It's fair to say Essendon have been under heavy scrutiny over the past couple of weeks, and it's also fair to say the scrutiny is justified.

After nine rounds, the Bombers have a dismal 2-7 win-loss record and sit 16th on the ladder - only ahead of the two 'byes' of the competition, North Melbourne and West Coast.

The manner in which most of Essendon's defeats have come is unacceptable - an apparent lack of willingness to defend and being a team that is easy to play against, seemingly rolling over when things get difficult, drives fans insane.

Indeed, the average margin in their seven defeats is more than six goals.

However, if we put the manner of the defeats aside for a second and purely look at the win-loss record, the question to ask is: Have Essendon actually lost a game you'd expect them to win?

While it's always easy in hindsight, and at the risk of being a post-race expert, the answer is no - and while the Bombers played finals in 2021, I can at least say I didn't have them as finalists in my pre-season predictions.

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Essendon's first month was difficult on paper, facing three of 2021's top four teams before hosting 2021 strugglers Adelaide.

Nobody would have expected the Bombers to defeat Geelong in the opening round (although, again, the manner of the loss was diabolical), nor would they have expected them to beat Brisbane or reigning premiers Melbourne.

They registered their first win in Round 4, falling over the line to defeat the Crows at the Marvel Stadium by a measely four points.

It was an unconvincing performance against a side who finished fourth-last in 2021 with a 7-15 record, but they got the job done.

Next was a home game against Fremantle, a match many would've predicted Essendon to win when fixtures were released for the year.

But things change - it had already become apparent Fremantle were a genuine team in 2022, while the Bombers had question marks hanging over them.

Again, a 48-point defeat was simply not good enough, but the loss itself was no shock.

The traditional ANZAC Day blockbuster against Collingwood was Essendon's next assignment.

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While Bombers fans would've been confident of a win against a side who finished below all bar North Melbourne in 2021, Collingwood went into the game with two wins and had tested both Geelong and Brisbane in recent weeks - their combined losing margin to the Cats and Lions was just 20 points, compared to Essendon's combined 88-point margin from the opening two rounds.

A game 11-point defeat was yet another setback for the club, but not an unexpected one.

A 32-point loss to the Western Bulldogs followed - another defeat by more than five goals, but not a shock loss.

Yes, the Bulldogs have been disappointing in 2022 having finished runners-up in 2021, but let's remember the two clubs met in an elimination final last year with the Dogs running out 49-point victors.

The Bombers then registered their second win of the season with a come-from-behind victory over a rebuilding Hawthorn.

Led by a six-goal performance from Peter Wright, the win showcased a will to win from Essendon - something that had been missing for much of the previous seven weeks.

However, a 27-point margin probably flattered what was largely a one-quarter performance, given Hawthorn led by 15 points at the final change.

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Finally, we saw last Saturday's dismal showing as Sydney belted an uncompetitive Essendon to the tune of 58 points.

This was the game that saw media scrutiny on the club really intensify - and, as I said at the top, rightly so.

However, take the manner of the loss out of it and the reality is Sydney is simply a better side than Essendon, with the loss itself a surprise to nobody.

As we look ahead to Essendon's run to their Round 12 bye, the Bombers are fixtured to play Richmond on Saturday night in the traditional Dreamtime at the G game before travelling to face Port Adelaide.

Even the most staunch of Essendon supporter must acknowledge the club is unlikely to win either game - quite simply, both sides are better than them.

Yes, the Bombers played finals in 2021 and some expected the club to consolidate their position as finalists this year.

And, yes, the way in which the Bombers have lost has, with the exception of ANZAC day, been unacceptable.


But the moral of the story is the Bombers just aren't that good.

None of their seven losses so far have actually been a shock (and neither will their next two losses before their bye), while their two wins have come against Adelaide and Hawthorn - clubs who currently sit in the bottom six on the ladder (14th and 13th respectively), and both finished in the bottom five in 2021.

The harsh reality is this is where Essendon is at - a bottom-six team with a bottom-six list.

While we can - and should - hold Essendon accountable for the manner of their losses throughout the remainder of the year, it's also time to adjust the expectations around what is, quite simply, an ordinary football team.