but I felt that the lack of pace/running with the ball was the real issue at home last season rather than the tactics and with adding Gray plus Doucoure being fit we have addressed that somewhat.
We did have a great away record last year and I'm not ready to revert back to the Moyes/Koeman mindset of everywhere being a hard place to get a result.
I'm not expecting us to challenge for the title but 60+ points should be eminently achievable.
The underperformance was a collective lack of balls and tactical nous in the c70% of games that we played against teams outside of the top sides. If anything I thought we OVER performed in games against many of those ‘big’ teams.
But we have weaknesses at both centre back and centre mid, as well as a lack of real starting level quality at right back and right midfield. None of that was addressed in the summer. We did add much needed pace (Gray) to play on the left, and a solid squad player (Townsend) to fill in at right mid, but we’re still four players short of a truly competitive first eleven. And that’s before you get to the still bloated (and still mostly shite) squad options.
In the meantime, we’ve lost what little attacking midfield goal threat we had (James and Sigurdsson). There’s few goals in this team at the best of times; those two - if fully fit over a season - would be worth 15-20 goals between them.
United, on the other hand, added Ronaldo, Sancho and Varane this summer to an already exceptionally strong squad. As I say, my benchmark is not that level. But neither should it be Norwich, Watford, Burnley et al, either (altho when we’re missing key players like we were today, when we’re already four players off of a competitive starting eleven, I’m fine with us eking out the occasional result).
Again, for me, we’re in that mid pack with Villa, Spurs, Arsenal, Leicester, West Ham, maybe Leeds. Those are the games I’m comparing us in. But I’m happy to see us play smarter, more cohesive football than we have done in years - even if it’s not at Martinez’s (rare) scintillating finest, there have been more enjoyable watches than most of last season AND we’re actually getting results (vs playing truly dour football and still losing).
I said at the start of the season we’ll be a 9th-12th placed team based on the holes we didn’t fix in the starting eleven and the almost complete lack of backup in reserve. I still think that’s our likely ceiling/floor but we’re doing a better job of putting away the dross in the division than we have in years so I’m happy that Benitez is, at least, addressing that underperformance. I can’t see it getting much better without (much) better recruitment than we’ve seen over most of the last seven+ years but it’s a start and suggests we finally have a manager who’ll at least get the sum out of the parts at our disposal.
and the squad was bloated.
We kept everyone from last season's squad that we wanted to keep plus added much needed pace.
We also no longer need to try to accomodate a "lazy prima donna" per numerous posters.
In addition, we now have a manager who is animated on the touchline, makes tactical tweaks constantly, and is involved with everything at Finch Farm rather than the previous incumbent who had apparently lost interest/can only whisper to galacticos/no tactical ability.
So why is that we are being told that pragmatism is the order of the day, that Rafa has earned our trust if we finish top half and that our squad is useless and we should be satisfied with an ugly performance against comfortably the worst team in the league ?
At least in the Moyes pragmatism era he had actually had to deal with having his best players sold from under him. What Benitez views as his key players are all still at the club (for now).
Old Trafford is a big bunch of whatever as far as I’m concerned. West Ham with a fullish squad is the target and the truer test of who we are.
QPR was disappointing but more a reflection of the squad.
13 from those 6 games is right up there with the best most would have hoped for. Far from sexy but the smartest football we’ve played in a long time. It’s Moyes-esque in its pragmatism and I’m here for it
should have taken all 3 off Leeds tbh, but cant be unhappy with the start to the season
Cup exit annoying, but definitely a case of too many injuries and fitness