Yep, it's that time again.
We are in the middle of the latest International Break, in which the news has been dominated by a club rivalry issue from last Sunday, spilling over into a bit of a tussle between Sterling and Gomez in the England camp. Oh, and England qualified for Euro 2020 on Thursday in their 1,000 International match. However, away from the publicised news, there has been another matter that has kept on popping up on my social media...Roy Hodgson. Yep, that's right, four weeks after people were rejoicing about us being in 6th spot, now it's back to fans calling for Roy to go, blaming him for everything, criticising all he does, and of course, just straight up insulting him. So, as seems to be an annual thing, here I am, once again putting my tin hat on and going into the trenches to defend the man who is our manager.
Ok, so before I go into all this, let me at first say this. I understand that people are frustrated, I honestly do. I understand that people are frustrated because at times, such as the Chelsea game, we don't seem to have any intention of offering anything going forward. Trust me, I wish we could be like Leicester and just play with an attacking freedom, I honestly do. I also get that for some people, disliking Roy as our manager has been a long term commitment, not just a recent thing. No one, will ever please everybody, it just isn't possible, and I get that. Hell, like I have admitted before, there have been games in the past where I am scratching my head regarding substitutions or selection, just as much as everyone else. It can get really frustrating, of course it can. Hell, there will be games where City and Liverpool fans question the decisions of Guardiola and Klopp, and they adore their managers! That is football, it will never change. The thing is though, with me, I look at the bigger picture. I make my own assessment of the club, the players and where we are at, and then base my opinions of Roy on all of that. I may be right, I may be wrong, but they are my opinions. I write these 'defensive' articles not to try and make everyone change their opinion, because life doesn't work that way, and it isn't my place, but to provide an alternative view for fans to consider, if they so wish.
So many people now take to Facebook, or Twitter, and rant their frustration, only to then get their back up when someone else comes along and counters it. People moan, and make a point doing it, only when you then challenge it, they deny what they were saying and claim they weren't moaning. I am normally an incredibly negative person, it for some reason has just always been my nature. Yet, over recent years, especially since I have been writing for Back Of the Nest, the extreme negativity of some of our fans has actually driven me to be positive. I once had a full scale row with someone over Christian Benteke(about a year and a half ago). They were incredibly negative about him, and I am aware, that these days, who isn't. However, he wasn't being factual, or making structured points to explain his negativity, he just flowed with insults and one line complaints. It was this blind rage negativity, that made me defend Christian to the hilt, delving through stats and everything, in order to do so, even though I could understand the frustration!! That though, seems to be the way of it far too often these days. When Jordan Ayew signed in the summer, he was slated. However, his performances quickly turned that around and he was getting praised by everyone. Now, all of a sudden, some people are ripping him apart again. It's like people can't wait to have a moan.
So, let's start putting a bit of perspective on all of this. After twelve games, so nearly a third of the season, we are twelfth, with fifteen points. We are seven points above the relegation zone, and two points adrift of a Europa League spot. We have one game left in a five game run, that is seeing us take on the current top five teams in the league. Two weeks ago, after the first two of those games, we were still sixth!! The thing is, while we are playing the best teams, those below us are playing each other. Before this run, things were rosy among most fans, and rightfully so. The old posts were popping up of people saying they expect nothing from the next five games, that we just need to get through them and go for points afterwards. Again, makes sense. Anything gained in this period would be a bonus. However, fast forward a few weeks, and suddenly that is all forgotten, and people can't understand why we are losing to these high flying teams. I mean, come on.
The first of this run, was at home to City. On their day, they are just phenomenal and you don't want to be the next team to play them after they have lost a game, as Watford found out. City dominated, and were worthy winners. A great save from Edison prevented a Benteke goal, but realistically the right team won, no complaints. Then, with help from VAR, the 2-2 draw away to Arsenal. Yes, they are in a bad run, but in any season, a point at the Emirates is a good point. I have seen us go there in better form, and get turned over 4-1. The fact that Arsenal are the weakest team in this five game run, tells you how tough this run is. Then, it was Leicester. On the journey there, I was listening to Talksport do the build up. It was forty minutes of non-stop talk praising Leicester. It showed just how little anyone outside of Palace, thought about us that day. Yes, we took a 2-0 loss. However, personally, had it finished 0-0, I think it would have been a fair result. We played decent, and neither team really outshone the other. At 0-0, Ayew missed a great chance. I still also feel that Evans was luck to not get sent off. Then, a corner skews off PVA's head, and they get the goal. A bit of fortune with the deflection, and then we were chasing the game. On the day, the difference was that they were clinical. But then, they have had the money to build a team, a good scouting network, and a top striker in Vardy. Then, of course last week was the 2-0 loss away to resurgent, in form Chelsea, albeit in a nonexistent attacking performance by us. The run has been tough, one point from twelve, with two scored and eight conceded. I can't imagine it is going to get much better next week, as undefeated, runaway leaders Liverpool come to town. But isn't all this pretty much expected? Sure, we would have loved a bit more than we have managed, but hands up how many people truly thought we would do any better? I mean, I have seen people basically say that every point gained, every win we have had, was because our opponent was terrible, not because we were good. So how on earth can those people think that, and then expect anything better than what this five game period has brought us?
