So, the season’s over. That’s what most fans are telling us, so I guess it must be true. Isn’t it?
Many are also offering their diagnosis of why City failed. Take your pick of these:
– Not signing defenders
– Not signing attackers
– Missing chances
– Poor defending
– Failures of selection
– Failure to change games
– Losing in November
– Losing to Rotherham and Burton
– Playing one up front
– Not sacking Alex Neil in November/last summer/after Wembley
– The arrival of Jez Moxey
– The departure of Jez Moxey
– Russell Martin/Timm Klose/Steven Whittaker
– Signing Pritchard; Ed Balls doing Strictly.
Not to mention playing the Murphys; not playing the Murphys; playing the wrong Murphy. And I haven’t even got to Kyle Lafferty.
Sunday’s Canary Call added another explanation to the list: apparently Jonny Howson is the problem. Because he’s an all-rounder (ie he can both attack and defend, both pass and tackle) his presence stops our midfield having balance.
I’ll draw a veil over that one; I assume it has all the support it deserves.
There’s no doubt merit in many of those diagnoses (though I draw the line at failing to score enough and Jonny Howson). If you’ll excuse me, though, I don’t want to dwell on them right now.
My medical knowledge is pretty rudimentary. But I seem to recall an idea that you don’t perform a post mortem until the patient is dead.
“When will Stewart give up?” I believe I hear. That question’s been asked before, I confess, in various tones of exasperation.
I’m not an easy quitter, but if you want a number I’ll offer one. Despite some of the comments on my pieces, I’m not an idiot who’ll keep hoping until it’s mathematically impossible. Even though this (and more) has been reeled in before, I’ll concede when we need to catch up an average of a point per game.
So where do we stand? For all my jibes at Canary Call, I now find myself in agreement with much of what Rob Butler is saying. After the derby, I think he looked at the same league table as I did: it says we’re six points behind with twelve games to play. A long way from the mortuary slab.
Sheffield Wednesday have lost their last two games. If that becomes three on Saturday, we’ll have moved within a game of them with eleven to play.
Some of our fans are far too gloomy about the maths. Where they have a stronger argument, of course, is City’s erratic form. As an advocate of evidence-based argument, I can’t deny the kind of view put forward on this site by Gary Field:
“There’s plenty of points to play for, but that Achilles heel, the away form, plus the regular ability to switch off defensively, means to me the season is over”
If our season is to stay alive, we have to improve on some of what we’ve done so far. No-one can confidently say we will. But perhaps the nay-sayers shouldn’t be completely confident either.
Gary rightly highlights our defensive record. We’ve had few problems scoring this season, but a shocking rate of goals at the other end. Quietly, however, it’s been improving. In the last ten league games of 2016 we conceded 18; in the ten of 2017, we’ve conceded just 11.
As the Match of the Day pundits observed at the weekend about the Premier League, it’s easier to tighten up at the back than to increase your scoring.
Performance is key, of course. The last two home games have been disappointing in their points return, but not in performance. When they’re on their game – as they certainly were at Carrow Road – Newcastle are clearly the class act of this league. Ipswich aren’t, and we dominated them accordingly; on this occasion we just didn’t convert chances.
It would be wrong to understate the challenge, though. Our remaining fixtures throw up an interesting sequence in April, with successive games against six of the other teams in the current top nine. Before anyone (Dave B?) points it out, we got just one point from those six fixtures when we played them in our mensis horribilis of October-November.
Speaking of Dave B, I have to swallow hard and give him credit. I queried his claim that we’d get only seven points from the five games beginning with Forest. Having garnered five points from the first four of those games, we’re more likely to undershoot Dave’s pessimistic assessment than to better it.
But I’m still not giving up. If Ipswich fans are delighted with their point from the derby – as they should be – Owls fans are far from confident about their prospects against us on Saturday.
Meanwhile, I’ll go with the American writer Marilyn vos Savant:
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition.
Giving up is what makes it permanent”