This season so far has been one of several highs but quite a few lows. All in all, we probably deserve to be where we are in the table, although it could have been very different – both positively and negatively. I think we all feared the worst when we lost our first few games, yet in December we all got carried away and there was talk of getting into the top seven. Since then we’ve shown some very inconsistent form, which included the humiliation of being dumped out of the FA Cup by AFC Wimbledon. Mind you, it saved us having to host Millwall this weekend. I dread to think what the consequences of that would have been A lucky escape, indeed.
Given our terrible injury record, it’s quite remarkable we have reached mid table mediocrity. How many teams could afford to lose Lanzini, Yarmolenko, Reid, Wilshere and Sanchez for the whole season and then on top of that lose Arnautovic, Cresswell, Balbuena, Carroll, Fredericks and Hernandez for parts of the season too? Not many.
There have been a number of keys to our recent more successful form. The first is the partnership if Balbuena and Diop, who came to look as if they had been playing together for years. The sooner Balbuena comes back, the better. Secondly, the form of both Fabianski and Declan Rice has been outstanding. I can’t remember either of them having a bad game. In addition, after a very shaky start Felipe Anderson is now showing that he can be the player we all hoped he would be. He’s still too inconsistent but has started scoring some very welcome goals. Michail Antonio is also coming back into form after struggling with injuries for far too long.
Our weaknesses remain at left and right back. We’ve looked better since Aaron Cresswell has returned to the team. He may not be as adventurous as Masuaku, but Masuaku is simply not a defender and takes too many risks. On the other side Ryan Fredericks has had a difficult start, but against Liverpool we saw the first signs that he can do the job he was bought to do. Zabaleta never lets anyone down but I suspect he will call it a day at the end of the season.
So far, we have played 26 games and bagged 33 points. Assuming we continue with that average points haul we’ll end up with 48/49 points.
We have home games against Fulham, Newcastle, Huddersfield, Everton, Leicester, Southampton
And away we have Manchester City, Cardiff, Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs, Watford
I reckon we’ll get 17-20 points from those games, predominantly from the home games. That would put us on 50-53 points, which I suspect most of us would settle for as of today.
Quite a few players will be playing for their place next season. Others may have already mentally departed. I fear that Arnautovic may fall into that latter category. I fear Michail Antonio doesn’t see his future at the London Stadium either.
The message is that even though we’re certainly not going to be relegated and we won’t be challenging for a European place, the final 12 games of the season are going to see some interesting developments.