Good day to you, welcome back for the penultimate episode of Plug in Baby, named after a Muse song but also because I’ve used the same tactic for every single match as an experiment. Some would call that a plug and play tactic. Either way, it’s gone reasonably well, as we sit 6th with 12 games to go.
We’re also in the FA Cup quarter-finals, where a trip to Wolves awaits us later in this update.
First, though it’s West Ham, struggling West Ham, and even with Ayew and even with Vardy and Long sidelined, I’m sure we’ll get the job done. Okazaki is in, despite his transfer request, but it’s another striker who grabs the headlines. Iheanacho nets 4 times in a stunning display before being wrapped up in cotton wool and his replacement Niasse adds a 5th. When you’re hot, you’re hot.
As many as 107 passes? Fair enough.
Confidence is flowing through our veins. We’re in the top 4, though it’s a bit of a false position as the European competing clubs have games in hand. Yes, games plural. But off we go to Stoke and we’re ahead after just 3 minutes when Iborra heads in a corner. Good man. Darren Fletcher equalises with a fine shot from distance but Shinji, sweet wonderful sorry I ever doubted you Shinji makes it 2-1. Maybe we will finish in the top 4? Nope, Choupo-Moting equalises. Then, disaster. Jordan Ayew limps off. His broken toe will sideline him for a ridiculous three weeks. Strikers are dropping like flies.
An away draw is never a particularly bad result I suppose but when Adrien Silva is running nearly 15km I can understand why you’d want to win. He’s interesting Man Utd, which says a lot.
Watford away and with Kelechi joined by Shinji and now Niasse, you’d be forgiven for thinking our best days are behind us. But this tactic…it is better than the players. I am starting to think I could field Ali Dia and be a threat. Okazaki nets a hat-trick, Niasse scores in between and it’s 4-0. We go into preservation mode and Kiko Femenia scores a hat-trick. It’s in vain but…how? How is Kiko Femenia scoring a hat trick? I have no words.
Still, I was there the day Okazaki and Femenia both netted hat tricks.
We’re back at the KP. Remember when we never used to win at the KP? Southampton visit and they’re 8th. They are jealous, probably, that we’re in the top 6 mix. Also, Shinji Okazaki is a goal scoring machine. He scores after 3 minutes and Silva converts a pen on 22. A wonderful move ends with Ben Chilwell making it 3. He’s a great success story from all of this. Iheanacho adds a 4th very late on and we’ve scored 4 again. We’re on fire.
It has the potential to keep getting better. Swansea are our next visitors, they too sit struggling near the bottom of the table. Michael Appleton reckons the lads are looking complacent, but come on. You can hardly blame us. Even Niasse has looked half decent.
It’s 0-0 at halftime and you know, Appleton was right. Complacency all round. I bollock them and remind them we have a minimum standard – 4 goals at home or else. Iheanacho scores after 51 minutes to settle us down and then nothing happens for THIRTY-FOUR minutes. Then Iheanacho scores his 2nd and 3rd before Chilwell gets his now customary goal. It is 4-0, somehow.
Lovely stuff then and the perfect set up for the Wolves game. I’d like to be in the semis of the cup, I feel silverware or at least a final is the least we deserve. Maybe that’s a bit self-entitled. Anyway, after injuring a couple of Wolves players early doors we fall behind. No big deal, we’ll be back. Sure enough, the returning Jordan Ayew equalises on 44 and then puts us in front in first-half stoppage time. Easy.
Except it’s not. Straight after halftime, Ayew’s off injured again. Jordan man. Wolves are buoyed by one of our remaining goal threats limping off and take the lead after an 11-minute double salvo. We’ve got nothing. We’re out.
I’m disappointed but the news that Ayew has re-broken his toe is just ludicrous. He’s out for up to 6 weeks. I will be surprised if we see him again this season. On the plus(?) side, it’s an International break, so we have 2 weeks to prepare for the trip to leaders Man Utd.
I can’t be bothered with International breaks so I nip off on holiday and leave Michael Appleton in charge. All I ask is that he doesn’t do anything stupid and I come back to some of the squad crying about the treatment of Marc Albrighton. I ask you to do one thing, Michael.
Vardy and Long are down to orange injuries and optimistically have fitness tests. They both fail. Soon my friends. With Ayew out, it’s a front 3 of Iheanacho, Okazaki and Niasse. Give me strength. Darmian also can’t play as Man Utd still own him so Albrighton gets his wish of first-team football. For one game.
Man Utd have signed Dries Mertens, which seems like overkill when you consider they have Sanchez, Martial and Rashford for that position. Mertens against Albrighton is barely a contest. He opens the scoring and then lays on the second for Lukaku and that’s probably that. They add a third just minutes later and I bring on Amartey for Albrighton. It wasn’t Albright on the night. Lukaku completes his hat-trick before we get our customary couple of goals back, then we swap goals in injury time because why not. Okazaki is the real hero. A 5-3 loss…
Pick the bones out of that. Let’s have a proper look at the table, mainly so I can point you in the direction of our 91 scored. It’s going to be a close race for the 4 Champions League spots.
It’s very much in our hands though as we played 5th and 6th place in our next two before a slightly better run. Finishing at Bournemouth’s not nice either.
So whilst it is shaping up to be a photo finish, let’s end with the obligatory squad screenshot.
We might at least get Vardy back for the Arsenal game but I think Chelsea will be too soon. No matter, in Okazaki we trust. Apparently.
Do join me next week as we wrap up the series, I would have been happy with top 7 but now we’ve got this far I’m going all out for that top 4 spot. Can we do it?