So, won 3, drawn 3, lost 4. That’s the tale of the tape so far. It doesn’t really tell the whole story though does it? Pre-transfer deadline, there was the inauspicious start to the season (including that cup game), a "post-Antonio" glimpse (while Antonio was still wearing the Garibaldi) at what could be, with three of our most talented youngsters on the pitch and the actual "post-Antonio era" that for all the world points to our inimitable leader (that’s Mr Dougie not Fawaz) really knowing what he’s doing.
Relying heavily on one very talented player was never going to be a recipe for success. As far as I’m concerned, selling our prized asset – while seemingly fixing our transfer embargo issues – was the best thing we could have done for the club. So, he’d scored four goals in five games and we’re a bit light on the goal-scoring front at the moment. The improvement in team performance, organisation and shape on the pitch is gratifying to see and a direct result of us selling Antonio. It’s as if the mind-set has changed from "give it to Antonio" to "we’re going to have to play some proper football now".
There has been a palpable improvement in performances now we have a settled squad, with the new signings of O’Grady, Oliveira and Mendes in particular integrating into the starting eleven with positive effect. While some may feel Jonny Williams is somewhat underused at the moment, the whole squad have lifted their performances over the last five games, to a point where we felt a bit hard-done-by not to come away with three points from each game.
Great away wins at the media-darlings of QPR and (at the time) scoring in every game Birmingham showed a level of performance that, quite frankly, was a little surprising, taking into account our restrictions in squad improvement. That the last three games have only garnered one point is a travesty. A speculative (and what felt like their only) shot at Huddersfield robbed us of all three points in a game we dominated; this was a prime example of how well organised we could be.
As for the meetings against Champions-elect Middlesbrough and Premiership old-boys Hull, well we certainly put on a good show. Middlesbrough’s strength-in-depth was probably the telling factor – we won’t mention our Henri’s miss. As for Hull, well they showed all their Premiership nous to see out a 0-1 victory. That first 45 minutes was the best I’ve seen so far this season and demonstrated our game-on-game improvement going into the latest International Break.
For me, David Vaughan has been our most improved player since the beginning of the season, while my former favourite centre half has not exactly covered himself in glory with an agricultural "covering tackle" followed by a leading forearm straight out of WWE. Let’s hope Kelvin’s beast of a performance against Huddersfield was not a one match wonder and that Mendes continues in his current form to the point where we’re all asking "Michail who?" I think this will be the first season under Fawaz’s stewardship we have the same manager for the whole season and finishing in or around sixth is not something garnered from a mushroom-induced hallucination. We’re improving and shall continue to improve. Judge me after 10 games? Encouraging. The future’s bright. The future’s Garibaldi.