Despite the relative angst I’ve been feeling all year as we limp along, the future looks, well, I was going to say bright but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. However, for as frustrating as the first half of the season has been, we are actually doing fairly well. After all, who gives up their #1 scorer, a Balloon D’Or candidate, and maintains a pace similar to the year before? In fact, last year at this same point (after 24 games), we had 34 points to this year’s 38 points and had scored 39 goals to this year’s 48. We’ll keep in mind that seasons are difficult to compare; whom had we played and where by this point last year? A more energetic man than I would go through to compare. Maybe we had played more of the tougher opponents in our first 24 last year. Maybe I’ll go back and see…. For now, the tables are there for comparison. Can we count on Spurs to tumble as they did last year? Will Everton maintain its pace? Time will tell.
When van Persie left, we all felt predictable waves of despair and anger and worse. However, it must be said that, despite his own dithering over his contract this year, Mr. Walcott seems to be coming around. Sure, he still takes silly shots when he should really pass, and, yeah, he still insists on playing in a more central role when his skills are clearly better-suited to playing the wing. However, he has become is becoming a much-more consistent player, one who might even be on the verge of making teams worry when they see him. The offense itself seems to be rounding into form as well as Giroud settles in and defines his role and as Podolski and Cazorla gel with Wilshere, Walcott, and the rest. I still maintain that another striker should have been brought in. All the same, van Persie, for all of his goals last year, may have inhibited the development of other players. It’s similar to the effect Michael Jordan had or that Kobe Bryant has–they can score as often as they want, but other players need the ball at least once a while with a chance to score. We might be seeing that happen. Last year, van Persie scored 30, and our next-highest scorer was Walcott, with…8. Some guys pop more than eight shots per game. This year, Walcott already has 11, Giroud has 9, Cazorla has 8, and Podolski has 7. Did I mention that Walcott has only started in 13 out of 24 games? We’re not going to see any of these guys in the top five this year, but I’ll trade that for feeling more confident than I did last year when I think we can all remember how terrifying it was to watch Glass Joe carrying the offense. Every time that man leaned over more than 10 degrees, I feared that he would fall over and break a bone. This year, we can claim the double-advantage of (a) scoring more than last year, and (b) proclaiming as self-righteously as we want that we have a genuine team built on democracy and sharing and equality. We’ll have to proclaim that last bit kind of loud if we’re going to be heard. Man U is pretty far ahead of us.