As a halfway feature, I thought I’d compare where we are now to where we were last year, but instead of being based on an arbitrary date, instead it is a direct comparison of matching fixtures. Comparing our position to last Christmas would be flawed, as we may have had an easier or trickier first half of the season, this instead shows us what we’ve gained and lost in the same set of games.
For purposes of comparison, the sides that finished 18th, 19th and 20th last season (Newcastle, Middlebrough and West Brom) have been replaced by the sides that came up in 1st, 2nd and via the playoffs (Wolves, Birmingham, Burnley) respectively.
Games we’ve gained three points compared to 08/09 (loss -> win)
Fulham (a), Hull (h), Aston Villa (h)
Games we’ve gained two points compared to 08/09 (draw -> win)
Everton (a), Spurs (h), Liverpool (a)
Games we’ve gained one point compared to 08/09 (loss -> draw)
Games we’ve matched the result of 08/09
Portsmouth (h), Man City (a), Wigan (h), Blackburn (h), Birmingham/Middlesbrough (h), Wolves/Newcastle (a), Chelsea (h), Stoke (h)
Games we’ve lost one point compared to 08/09 (draw-> loss)
Man Utd (a), Sunderland (a)
Games we’ve lost two points compared to 08/09 (win -> draw)
West Ham (a), Burnley/West Brom (a)
Games we’ve lost three points compared to 08/09 (win -> loss)
Overall, we’ve gained a total of nine points, mainly due to victories over Fulham, Hull and Villa, in fixtures we lost last season. We’ve also done better against the sides fighting for fourth, with wins over Spurs and Liverpool.
We finished with 72 points in May, so the nine we’ve already gained would take us to 81. With the league more open than ever, a total of around 85 would probably win it, which begs the question – how many more can we gain? Let’s look at the fixtures:
December – January
Portsmouth (a) – last season 3 pts, Bolton (h) – 3 pts, Everton (h) – 3 pts, Bolton (a) – 3 pts, Villa (a) – 1 pt, Man Utd (h) – 3 pts
Total 16/18 points
Chelsea (a) – 3 pts, Liverpool (h) – 1 pt, Sunderland (h) – 1 pt, Stoke (a) – 0 pts
Total 5/12 points
Burnley/West Brom(h) – 3 pts, Hull (a) – 3 pts, West Ham (h) – 1 pt, Birmingham/Middlesbrough (a) – 1 pt
Total 8/12 points
Wolves/Newcastle(h) – 3 pts, Spurs (a) – 1 pt, Wigan (a) – 3 pts, Man City (h) – 3 pts
Total 10/12 points
Blackburn (a) – 3 pts, Fulham (h) – 1 pt
Total 4/6 points
On the face of it, January and February seem to be enormously tricky months, but ironically those fixtures are those we had the most success in last season. A win at Chelsea, another at home to United, the double over Bolton and creditable draws against Villa and Liverpool were actually a great set of results that we perhaps didn’t appreciate at the time because of the daft losses intermingled with them.
One thing is for sure – if we pick up as many points in the January games as we did last season, we’ll be in a fantastic position. February then gives us the chance to put right some of last season’s failures – a single point from a pair of games with Sunderland and Stoke was a major disappointment.
We have left only one fixture that we lost last campaign, that awful display at Stoke. That fact alone suggests that we are more than capable of embarking on the sort of consistent run that defines champions. We’ve done a lot of the hard work, gaining nine points in the first half of the season. Another four or five, and we might be lifting the title in May.
We are moving in the right direction, no doubt about it.