Date:Tuesday January 15 2008
It might seem odd that I label United 'frustrating' after the 6-0 demolition of Newcastle. But this very game triggered me to say that we seldom reach the heights that are capable of.
Of course I know that we won't destroy teams every other week, even with all the brilliant footballers we have available. But we were much more confident and imaginative during the autumn of 2006 than during the same period in 2007.
Ronaldo's brilliant, amazing form has saved us often and masked the inadequacies of the team's displays. Often we looked a bit out of steam, sometimes it seemed we are out of ideas, too.
Of course, occasionally everything clicked and then wonderful performances came, even without Ronaldo. The 4-1 drubbing of Villa and the same margin of victory against Boro was achieved without Ronaldo's goals and assists. We collected 7 points in 3 games against the other members of the Big Four and after the dreadful start (0-2-1) our record reads 16-1-2 in the last 19 games.
But why is it that though we have strengthened considerably over the summer, we looked less good than last season? I think it's not rocket science.
Firstly, new signings need time to gel. Tevez is a success with 10 Premier League goals to his name, Anderson's been a revelation so far, Hargreaves did well and Nani's shown glimpses of potential. However, the lack of understanding with their teammates was often apparent and though they did admirably well, they will get better.
But it is only a secondary reason. The primary cause of our sometimes below-par performances are clearly the injuries.
Consider the fact that Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, Owen Hargreaves, Ji-sung Park, Louis Saha, Darren Fletcher, Gary Neville, Mikael Silvestre and Ben Foster had to miss at least a month (but in most cases more than that) of competitive football because of health issues. Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Nemanja Vidic, Luis Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Ryan Giggs and Anderson also had to miss games but their injuries were only minor ones.
We expected to field Hargreaves much more often than it was possible because of his injuries. Louis Saha never recaptured his 2006 form but we all know he's capable of brilliant football. Nani should improve in the second half as the potential is there. Park has returned and could prove an asset and don't forget, soon we'll have our Ginger Ninja back.
Arsenal fans often ask that if our squad is indeed so good, why are we ahead only on goal difference? Well, the answers are listed above. If these problems ease and players like Hargreaves, Rooney and Scholes manage an injury-free run in the team, we'll display the advantages of having such a great squad. Rooney's hot scoring streak came when he finally managed to play 5-6 games in a row - he will do it again.
We have already seen what we are capable of - Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Wigan, Dynamo Kiev could all talk about it. All we need is more consistency not just in terms of result but in performances, too. Ronaldo will keep on being magnificent - it's just the rest has to catch up with him. They have to do nothing else than perform consistently the way we know they are capable to perform. And then it's hard to see us not having a successful season. After all, we are already top of the table with the most goals scored, fewest conceded, most wins recorded...
Date:Tuesday January 15 2008
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