I wrote after the Fulham game ‘That was about as bad as it gets…’ Just shows how much I know!
That Liverpool taught us a footballing lesson is not in doubt, but equally there is no doubt we were contributors to our own downfall.
Without wishing to state the obvious, the last thing you can afford to do, when faced with a technically superior side, is to give them ‘a sniff’. Yet we did precisely that – several times. You can hear Hughton’s pre-match talk now…
‘Keep it tight early on…’
‘No mistakes at the back…’
‘Don’t let them settle…’
‘Try and force them to go long…’
One can only assume either the pumping tunes drowned out the manager’s message or most chose to turn a deaf ear.
With both sides entering the game in the bottom four it didn’t seem unreasonable to assume a cautious, ‘cat and mouse’ opening to the game. Wrong… again. Instead we were guilty of defending so ponderous that City’s first meaningful touch of the game was to kick-off from the re-start.
There’s clearly no denying the quality of the Luis Suarez strike, but the ease with which the opening was conceived was worrying to say the least. Suarez must just love games at Carrow Road.
In fairness to City – once the heads had been cleared – the next 40 minutes were fairly even. We created a few half-chances, Simeon Jackson hit a post and we enjoyed a decent share of possession.
Then it happened. Except this time to describe the defending as ponderous was positively generous. Suarez – fresh from missing a sitter – was never going to miss with the taunts of the Barclay still echoing in his ears.
So, in a flash, from it being a game in which we were competing, it was almost out of reach. Come-backs obviously do happen in football – but very rarely when you’re two goals down against one of the big boys.
I guess there may have been a twist if Surman’s shot – in the first minute of the second-half – had gone in. As it happened, TV replays showed that Snodgrass’s intervention didn’t stop the ball going in, but instead probably just saved a photographer’s lens.
And as bright spots go, that was just about it.
The third goal, a minute later – again the product of Suarez – merely rubbed salt into the wounds and, from that moment, an uphill struggle turned into a climb up a sheer face. The passing got progressively worse, the composure disappeared, and a rejuvenated Liverpool side looked like scoring every time they attacked.
It was difficult to watch – there’s doubt about it. I can also probably imagine how it felt for Hughton on the touchline, and I’m positive that his impassive exterior belied his actual feelings. His post-match chat with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham certainly had the feel of an eloquent man who was raging inside.
And quite right too… Football is indeed a results business and ours – at present – simply aren’t good enough. No wins from six; only four goals scored; two absolute batterings; and a goal difference of minus nine. The statistics tell a story, and not a good one.
As is often the case, it was those who didn’t form part of the Liverpool debacle that emerged the stronger. Step forward Sebastien Bassong, who has undoubtedly – in the games in which he has featured – provided a rarely seen solidity in the defence. Similarly, Messrs Butterfield, Pilkington, Bennett (E) and Bennett (R) are all sure to figure in their manager’s thoughts and plans over the next few days.
Also we should expect to see a start for Alexander Tettey which will perhaps permit a more attacking role for Jonny Howson.
Things need to change – simple as – and we can at least be thankful that Hughton does currently have other options to turn to. Within that decent-looking squad he needs to find a formula that works, and works quickly. The Premiership season is a relatively short one and always flashes by in an instant – let’s not be this season’s Blackburn and leave it all too late.
The message boards typically went into overdrive with some calling for an immediate change of manager… but just six games in? Yes, changes need to be made swiftly, but give the bloke a chance. I’m not sure there are too many out there who are better-placed than Hughton to steer us through this rocky patch, although – if you look at the upcoming fixtures – I agree with those that say things could get worse before they get better.
All in all it was little short of a disaster, yet – just when we were all thinking it could not get any worse – both of our consolation goals were accompanied (very belatedly) by THAT goal music. Now I’m not a huge fan even, when the goal means something, but to play it when we’ve just shipped five was cringeworthy in the extreme. The cynics amongst us have suggested that this is the silver lining to the cloud of not scoring. Hmmm.
So, to Stamford Bridge it is. Let’s hope David McNally approves the overtime request from physio Neal Reynolds. We have to get Bassong fit…