As if our run of fixtures was not difficult enough, we had to get a current top four team in Liverpool as our next opponents in the FA cup.
Surely the footballing gods could squeeze in some extra Real Madrid and Barcelona away fixtures somewhere in our schedule just for good measure. But it is what it is, we know what we have in front of us and we will have to somehow deal with February and March's reality.
Individually I think we can take on and beat anyone of those teams we have to face, especially if we defend in the manor we have done up to now. The quality of our squad for me isn't the issue, it is the amount of difficult fixtures in such a short space of time. We have had at least two clusters of difficult fixtures so far this season.
Liverpool (h), Dortmund (a) and Manchester United (a)
After picking up 6 out of 6 in our first two games we visibly looked short of our best physically at Old Trafford and we lost. Those three fixtures were played over an 8 day period and it was too much.
In December we had a run of fixtures that consisted of Everton (h), Napoli (a) and Manchester City (a) over 6 days.
I don't think it is much of a coincidence that we were out of sorts against Manchester City as we were in our previous trip to Manchester. Yes they are the strongest home side in the league to date but we didn't look a familiar side at all. There was space for us to exploit on that day if we had defended at the levels we have done many a game this season.
So how are we going to deal with a set of fixtures that will be equally as difficult on the pitch as they will be on paper.
Well I wonder if we are already trying to deal with those fixtures today. For weeks now we have raced into leads and then took our feet off the accelerator instead turning to our defensive organisation to see out games. Think back to the Coventry City game where we went into half time 2-0 up. With the quality we have we could have gone for their throats, pushed and pushed for more goals but we didn't. It looks as if the opposition have found a gear that we cannot handle when in fact we are allowing them the ball when we haven't in many first halves.
The team still have not conceded a goal at home since Everton scored a late equaliser all those weeks ago. We are not pressing all over the pitch trying not to allow these teams any time and space but instead we are dropping off and concentrating on our shape, which requires far less physical exertion.
I could be off the mark here but could we be saving our legs for very difficult fixtures in February and March.
Sat 08th Feb 14 Liverpool (a)
Wed 12th Feb 14 Manchester United (h)
14/15/16/17 Liverpool (h) - FA Cup
Wed 19th Feb 14 Bayern Munich (h)
Tue 11th Mar 14 Bayern Munich (a)
Sun 16th Mar 14 Tottenham Hotspur (a)
Sat 22nd Mar 14 Chelsea (a)
Sat 29th Mar 14 Manchester City (h)
I mean seriously, are they taking the Mick? What kind of fixtures are those? This is not even adding any further FA cup and Champions League fixtures should we progress in either or both competitions.
So yeah, it would make sense to have as many fresh and injury free players as possible for that period because we will have to increase our intensity if we are to win some/any of those fixtures. It would be great if we produced some Napoli (h) first half type performances over those games. It would be epic squad management if that was the actual plan.
Maybe it could be our *Rocky moment, you know when he is getting battered for all the early rounds and it looks like a matter of time before his camp throw the towel in but in Round March, Rocky (Arsenal) come roaring out screaming Adriannnn (Arseneeeee) smashing Clubber Chelsea in the face crunching Ivan City in the ribs. Or we could simply get
Wouldn't it be a laugh if we won all of those games 3-0? Haha etc. That said draws in the games against Manchester City and Chelsea wouldn't be so bad but you know that Tottenham would love to throw a spanner in the works.
If we are in touching distance at the end of March then we will have a great chance because our fixtures in the run in are pretty nice on paper at least. But hey, that is too far away into the future. The only fixture that matters to us now is getting some points at Southampton. A ground that is now a difficult place to get points.
More on that tomorrow.
Nothing much else going on at the moment. The Puma deal is hardly new news is it? I will write about Arsene's new contract when it happens but now I am putting my feet up before I go to bed.
* If you haven't heard of, or not seen the Rocky movies then there is something a bit wrong with you and I would advise seeking help.
PS - The new Puma home shirt is a bit sexy isn't it? *scary wildcat sound*