It hasn’t been a great week, has it?
Leeds at home in the FA Cup and Ipswich away in the Carling Cup were two fixtures that we all expected to win and after the relief of grabbing a replay against Leeds, the shock of losing to Ipswich was pretty severe.
Perhaps what has irked people so much is that — putting the results to one side — we are not playing good football at the moment. I expected us to kick on from the morale-boosting win over Chelsea and in some ways we did: giving Manchester City the runaround and destroying Birmingham at St Andrew’s, but that momentum has well and truly been stalled over the past week.
While I do not support all of the criticism that has been voiced — snipes aimed at Nicklas Bendtner, a player that has had limited opportunities this season and has just had his first child at the age of 22, have been particularly unfair — it is easy to understand where the venom is coming from.
When you fail to beat teams you expect to beat it is frustrating. When you fail to beat the same teams because you as a collective group are not working hard enough it goes up a level. It becomes infuriating.
But let’s not cloud the frustration of the past week with the facts. Two performances of the level we expect from this team will see us past Leeds at Elland Road and into the Carling Cup Final. Nothing should be taken for granted — both sides will give us trouble in the return matches — but all things considered we really should progress through to the next round of both cup competitions.
And with football being football we have the chance to get the (foot?)ball rolling in the league once again at West Ham tomorrow.
How will this team respond? We’re likely to see the return of Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie to the starting line-up so the answer should be positive. At the end of the day we want to win the Carling Cup and the FA Cup but both of those competitions pale in significance to the Premier League.
The right result at Upton Park would put us just one point behind Manchester United and put some serious pressure on the current league leaders for their game against Tottenham the following day. Spurs have a dreadful record against United but if there is ever a time for this to end, it is now.
But before then our team has to do their job. As a group we need to work harder than we did against Leeds and Ipswich and get things moving in the right direction again.
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