After the Riverside

This is in response to Paul’s question about whether we want to win the Premier League this season.

Being a man who knows a good deal when he sees it, I have signed up to Setanta and saw the game. It was like one of those Bolton or Blackburn games of two years ago. Bustled off the ball, no fluency and precious little in the creativity department. Middlesbrough outfought us, but I think they also outplayed us.

I feel sorry for Eduardo, as his little run in the team has coincided with three quarters of the midfield supply line falling out sick.

The main problem on Sunday seemed to be fatigue. It is along time since I have seen the back line giving away so much before we could get as far as central midfield. They may have played too many games in the last couple of weeks. Or perhaps the players in front of them are not quite up to snuff. Senderos will probably get a run out against Bucharest, but we can’t risk him on Sunday in case Avram puts Drogba on with crutches. Pace wise that would probably be an even contest. Didier would still have the edge jumping for set plays.

I think Gilberto is at an age where he needs to be in the side regularly, or find another club. He takes rather too long to get into the pace of a game, and it would not do to remember him by the events of the last four games.

Of the five players we are missing at the moment (Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby and Van Persie) it appears that Hleb and Fabregas are regrettably the ones with the largest question marks against them for the Chelsea game. The other three should be in the squad for tomorrow. We could do with some of the first choices for Chelsea on Sunday. The nerves must be getting to me, as I have resorted to the bleedin’ obvious.

As we may be closer to challenging for the title than we have been since 2004, it will be interesting to see if Arsene adds to the squad in the window. He hasn’t done that significantly since Reyes. He usually states his intention not to add to the squad by this time of year, but I don’t recall him saying so this term. If there is money to spare, it will be a test of the faith he has in the current crop. As Toure and Eboue are going to Africa for the New Year, getting Djourou back from Birmingham (I think his loan deal runs out in January) is an absolute must.

To answer the question, yes I would like to win the Premier League. I don’t think a team can really choose when it is going to peak, and it would be best to stop thinking of our participation in this year’s league as some sort of trial run. To lose the league this season doesn’t necessarily mean we can win it next time. We will have another year’s experience , but so will everyone else. We can improve, but so can they. The only time in history is now. Arsene can build a team for the future, but a supporter can’t phase in his hopes in accordance with an agreed timetable. The Premier League are not going to leave a gap in the role of honour of winners just because we weren’t ready. So let us give it what I believe the Americans call our best shot.

We have gone head to head with two of our principal rivals and held our own. We have all tripped over a team that was supposed to be part of the crowd. As things stand, the top four are all doing what may have been expected of them.

The other three are as worried about us as we are about them. The doubts we may be feeling now are no different to those United felt when they started with so many draws, that Chelsea felt when they lost Jose, or those experienced by Liverpool fans when their starting line up is announced over the tannoy.

Take each game as it comes… Marathon not a sprint…blah, blah,

Etc. etc.