While the start to the season hasn’t been as spectacular as we all hoped, there are definite signs that we are heading in the right direction. Both away games at Wolves and Forest could easily have ended with much more positive results with at least four one-on-ones with goalkeepers being spurned. On another day they would probably have gone in and we may well have been sitting with twelve points instead of six.
One very positive sign that Garry Monk has done good business so far was the Carabao Cup result and performance against Scunthorpe in which the team – showing ten changes from the one that had been used over the first four games – comfortably won with some great movement and three excellent goals. If nothing else it showed that the likes of Lewis Baker and Ashley Fletcher are certainly good enough for a league start.
Once again, the Marmite-like Adama Traore (you either love him or hate him) has shown in the last couple of outings that regardless of many people harping on about his ‘end product’ he has a lot to offer. I would gladly pay to watch his pace and movement any time and he showed against Forest he can frighten defenders to death! Also very impressive on the night was the performance of youngster Marcus Tavernier who certainly didn’t look out of place on his first team debut. Unlike Karanka, it appears that Garry Monk is more than willing to give the kids a try if they look good enough.
It all suggests that in the heat of the cramped Championship season we have plenty of options right across the park and when the inevitable injuries and sudden loss of form arrive there are certainly players to come into the important positions. The next week or so will define what the final squad will be but if no one else comes in and we retain the current players (though Stewart Downing is the most likely to depart at this point) then I for one would remain quite confident that we will be thereabouts at the end of the season.
But there’s a long, long way to go and while the start of the campaign is always fraught with the danger of remarkable upsets (I give you Chelsea v Burnley as a great example), there has been enough to show that we have nothing to fear over the coming months. That somewhat overused word consistency really is the key, but we’ve seen many times in the past that putting three or four good results together makes an enormous difference when you view the league table. Let’s hope they’ll come against Preston, Bolton, Villa and QPR. Good results against those four will set us up nicely!