If City’s current predicament wasn’t already painful and stark enough, it was hammered home to me this week by the media heavyweight that is Perry Groves.
As a guest on talkSPORT’s Colin Murray and Friends, the Arsenal ‘legend’ was obviously pontificating on the second coming of Ryan Giggs. It barely needs saying that the show degenerated into a Man Utd love-in (and let’s all thank our gods the Class of ’92 have restored order in the Theatre of Shattered Dreams), but, all too painfully, Groves ended it with a steel toe-capped hoof in the direction of Norfolk.
“At the end of the day we have to remember it was only Norwich they were playing…”
Only Norwich. And the worst thing? He was right.
Prior to the Old Trafford nightmare, a pundit on the same station (may even have been Groves) had set the scene with a ‘… if there was one team United would choose to play in this situation it would be Norwich’. Again, spot on.
Alas, that’s where and who we are right now. The cannon fodder; the whipping boys; the yellow-clad gift that keeps on giving.
And if that thought isn’t depressing enough, some stats on City’s away form that have done the Twitter rounds today are virtually guaranteed to obliterate any stubborn, lingering sense of optimism. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now……. but if you’re brave enough it went something like this:
– Games played: 18
– Goals for: 11 (worst in the division)
– Goals against: 44 (worst in the division)
– Points gained: 8 (worst in the division)
Hardly the record of a team that’s about to successfully go toe-to-toe with Champions League semi-finalists who still have an outside chance of winning the Premier League. If, for good measure, one dares to look at the current away form guide you’ll find eight consecutive away defeats (nine if we include the FA Cup surrender at Craven Cottage), dating back to the listless 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park in early January. And yes – it is the worst in the division.
Mathematically of course there is still life – and there are some who still *believe* – but with Ladbrokes now offering 1/14 on City getting relegated it requires belief way beyond the boundaries of logic to see a path to safety.
For those wanting a straw to clutch (you can have mine by the way – I’m all ‘clutched’ out), at least City cannot be relegated this weekend. Equally, as the official Premier League website politely and factually reminds us, ‘nor they can ensure avoiding the drop’.
It continues: ‘Were they to lose against Chelsea and Sunderland beat Manchester United, Norwich will have to hope that Sunderland lose their remaining two matches and that they can gain a significant swing in goal difference.’
Again, factually correct but with our respective goal differences being twelve goals adrift as things stand it will take some ‘significant swing’ to see the Black Cats head southwards at City’s expense. Alas the prospect of Sunderland winning at Old Trafford – and setting up said scenario – is not beyond the realms given their recent performances at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge, which collectively yielded four points.
They have something that City can only dream of. Momentum. They also have a fire in the belly.
That City have neither at a time when both are ‘must haves’ tells the whole painful story in a snapshot.
The usual platitudes around ‘believing’ have typically emerged from Carrow Road and Colney this week and, in fairness, I’d expect nothing less. Robert Snodgrass and Bradley Johnson have both, admirably, put their heads above the parapet and have spoken in bullish terms of our survival chances – and neither were likely to come out with the ‘we’re doomed’ speech – but we’ve heard this many times.
In reality the line has worn a little thin now. The talk has been well and truly talked. After 36 games we’re still waiting to see the walk.
As always, the Yellow Army will head to West London in good spirits and as far as road trips are concerned they have been the undoubted stars of the season. Their faith has been tested to the limit and beyond and yet still they go back for more. Truly remarkable… and admirable.
And if there is one reason for Neil Adams’ chosen XI to give it one final massive Premier League hurrah, then it should be to give those hardy souls – who have endured such a turgid, heart-wrenching and miserable tour of England and Wales – something to finally cheer about.
Of course it’s going to be difficult. Mourinho and his men will be smarting from the Atlético Madrid mauling and they still have the sniff of a Premier League title in their nostrils, but at the very least the Y’Army are owed bravery, guts and pride.
The days of expecting technical excellence have long gone (and I’ve wasted far too many column inches bemoaning the poor quality of the passing) but in its absence we should expect to see the chests puffed out, the heads held high and some good old-fashioned bottle.
We’re owed that much.