We told ourselves to prepare for a tough season, one that would in no way mirror the one we’d just had.
2018/19 was the season of a lifetime; 2019/20 would be different. We knew that. Well, most of us did.
What no-one had planned for was an injury list so horrific, it has to go down as the worst I can ever recall in all of my City-supporting years. My deliberate avoidance of Twitter last night meant I’d missed the news that we can now, in all likelihood, add Jamal Lewis to that list.
So, and correct me if I’ve missed anyone, I now make that Tim Krul, Ralf Fahrmann, Christoph Zimmermann, Timm Klose, Jamal Lewis, Tom Trybull, Alex Tettey, Mario Vrancic and Onel Hernandez.
To put that into context, imagine the MSM furore if Liverpool were without Alisson, Adrian, van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum and Sane. Imagine the tears of Carragher and Redknapp, the saltiness of Souness and the desperation of Thompson.
But, while the injury crisis puts the current predicament into context, this can’t be used as mitigation for the mistakes and misjudgements that keep occurring and which are costing us points.
While the squad is clearly stretched paper-thin, yesterday’s starting XI still had a look and feel of one that was capable of getting something, But those points won’t even start trickling through if City continue to find different ways to concede early goals.
Against Burnley, it boiled down to giving the ball away cheaply in trying to break the press and then sloppiness in trying to stop and then defend a near-post cross. Against Palace, it was a naive challenge that was subtly turned by James McArthur into a nailed-on penalty.
The longer these misjudgements continue, the longer we will continue to depart away grounds in varying states of frustration.
Equally, at the sharp end, the last two away games have drawn blanks.
There was a 20-minute spell at Selhurst yesterday, just before half time, where it started to flow and click and chances did appear. At this level, in the refined air of the Prem, those spells have to produce but they didn’t.
Teemu Pukki was picked out by Emi Buendia’s sublime pass only for his shot to be finger-tipped over the bar by Guaita, but the best chance fell to Todd Cantwell, who was given the chance to round off a flowing move that was City at their imperious best. Alas, the finish was tentative when what was actually needed was a set of laces through the ball.
We didn’t know it at the time but that was it. That was City’s chance to get back into the game and go home with some points.
So, over 180-minutes, the only glimpses we’ve seen of the attacking swagger that epitomised last season’s triumph are those aforementioned 20 minutes at Selhurst – something as concerning as the propensity to concede silly ones at the other end.
In an attacking sense, the omissions from the armoury are just two in number – Hernandez and Vrancic – although there is a nagging thought that the Cuban’s pace and unpredictability would be really useful right now, particularly when playing away from home.
For all of the eye-pleasing football – and we still produce it – we do miss Onel’s ability to inject pace and go past defenders, something that perhaps Patrick Roberts will bring if he gets a start?
At the moment, Roberts is one of a group whose reputation is being been enhanced by not being included in the starting XI – as tends to be the case when things are not going swimmingly.
It does feel though – and this has to be considered against the backdrop of our injury-ravaged group – that now may be the time for a minor shake-up in personnel.
Our midfield is as aesthetically pleasing as they come when it has the ball, but question marks remain over their robustness without it and ability to hold firm in times of peril.
Given that Ibrahim Amadou, after that storming debut against Man City, is starting to look like a defensive-midfielder filling in at centre-back, perhaps now is the time for him to be used in his more familiar role and provide some ballast to that midfield alongside either Mo Leitner or Kenny McLean.
Equally, with the Villa attack being spearheaded by Wesley – a Brazilian in the big ol’ lump category – then I’d have no hesitation in bringing back the unfairly-maligned Grant Hanley.
But this certainly no time for overreaction and sweeping changes – neither of which will happen under the Farke/Stuart Webber watch. The learning curve is steep and we’re still not even halfway up it, but the deficiencies are clear and rectifiable.
Only two games ago we were beating one of the best club sides in the world, so let’s keep our heads and not go silly. It’s not been a good week – two 2-0s against teams we should have in our sights can never a good thing – but if we’d lost to Man City and had won at either West Ham, Burnley or Crystal Palace, we’d probably be considering it an okay start to the season.
So, let’s just keep our heads and don’t anyone dare call next Saturday’s game a “six-pointer”. Yes, it’s important – they all are – but with 93 points to play for I’m still with Jonesy.