shot by both sides

Martin Jol's position is not an enviable one at the moment.
Peter Lis looks at the way it might go.


Five games in and our results pretty much reflect the turmoil at the club both on and off the pitch.  Both Levy and Jol stand accused of a certain degree of naivety when it comes to man management issues.  For the former to be exposed in attempting to engineer a managerial coup is on a par with some of BMJ's most recent substitutions: both did what they felt was right at the time and for commendable reasons, as both have the club's progress at heart.  But feeling has to be tempered with clear thinking, especially at this level when so much is at stake. 

There's something about the ten game mark in the Premiership that appeals to most people as an indicator of how things are going to pan out for the season and I hope Jol gets at least that long.  By that time (irritating international breaks notwithstanding) teams have had a chance to bed in newcomers and generate a team pattern and to show what they can do.  Early season flukes and upsets start to be seen for what they are: aberrations.  Manchester City fans can see this happening already and I doubt whether Mourinho will be losing much sleep over the defeat to Villa on Sunday.  The Sunderland result was strangely reminiscent of the embarrassment at Carlisle back in the Seventies.

Berbatov has started to play like he did last year although, worryingly, that smile of content has yet to be seen, even after scoring.  The team play for long stretches against Man Utd. and Fulham was exhilarating, with Bale the catalyst for all that has been good over our last 180 minutes.  Malbranque was the width of a post away from making it 4-1 at Fulham and Keane also hit the bar at The Theatre of Prawns before the locals had roused themselves.  Take away both Smertin's and Nani's deflected shots and that would be at least three extra points on the board leaving us well placed.  And let's not get started on refereeing decisions ... let's hope the old cliché that it all balances out over the season comes true. 

Results and bizarre defending (copyright THFC ad infinitum) apart there's not a lot wrong with the team.  Bale gives us balance and the midfield is ticking over nicely.  Berba's goal will inspire others as well as doing his self-confidence a power of good.  Dawson will be back for the Arse and he and Kaboul will be a formidable partnership once they learn each other's ways.  Robinson will benefit from the break, especially if he sits out the internationals coming up : he could learn a lot from David James about how to cope with adversity.  JD, like Jol, can only gain from deciding to stay and tough out the difficult situations they find themselves in.  It would nice (in the original sense of the word) if Defoe were to score the winner against Arsenal a week Saturday, redeeming both himself and his manager with a precise finish. 

Europe was a springboard for our achievements last year and it could well be again this season.  The draw against the Cypriot side was, arguably, the first bit of luck we've had this year.  Even with Marian Pahars, they should be clinically despatched giving the team and our manager a much needed distraction and change of pace from the Premiership.  Middlesbrough also should not present any fears, especially at home, allowing us to progress in the Carling Cup. 

Of the upcoming Premiership games, we are capable of taking maximum points from the Arsenal and Villa home games and away at Bolton.  Draws at both Liverpool and Newcastle would be good results.  That would give us 15 points after ten games, and see us safely through to next rounds of both cup competitions, enough to guarantee Jol his job.  To achieve that with both the board and his critics sniping at him would qualify him for the football equivalent of the Victoria Cross. 

I hope he makes it through the no man's land he currently finds himself in to a place of safety : to be cut down by 'friendly fire' is a dreadful way to go.


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