On Saturday, before the Stoke game, I said that as a test of the players’ mental strength, of which we have heard so much, largely the same team as faced Spurs should go out at put things right against Stoke. And other than the crazy tinkering in midfield, that was mostly the case.
Unfortunately, it quite spectacularly didn’t work. Rather than using the Spurs debacle as inspiration to go out and send a message to the doubters, they proceeded to show a complete lack of fight and allow many in the media to roll out their ‘I told you so’ line.
We now move into November, a month where we are traditionally extremely weak. It is so often the worst month of our season – whether it is the intense ‘every three day’ cycle of games, the cold snap, or just plain coincidence, something about the month sees us slip up. In 2006, we picked up four points from four games, losing at West Ham and Bolton, in 2004, we managed two from three, drawing with WBA and Crystal Palace and losing to Liverpool, and the pattern continues the further you go back.
This season has the potential to be another nightmare. Already with the Stoke loss opening the month, the rest of our league games are against United, Villa, Man City and Chelsea. All may end the season in the top six.
The saving grace is that the first two are at home, giving the crowd a chance to lift the players and set the season going again. And that is what is needed now. Yes, we need a centre back, and yes, we certainly need central midfielders, but we aren’t going to get them for at least two more months, so back the players we have. They have the talent, they have the potential, and at a time when they aren’t surrounded by the experience needed to guide them through, they need support from the fans instead.
Fenerbahce tomorrow night are a perfect example of that – their fans truly are a twelfth man. If ours can be on Saturday, United might be in for a surprise.