounds this season has seen 13 penalties (or 4.3 per week).

Terry and the Pace Setters

With just 3 games gone and we are already into an enforced international break in which the latest new dawn of English football will rise from the mixed metaphor ashes of Roy’s Euro disaster. After the first 3 games what can we deduce about the destination of the Premier League title?

There are 3 teams remaining on maximum points and each will expect to be in the running next Spring. The two Manchester clubs are the most likely champions in my view and it is difficult to choose which is now the lesser evil. Prepare for the over the top build up to their derby meeting immediately after the international break. Chelsea are only level on points due to cheating but with Hazard looking on top of his game and no European distraction they are probable candidates for 3rd or 4th.

Of the other teams Tottenham have been the most encouraging in how flat and uninspiring they look as if they haven’t recovered from last season’s blow-out. Liverpool look very workmanlike which is what you would expect from a midfield that includes Milner, Henderson and Lallana. Koeman’s Everton are undefeated and will be unspectacularly efficient in picking up points. Arsenal are like every other Arsenal team of the last decade only increasingly less-good; they may even miss out on a top 4 finish this time. We need to start getting players back and getting our act together. Losing away at two of the top three is no disgrace in itself but performances need to be far better.

Relegation or The HSmell of Success

History tells us that in all probability 2 of the promoted clubs will be relegated. Despite Hull’s promising start I can’t see them keeping this up given the turmoil that the club is in. I also expect Burnley to struggle massively whereas Boro might do enough to bore the opposition into surrender. The other suspects include Watford, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Swansea. I am relying on Eddie Howe to do enough to keep Bournemouth afloat and, although Watford looked very poor in the first half against Arsenal, they brightened up considerably after introducing new signings Isaac Success & Roberto Pereyra – two players we will need to keep an eye on when we meet them in 2 weeks.

Isaac Success is one of the best footballer names since Danny Invincible

A Substitute for Another Guy

Finally, a very strange occurrence in the Tottenham versus Liverpool game at White Hart Lane where in the very last of 3 added minutes at the end of the second half both teams brought on a substitute for their league debuts. I didn’t spot whether the respective number 2’s had given the players detailed instructions from the notepads as to what to do for the remaining 10 seconds.

The New Football Season – We Play Last – Is It A Good or Bad Thing?

A fragmented start to the new season for West Ham due to TV and Europa League demands.

I am old enough to remember the sheer excitement and anticipation of the beginning of a new football season. All of the teams in the top tier (Division One it was called then), and throughout the Football League, would kick off at 3.00 on a Saturday afternoon and by 4.45 we would have all completed the first game. The Sunday morning newspapers would print the first league tables, which would often bear little resemblance to how they would look by the end of the season. But nobody under the age of 30 will recall those times.

Pools2These days it doesn’t happen like that. The bottom three divisions all kick off a week before the Premier League. Sky Bet Leagues 1 and 2 have a full league programme on the Saturday with all the games kicking off at 3.00 on Saturday, but the Sky Bet Championship has one game on Friday evening, nine on Saturday afternoon, and a further two on Sunday.

One week later the Premier League season begins. But we don’t all kick off at the same time. Because of television we have six different times for games to be played over the first weekend (how long before it is known as Matchday 1? – perhaps it already is and I’ve missed it!). One game kicks off at 12.30 on Saturday, five at 3.00, and one at 5.30. Then on Sunday we have games at 1.30 and 4.00. Finally on Monday evening at 8.00 our season eventually gets underway with a visit to Chelsea.

match-day-coverIronically if the Premier League table is printed in the Monday morning newspapers, we will not be at the bottom although we won’t have played a game (unless of course all the nine games played end in draws – most unlikely!). We will have zero points with a goal difference of 0, whereas it is likely that some teams will have lost their opening game and therefore have zero points with a negative goal difference. So without playing we will have a game in hand over all the other teams (bar Chelsea) but sit above the relegation zone. Of course once the game has been played we could move to either the very top or very bottom of the league!

The following weekend (Matchday 2 – you see I am keeping this up!) we have a slightly different arrangement of games. This time the games on Saturday and Sunday remain the same (that is, five different kick off times for the nine games, but the Monday night game is replaced by a match on the Friday preceding the weekend). So the final game on Matchday 2 is at 4.00 on Sunday, which is of course our opening home league game of the season when Bournemouth are our visitors.

“So right from the beginning of the season we are playing catch up every single weekend. Is this good or bad?”

If we move on to Matchday 3 the following weekend, then there are no games on either the Friday or Monday. One game kicks off at 12.30 on Saturday, six begin at the traditional time of 3.00 and then there is another at 5.30. That leaves two games for the Sunday, one at 1.30 and another at 4.00. Of course you know who is playing in the final game on the third weekend. Yes that’s right – us again, when we face a tough away fixture at the Etihad Stadium. So right from the beginning of the season we are playing catch up every single weekend. Is this good or bad?

It also seems to me that the fixtures computer appears to be fiendishly programmed to give us tough away games at the start of the season again, just like last year. The following weekend, after just three weeks, we have a rest. The first international break of the season kicks in after just three games!