At the weekend he missed two gilt-edged chances that could have put his team clear. Irrespective of the rest of his performance, those misses prompted fans to question whether he should have been in the team at all.
His name is Raheem Sterling and he cost £50million.
Oh, and £1.5million Cameron Jerome missed one as well. As a former striker myself, perhaps I have excessive sympathy for him. But chances get missed, and those who imply he wasn’t trying his best haven’t been paying attention since he joined us eighteen months ago.
Depending on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty, the most important thing about City at Leicester was either (i) we produced a performance of exceptional character and commitment, or (ii) we lost. Surely, any sensible assessment has to take account of both.
Previewing the game with Chelsea, the BBC’s website pundit opines that “an immediate return to the Championship is looking increasingly inevitable to even the most ardent Canaries fan”. Well, relegation is a big threat and possibility, of course. But “inevitable”?
Not for me. Yes, our current run of results is ominous and we blew the relatively good chance of points against Villa and West Ham. We need points, and soon. But I offer four thoughts (to go with the fact that we’re not actually in the relegation places):
- If we replicate the Leicester performance, we’ll produce a ‘surprise’ result or two. Perhaps unlikely against Chelsea – whose last seven games have yielded 15 points, compared to our one – but even that’s possible.
- Villa are doomed, and having watched quite a bit of Sunderland and Newcastle I genuinely believe we have more to offer than either of them. If we play at Swansea as we did at Leicester, we’ll likely drag them into the scrap as well.
- Sunderland and Newcastle – poor travellers – have to come to Carrow Road. If the City faithful are prepared to get behind our team, those will be very difficult days for Allardyce’s and McClaren’s men.
- Conventional wisdom says we have a nightmare finish to the season. But is it? Arsenal away looks tough, but our other three final opponents (Watford, Man United and Everton) are now likely to be in the ‘nothing to play for’ group. Contrast that with the final-day fixtures for Swansea (v Man City) or Newcastle (v Tottenham).
None of this is to say that we’ll escape; only an idiot would deny that we’re in serious trouble. But surely it’s just as wrong to say that relegation is inevitable for us. It simply isn’t.
I’d be more pessimistic if City were being regularly outclassed, but that’s not the case. In games I’ve seen, only Tottenham have done that. We’ve made life more difficult for ourselves by missing chances for three points such as at Villa – as a result we have to pull out a result or two against the odds. However, we’ve been in contention in so many games that a ‘turn-up’ result is perfectly possible.
After all, who thought we’d win at Man United?
I have several friends who support Arsenal. Though at the other end of the table, the Gunners put their fans through at least as much anguish and frustration as City do. The two teams have a number of things in common, including the ability to play attractive football tempered by a sometimes costly lack of leadership on the pitch.
In the absence of a stirring leader, the challenge for Arsenal and Norwich is to get everyone to step up to the plate. It can be done. Don’t be surprised if Arsenal, written off by everyone after the defeat at Old Trafford, bounce back. And in City’s case we don’t need blind optimism – we’ve seen enough in the past two games to know that the spirit is there.
Relegation possible? Of course. Relegation inevitable? Don’t believe it.