So 11 Premiership games completed, the runners are pretty bunched in mid field with one seemingly trailed off looking at being pulled up and 2 others going strongly out in front. This race over the last two season has taken the same shape and indeed the Wasps stallion is very much in a similar position within the midfield pack. Previous seasons have seen Wasps unable to stay the pace when the others press the go button, however the talk from the stables suggest this year could see Wasps being more competive during the final run ins.
In season 2011/12 Wasps were seemingly in a secure position at half way but the tank emptied almost immediately before our eyes mostly due to a lack of tactical nous against the strongly improving Exeter, where taking up the inside rail and the two points available would have enabled an easy run in finishing in 10th or 11th - remembering in the climate and with the massive disruption at the Twyford Avenue stables this would have been success.
For season 2012/13 Wasps were again travelling well approaching the final stretch only for the tank to again empty rapidity. However, lessons had been learned and Wasps coasted into a comfortable 8th position and had indeed already started preparations for season 2013/14. Earlier expectation had not been achieved but fires in the supporters bellies had been rekindled and indeed most if not all would have grabbed at 8th place at the start of the race.
These two previous years had shown a clear pattern and areas for development leading into this 2013/14 race. So far lessons seem to have been taken on board and addressed, with much more attacking scope, ability to perform in variety of conditions, ability to defend challenges and critically more support available in the event of injury, something that had very much influenced performance in the previous two years.
So as we approach the final furlongs we simply need to maintain the early stage form, remain competitive and be able to respond to any increased pace. Basically we are all holding our breath waiting to see if the adjustments made over the past few season have had the desired affect in the final run and our tank does not empty as quickly as in previous years. No need to go quicker, trick is to not slow down as fast as the others.
Here is a link to current and previous form - http://www.rugbyroundup.com/stats.php?leagueID=1&statType=triesScored. Important to remember stats tell you everything about what has happened and nothing about what will happen.
With regard to the race so far and Wasps current standing, well from similar positions we have won races at domestic and European status. This could happen again, our charge is young and still developing, far from the finished article. Only the next few months will show if we have prepared correctly to deal with the second half of the race which has been the consistent weakness or if indeed as the signs indicate we are handily placed on the rails to mount a serious challenge for some tangible achievement. May be not a trophy but may be simply enough to interest the photo finish judge.
Here's to an exciting and successful 2014.
Season to date - written 6th Oct 2013
Bit of a break in the Aviva so a good time to reflect and look forward to the challenges ahead. First the facts. 5 games done, 3 away games and 2 at home, 9pts on board. Maximum pts available from the 5 games is 25 so from the simple equation we are on course for 36/37pts from the 110pt season max. This would manifest itself I would estimate as a league finish around 9th or10th.
Now, don't know about you but my realistic expectation from the first 5 games was about 9pts probably less, yes hoping for more, but think 9pts is a good return based on the large turn around in the squad and the recent results history of the fixtures completed to date - Exeter/Sale away etc. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and yes we could have had a greater haul but for a width of a post and some better individual tackling, however 9pts is what it is and I think a good squad achievement to build upon.
Ok so now for the Mystic Meg bit. Rather than simply speculate or guess wildly again it would be better to base expectations on previous history, long and short term and make a considered assessment of future challenges. Clubs tend to have an identity, if you're asked to describe other clubs within the Premiership I think it is fair to say that from a sample of 20 or so rugby knowledgable people certain adjectives would emerge. For example with Leicester - solid and strong in the set piece areas, good depth of squad, play for 80mins, give little away, competitive, consistent and ruthless attitude etc - may not hear the words flair, flamboyant, adventurous quite so often. Let me be clear this is not in any way judgemental simply what they are.
So short term to date, this season what adjectives can we apply to Wasps ? From commentary I have read or heard, I would offer - organised in defence, competitive, proficient in set piece, 80min fitness, scoring options throughout the team ( not just wingers...a change from last year) and well managed game from 10 would be the positives the work ons would be more creativity in attack, greater accuracy and this may only be a very short term issue greater composure in attack and defence - patience. I say short term as this is a totally understandable characteristic of a new squad lacking an early win. Equally the 10 issue is relevant as in Andy Goode we have a 10 from completely the other end of the spectrum from Nicky Robinson - again not at all judgemental, just different. The affect of this however is do not expect the wingers to be bringing home 26 tries this season.
Longer term considerations should be based on performances towards the end of the previous seasons under the existing structures which have now been in place for a third season. Now these will of course be affected by the size and depth of the squad, equally the players lost to the EQP structure and also the affect caused by the overall season fitness which can be maintained by the squad - that is can they go for the full season. Well most of these simply fall into the Mystic Meg box, however what needs to be kept an eye on is the mounting injury list, which has been a consistant factor in the club throughout changes to conditioning and medical staff, and of course whether the squad can maintain energy and power being shown now through to the end of the season. These factors will be more relevant this season due to the fact that we will be playing more of the top of the table teams towards the end of the season. Now the fixture scheduling could be a blessing in disguise as the highest performing clubs will be keen to rest players and indeed will lose players during the second half of the season, hence vulnerable. However there is no point in speculating about if we will be performing well in the second half of the season, picking up wins or not but simply this needs to be monitored and assessed when the second half of the season is completed. The reason I say this is because it is a long term issue and hence a cultural and structural issue, it cannot be changed quickly. At this point there are very good, sound reasons why the second half of the season in the previous two years we have seen winning performances become scarce.
So to summarise. The first 5 games have produced good reward and is a positive achievement for a young and newly assembled squad. The strong likelihood is that the squad will start to understand each other more as the season progresses. The most encouraging aspect this season has been the level of try scoring in each game and not least the variety of players scoring -
follow stats link - www.rugbyroundup.com/stats.php
- hence relieving the pressure on the wingers to score at the level they achieved last season. This is mostly due to having a more competitive pack and an experienced fly half in Andy Goode who provides clear direction and possesses a quality territorial game which will be significant throughout the next tranch of matches through to March. Whilst being excited at the potential of the squad at the start of the season, potential takes time to realise. A league finish around 8th this season to me would be positive with the option of going into the following season with a more stable squad. The continued fitness and availability of Andy Goode is a significant factor in achievement of this objective. Up until the New Year, another 6 premiership matches, a further 9pts at the bottom end or 12pts at the top end would be a good haul and another important achievement for this young and developing squad. Mind set and confidence is everything at this and indeed most levels. With increases in confidence the accuracy and basic errors will disappear. We, as supporters should be letting this young, new squad know clearly that to this point we are very proud of the performance to date and excited with regard to the future potential.