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By Mike Oates :  22/02/2009 :  Comments (0) :

Looking at the table tonight — post Newcastle, I for one would wager that the current Top 6 will be the Top 6 at the end of the season, not necessary in the same order as it is tonight with the notable exceptions that 1st will be Man Utd and 6th will be Everton. Most of you will say well you don’t need a degree to forecast this and I would totally agree with you.

Why do I make this forecast? — well, for the simple reason that Man Utd are simply the greatest by a country mile and the rest are merely good teams. The differentiator is that Man Utd have quality in numbers right from the back to front — they do not have to solely rely on one or two individuals to dictate/win matches. Whereas Liverpool are ordinary without Gerrard, Arsenal without Fabregas, Aston Villa without Barry, Chelsea without Essien, and unfortunately Everton without Arteta.

I went into today’s game with some trepidation merely because of our previous record at Newcastle, but I seriously hoped that to win and come away with 3 points would be the springboard to push (after Saturday’s results) for the 5th spot and maybe just maybe for the 4th spot as Villa might just have too much on over the next few weeks whilst clearly they are just starting a bad spell.

We have since the Spurs game found a system that has completely transformed our season — and the change was pushing Arteta into the middle to control our play — stop the hoofball, and start the floorball. As we all know we have managed in that time to have our best results against the Top 4/5, and by actually dominating the games for long periods. At 4:04 today our potentially glorious finish to the season has been seriously challenged. We, like Arsenal and Liverpool, have lost our playmaker, our controller and I don’t see anyone else in our squad capable of fulfilling the role.

I’m sure we have enough in the squad to remain in 6th and compete against most of the rest of the Premier League teams but we still have tricky away games at AV, Chelsea and Fulham!!, which — if we have any hopes of 4th or 5th — we need to win. We will also almost certainly face a Top 4 team in the FA Cup Semis assuming we have enough quality to see us past West Ham in the Quarter Final (I can't see Middlesborough getting through).

We are just in the process of getting a good squad together and discussions on most websites have been centered on getting a wide player with pace this summer but, as history has showed us (just last season) losing Arteta for any length of time is disastrous for us. Some might argue the case is just the same for Cahill and I wouldn’t disagree with that, except to say that Arteta has with his free-kicks, dead-ball play assisted in Cahill’s goal tally. I don’t see a stand-in for Arteta or a new midfield/forward system, which can get us by without him. I don’t think Ossie or Pienaar are physically strong enough to fulfil the centre role whilst they might have the skill and vision.

I am worried that Moyes might revert to the use of a centre midfield made up of a pick from Rodwell, Castillo, Neville, Fellaini — whilst all neat and tidy and better defensively, none have the skill, vision, creativity, quality to run a game.<

Suggestions welcome.

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