Bruce is walking the tightrope for me. Straight on to another huge game against Fulham. A win would go some way to proving we can mix it with the better teams in this league - which is by far and away the biggest question mark right now for me. A draw and it's another tentative step along the tightrope. Lose it and he may well need to go to the sty and win to keep his job. Still very fine margins at the moment and all of our own making. There's still work to be done to make up for the poor start.
I am glad we have some width and some competition for places when everyone is fit out wide but in the middle our central midfield is still our weakness. Those looking in will see Hourihane's return and think we're ok but we know different. I think the 'Lampard of the Championship' is a good comparison. Not that I'm knocking Hourihane, but for me our problems in the middle - obviously highlighted on the weekend - are that we lack anyone with any real on the ball ability and someone who - like Neves did - can run the show. Still never replaced Milner in that regard. The problem that leaves us with is having to pack the midfield with bodies and how we generally struggle to create much with 1 up top.
The way we tail off in the second half of games is still worrying, whatever is said about improvements in fitness. Personally I feel we spend so much time chasing the game that we're up against it from the start "they can't keep this up for 90 minutes Cotton" although in fairness it's been a high pressing game that's beaten the lower teams. Our away form needs to improve. 7 points from 6 games on the road so far (W2-D1-L3). It will be easier to point at the opposition and make a case for us playing decent teams away from home if we prove it's an anomaly and only then. At the moment we've lost 50% of our away games, plain and simple. And like I said earlier, we need to beat some of the top half teams. Fulham, Preston away and Sheffield Wednesday all up in the next 5 games Ipswich, Leeds and Sheffield Utd in the bunch after them. At the moment our record is (W1-D2-L2) and the solitary win against Norwich looks a little lonely.
Of the remaining 11 games in the first half of the season I'd say Preston and Leeds away and Sheffield Utd at home look tricky as does the Fulham game imo but hardly unwinnable any of them. 33 points on offer. he needs 27 of them to catch up to any mystical 2 point average by then.