As both supporters and players player of the year for last season, Stan Petrov doesn't need me or anyone else to heap plaudits on him, but he's going to get a little more now.
We all know we can rely on him to continue pulling the strings in his unassuming fashion. However a recent delve into the chalkboards has confirmed what many of us probably already knew. Stan is the only central midfielder currently playing to a top four standard.
In his past three Premier League games he has made 77 passes, with only two not finding their target, winning all but 1 of his fourteen tackles. Impressive stuff when you compare this to his central midfield brethren.
The ginger action man only managed 47 successful passes with twelve going astray and he won 75% of his twelve tackles. Sidwell has had twice as many shots as Stan with four attempts but it was Stan that made the most impact by winning the penalty against Pompey.
O’Neill’s new sparring partner hasn’t done much better either. In his last three games he also made 77 passes but had his Toblerone boots on for eleven of them and for all the talk of being a tough tackler, he only won three of his attempted seven tackles.
A similar story can also be told for last season with Petrov consistently out-passing, out-tackling and out-blocking Barry. The only area Barry beat him was goals and assists, most of which came from penalties and free kicks. However the gap between Stan and Barry was small. Barry knew how to break up play and keep possession. At the moment both Sidwell and Reo-Coker are failing to fill Barry's boots.
Martin's efforts through the summer to find a top draw playmaker to compliment Petrov were in vain. If we're still sniffing around the top four when Santa comes calling I suspect he might find a Van Der Vaart shaped parcel in his stocking. But between now and then we have fourteen games against some very tough teams.
Our forwards, wingers and defenders may be carrying us through games out the moment, but we can't afford to have a misfiring engine room against better quality teams.
So where does that leave us? Delph looks like a special player in the making, but we can't expect consistency from one so young. Another option might be Milner stepping inside with either Gabby or Albrighton moving to the right. And let’s not forget Downing, when fit and healthy he may well take a central role, but that won't help us through these next two months.
So it appears to me that our best chance of maintaining a push for champions league football lies with two men finding top form.
Nigel Reo-Coker and Steven James Sidwell, its time to step up and start earning your wages!If your user name is the pensioner you best email me your postal address by close of business tomorrow or you won't be getting your copy of The Gerry Hitchens Story. You have been warned! Click here for the latest Gabby Agbonlahor desktop wallpaper for your computer