West Ham had a ‘save our season’ day a couple of months ago for their must-win against Wigan. Sadly they won and lo, their season was saved (why bother playing on?). How a club that resorts to such desperate marketing to fill Upton Park plans to fill Stratford is moot. But my point is that last night’s game had a ‘save our season’ feel to it for us.
The transfer window has seen the elite flex its muscles. Torres, Luiz, Dzeko. The only exception is Arsenal. With the retirement of Gary Neville even Man Utd have strengthened considerably.
Liverpool have also made a statement, spending £1.5million to replace an unhappy, want-away star (and an unhappy, want-away Ryan Babel) with two young international strikers of great promise. It doesn’t sound so crazy when you put it like that, does it?
And what have we been doing whilst all this cash has been liberally splashed around? Buying Steven Pienaar on a free and going three league games without a win. Crashing out of the FA Cup and making silly bids for every single striker in La Liga, Charlie Adam and the last Neville.
It’s been depressing. The window shuts and we are left on the outside looking in, nose pressed against the pane like a small Victorian child in a simile I haven’t fully thought through. Suddenly a proper gap appears between fourth and fifth, and we aren’t fourth. Is it time to look down as much as up at our real competitors? Then an injury crisis hits, taking with it our two key players. A 4-0 thrashing followed by a tricky away game against a gritty resurgent Blackburn. Last night threatened to “sink our season”.
It’s amazing what a win can do. Or rather a win and a draw, because all of a sudden its only five points and a game in hand behind City. I’ve been unwavering, of course, in my conviction that when it comes to rivals for fourth – it’s all about City.
From what I could tell, it was a classic away performance. January wasn’t a complete write-off as we appear to have unearthed a gem of a player – some tall fella who is great in the air and can score goals. Don’t know who he is but let’s see more of him. Once we got the early goal it was a case of playing sensibly, at times defending desperately and looking dangerous on the break. Lennon in particular caused problems again, all the more surprising given that he’s been shunted to the left in the absence of Wonderbale. His one man break from penalty box to penalty box in the second half was breathtaking. A perfect lay off to leave Defoe one-on-one with spurs legend Robinson and the little man did what we all know he does so well – fluffed his lines. Zero premiership goals and counting, Jermain? Snap. Still – a couple of crackers against Charlton in the cup the other week, so mustn’t grumble.
But really – I mustn’t. We were holding on last night, and Gomes was MOTM which tells a story. But this is exactly what we needed. Our goal-shy forwards managed to be… well, forwards. It’s a start. They are never going to be top four class but I’ve always said they are top six class. Now they need to show it by going on a three or four month purple patch. They can drop back to their true level next season when they come off the bench to give Aguero and Cavani a rest every so often..
We may not have splashed the cash, but this team came fourth last year. Without Modric for a few months. With Bale a curse for the first half of the season. With Palacios off form. With defensive injury crises a-plenty. With Man City looking like they had the upper hand. Without Rafa van der Vaart. With Peter Crouch. Yeah, it’s all about City for fourth. Unless we make it all about us. Its not as glamourous as £35million strikers, but grit and determination go a long way. They did last season, and they did last night.
Dare to dream. Dare to do. Season saved.