Shane Long-Impressed so far
When we saw the fixtures, it was obvious we were going to have a pretty tough opening month. Other than being away at Manchester United instead of at home, you couldn’t have had a more difficult two games to kick off with, so realistically none of us really expected too much from those two games. Being optimistic you might have looked for a point from the home game, but losing both games was no great surprise.
The disappointment against both Manchester United and Chelsea was conceding goals so late on to lose the games, but to then compound that by doing the same against Stoke, Roy Hodgson will have been very frustrated by that.
With a bit more good fortune, and a bit better concentration, we could be sitting on three points and, while at this stage of the season the table really isn’t that important, it would still feel much better to have points against your name!
The positive side of things is that the performances have been good, against both United and Chelsea and, by all accounts, for the first 45 minutes or so against Stoke. In that sense, there’s a lot to be optimistic about, and you have to take a lot of confidence from giving the top two teams from last season a real fright.
Losing to Stoke is the one that’s taken the edge off a good month really, but I suppose as Albion supporters we shouldn’t be too surprised about that result anyway given our record! They’re always a tough proposition because of the way they play, but you look at where you think they’ll finish, somewhere around the middle, and you don’t want to lose to teams like that at home. A draw wouldn’t have been a disaster, we’d have been on the board and we move on.
Coming back to when the fixtures came out, you kind of wrote off the first two and felt as if the season starts with Stoke, then there are the fixtures at Norwich and Swansea with Fulham to follow, which is a reasonable run by Premier League standards. But having lost to Stoke, although it seems daft to be talking about pressure after three games, having no points does just give those upcoming games a slightly different complexion now.
Zoltan Gera-Good signing
We’re fortunate in that regard that Roy has got so much experience, been there, seen it, done it, that he’ll keep things on an even keel. Players aren’t daft, they know they’ve played well, they know the basis of good performances are there, that they haven’t really had the breaks, they’ve made a few small mistakes they need to stamp out. Perhaps having the international break gives them a breather mentally as much as anything, so they come back to it with those first three games off their minds and ready to start afresh. It’ll also give Odemwingie and Gera a chance to get fit – their absence has been felt in the three games because they will be important players for us.
Zoltan is a good signing, we know all about him, but the two lads that have come straight in the team show that they’ll strengthen us from last season as well. Everybody knows about Ben Foster’s quality and he’s been a very good capture for us as he will prove over the course of the season, I’m sure. Shane Long has impressed so far, I like the look of him. He looks good with his back to goal, holds it up well, he worries defenders when he runs at them and most important of all for a striker,
he’s scored two goals already. He had a bit of fortune against Manchester United but he was brave enough to chance his arm and got his reward for it. The goal against Chelsea was an excellent one. He anticipated there could be something on, won the ball, held off a very good defender, there was still a way to goal, plenty to do, but he produced a very composed finish, so all the signs at this stage are good.
Probably the biggest concern now is that we have a relatively thin squad by Premier League standards, and we need a bit of fortune when it comes to injuries, just as we had last season. If we were to suffer the way that Sunderland did last season for example, that would make life much tougher, which is something supporters don’t always take into account. But if you lost three or four big players for any length of time, it can have a big impact on any of the teams in the bottom half and you just hope that doesn’t happen to us. If we can dodge those kinds of problems, I think we can be pretty optimistic about our prospects for the season.
Next page: WBA V Fulham