Four to the floor

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{mosimage}So, the season has been up and running for over a month and, strangely, most top flight clubs have managed to squeeze in four league games in-between the shabby internationals, pointless (but potentially fruitful) trips to Europe and general silliness that accompanies the start of any season these days.

There may have been a fair bit of football played, but apart from confirming that the ‘top four’ will in all likelihood be the top four teams again this term, little else has been proved, let alone the fortunes of the club that unites us all here in frustration.

Latics have had a mixed bag all-in. They’ve played one of the top teams, a relegation favourite, one of the potential European contenders and Sunderland, who’ve spent enough money to keep an Investment Bank afloat but without any guarantees of goals and good football, let alone any success.

If the fixture computer has given us an almost perfect cross section of this wonderful division then Latics have served back an equally mixed bag of results. There’s been plenty of positives along the way but just as much to worry about, all punctuated by, possibly, the most disappointing deadline day of recent years.

Everything kicked off with a mugging in the East End, Paul Scharner was ten minutes late back from his hols and Latics were two down before you could work out how to say Amr. Our Egyptian mucker announced himself in find style as Latics took over proceeding, but it proved too little too late to prevent yet another opening day loss.

I’m fairly convinced that games against the top four sides only exist so the the world has the chance to patronise clubs like Latics, you know, to give us the opportunity to try, valiantly, against the odds to ‘pull one out of the bag’ and fail so that Richard Keyes can turn to Jamie and pretend that fat Frank and his boys got off the hook there.

And so it proves to be. The cameras are at the JJB, Deco grabs an early one and Latics flap about manfully for eighty-odd minutes. On first view, the pats on backs are deserved but we all know, deep down, that Chelsea are capable of better and would have probably showed up just how much, had Latics had the temerity to score.

Next up it was a trip to the end of the world (what, it carries on past the end of the M62? On way!) and, supposedly, the worst performance of the season. Of course, you’re allowed to make such ridiculous statements when you’ve just stuck five goals past someone especially when there’s a grain of truth in there.

Previous games had seen Latics create chances without taking them, in this one it was much more straightforward as everything they hit went in. Five chances, five goals and little point in debating whether they were well earned or given away the fact is that Hull were well beaten and the three points more important than the goal difference, at this stage in the season at least.

By this stage, we’d already had an International and the minor distraction of a Carling Cup tie, but the win was more than welcome as we headed, no longer pointless into the abyss of the first bone fide international break of the season and the rebirth of an national hero (maybe).

So off the squad went on it’s merry way to Andorra and all points beyond, some came back earlier, but for the South/Central American mob it was a late dash in for the Sunderland game.

… and you could tell.

There was more than a touch of tiredness about proceedings at the JJB. Less of the slogging through mud, legs turning to Jelly tiredness that we remember from cup ties of the past, more a mental lethargy that lead to one side sitting back on a lead whilst the other kept banging it head on the same brick wall, trying to get through and just about managing it late on.

Who knows what would have happened if Titus hadn’t found the back of his own net, but yet again the game saw Latics on the back foot early on, only to come out on top as things progressed. Comparisons with last season’s game at the Stadium of Light are obvious but without Latics losing, or Craig Gordon making any world class saves, but you see where I’m coming from.

Four games in, isn’t enough to judge a season on, but as things stand it’s all I’ve got, so I’ll stick my neck out and say that things are going to be alright… maybe.

Who can tell? The impact of Zaki, tied to the continued form of Palacios and Valencia is all well and good but there’s a great deal of uncertainty when you scratch the surface. Numbers are light right through the middle of the team and an injury here and a suspension there would soon have the team and squad looking fairly threadbare.

Still, a point a game is a decent enough start, and should we keep the team together then they may just have gelled by the time that I get to my first game (current ETA ‘boro on 4th October). If things carry on the positive line then whispers of us not bothering with a relegation battle might not be that far off the mark.

Then again, this is Latics and things don’t always pan out the way they could…

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