I honestly think that people need to calm down a little. Just take a step back, and breathe. After Liverpool, we have a run of games that could, and I mean could, bring us some points and wins. We could go into Christmas in the top eight, or the top six, if we deliver in those games. At the very least, we could go into Christmas beyond the twenty point mark, which would be a welcome rarity for us. All these, for me, are positives. I look back at the summer, at the day we got pulled apart by Hertha Berlin at Selhurst, and I am amazed we have got to where we are.
It was a summer that saw us sell AWB, and not replace him. In fact, we failed to strengthen almost every area that needed it. When we lined up against Everton, with a backline of Ward, Kelly, Dann and PVA(three of which were our 2014/15 backline), no new striker, and a want-away Wilf, I genuinely feared the worst. Even more so, after the poor performance 1-0 loss away to Sheffield United. Yet, we have gone on to pick up our first ever wins at Old Trafford and The London Stadium(against a West Ham at the time unbeaten since the opening day). We spent several weeks, hanging around in the top four. Normally, we have already made a nest in the bottom three going into the first International break, but this season, as we go into the third break, people are angry because we have dropped out of the top ten for the first time in quite a while.
Like I said, we need some perspective. The fact is, Roy isn't going to bring you grade A attacking football like Klopp or Guardiola does, but he will get you the only win for any Premier League team at the Etihad in a season. It won't always be pretty, hell at times it will be damn ugly, but it will be effective. That is what Roy brings you. We haven't scored much this season, but then before this run of five games, we had one of the best defensive records in the league. Roy brings clean sheets, and clean sheets bring points. You also need to look at the options Roy has available to him. Given what he has done for us, he has earned the right to be backed by the board in the transfer market, yet realistically it just hasn't happened. For me, Parish knows that in Roy, he has a safe pair of hands to keep us up, while he attempts to sort out the behind the scenes matters, such as the academy, and balancing the books. In all honesty, he has probably taken advantage of Roy a little, and a lot of other managers wouldn't have put up with it.
I mean, come on. Roy has been left with one right back(our second choice for the last 18 months), and one left back, who is massively struggling without competition to push him. We are flush in centre backs, as we have five, yet only one of them in Cahill, hasn't been injured yet this season. Wilf wanted to leave, he still does, and I think it isn't helping his game. Unlike other players you get, I don't think Wilf is intentionally not playing to his highest level, he just isn't that kind of guy. However, I think the failure to move hurt him, and probably mentally affected him more than any of us realise, and so I think it is subconsciously affecting his game. Mind you, we still have no direct cover for him, or Townsend, just like last season. We have also failed to provide him strength up front. Connor Wickham, sadly, is a write off. Christian Benteke just looks done, he looks finished, probably mentally, a little physically and in terms of luck. Ayew, on the other hand, has been a shining ray of light, but he is not an out and out striker, and our lack of that has taken its toll. On top of this, Luka basically admitted he wanted a move to a big club, but none came in for him so he signed a new deal. Supposedly, he was unhappy with the lack of investment. Parish keeps asking Roy to deliver survival, but never gives him a full toolkit to do it. Like I said, perspective. It's like asking someone to put a picture on the wall, and giving them the nail and the frame, but not the hammer, so they have to find alternatives to make do. In my opinion, Roy is making do. I think he knows where our weaknesses are, and so sets us up to try and hide them. We don't have a bench full of game changers, and strength in depth to freshen things up, so instead he makes us solid, tough and a team that grinds out results. Personally, I would rather we do it that way and get points, then all out attack and get nothing. We tried that with Pardew, and he damn near ruined us.
Just look around us, look at some of the other teams, and then ask yourself if we really have it that bad currently? Most neutrals would say that last season's FA Cup finalists Watford have a better squad, yet it took them 12 games to get their first league win. Everton have spent something like £200m on their squad in the last few seasons, yet have been flirting with the bottom three. Not long ago, Southampton were the blueprint for how all non top six teams should be, and now they are in relegation trouble. Newcastle spent something like £70m in the summer, but have found life very tough. Man United, have only just over taken us. Spurs, continue to be below us. Then, of course, there is West Ham. They too have spent a lot of money, and were tipped for top six to eight, and look how they are struggling currently. It is all about perspective.
Roy is doing what he can, with what he has, and at times he probably overachieves. He is stubborn, he is set in his ways, and he can be infuriating, but after the career he has had, he has earned the right to be that way, especially when it is bringing results. While some people seem hell bent on hating every moment Roy is here, for me, he has delivered some of the best moments since our promotion in 2013. Not only that, but we have felt more stable under his tenure, than at any other point in the Premier League. The time will come, when all the complainers will get their way, and Roy will leave. What worries me, is that our stability will leave with him. We are at our best, with defensive grinders like Tony Pulis, like Sam Allardyce and like Roy, at the helm. Silky football is a dream that only a few can truly pull off.
Roy may not be the best, he may have his moments, but he has been excellent for us, and deserves better than some of the garbage and vitriol I see on social media. So please, take a little perspective, cool it down, and let's see where the wind takes us after Liverpool.