It is fair to say that the brand of football we are playing at the moment is not in the same league as the stuff we were playing for the first few months of the season, but the question I pose today is, why do we care as long as we keep winning?
In my memory very few teams have been able to play an exciting and expansive style throughout an entire season, really the only club to manage it was Arsenal in their heyday and look what has happened to them. Even our near neighbours have made a habit of grinding out wins when things are getting difficult, so why should we worry?
Last night against Wigan there was an attitude from some that we could just turn up and roll them over 3 or 4 nil, I admire that confidence and obviously that would have been fantastic, but in reality that was never a foregone conclusion. In recent weeks the Lancashire side have been in a pretty dire run of form, and they haven't won at home for quite some time now. In the middle of this poor patch though, they have drawn at home with both Liverpool and Chelsea, teams that have given us problems over recent weeks, they may be rooted to the bottom of the table, but they do know how to spoil the party. Top against bottom matches don't always end in the mauling that many think they will.
On the pitch somethings were excellent, Edin Dzeko was superb and I thought once he scored what was a really nice goal you could see the confidence flowing through him again, he must start on Sunday. He held the ball up superbly, won everything in the air and put in a real shift to help out his team mates, if it weren't for a greedy finish to a superb run by Aguero in the second half he would have had a 2nd. He was also unlucky with a delicate curling effort that was superbly saved by Al-Habsi.
It was also great to see Silva back in the team, he may not have been at his glittering best but he offers so much, we are really not the same team without him. I also felt it was a much more improved performance from Samir Nasri, he again was neat and tidy with the ball, he hardly ever gave it away and used the ball effectively. At times he slowed the game down a bit too much but I am sure that with time that will improve, he may be experienced in the Premier League but that doesn't mean he doesn't need time to adapt to a new team.
The downside for me was the back line, or to be precise the centrebacks. Generally Zabs and Clichy did a good job in the full back areas but Lescott and Savic really struggled and to be quite honest we need our captain back as soon as possible. It isn't that either of them are bad players, Savic has bags of potential and for me Lescott has been superb this season, I just feel they need a calming influence and a communicator alongside them, without Kompany in the backline there is no real organisation. Victor Moses gave us problems all night long, neither of the centrebacks seemed to know how to deal with him and they continually dropped off, this invited a lot of pressure. It may be time for a rethink on Sunday against Spurs, granted they won't have Adebayor, but it might be time for Richards to switch to centre back with Zabaleta retaining his place at full back.
What of the bigger picture though? I have always said that January was going to be a particularly difficult month, Yaya Toure is clearly a massive loss and his influence is lacking in the midfield, as well as Milner and Barry are playing they don't offer us what the big Ivorian did. The loss of Kolo hitting harder than expected too with the loss of Vincent Kompany. I always said that there was a big chance we would fall behind United in January, I felt that if we could stay no more than 3 points behind them we had a great chance of crossing the line in first place, well so far things are much better than that. We have 1 more league game this month (and Everton on the 1st) and we lead by 3 points with a far superior goal difference, yes it was a shame being knocked out of the FA Cup and we still may exit the League Cup, but in terms of league performance things are looking good.
It is vital I think that we don't panic over what is a clearly dip in performance levels, we are without 3 of our most influential players, something that any time would struggle to overcome and for the Liverpool game it was 4! Spurs is clearly a huge challenge on Sunday, and we will have to improve if we are going to win that game, I am sure we will raise ourselves but it could still go either way, a win and everything looks fantastic, a defeat would mean United could close the gap again, but do not underestimate their trip to the Emirates they are not guaranteed anything there, if we can win at half 1, the pressure on them will be immense when they kick off at 4.
Granted we aren't hitting the high levels of the first few months, but if we win games does it really matter? Very few teams would be capable of hitting those heights throughout the entire campaign, if this is our 'bad patch' i'll definitely take it!