I’m sure I can’t be alone in getting a little tired of enduring the ‘morning after the night before’. That sinking feeling of having avoided Match of the Day only to be bombarded a few hours later with reminders of the result from various TV, radio, online, print and Ipswich supporting sources.
Not pleasant and despite having had forty something years to practise said morning routine it doesn’t get any easier. At least I was spared the ignominy of having to trawl through last night’s results on live TV; a feat that was handled expertly by our own Mick Dennis this morning on Sky Sports News.
Fortunately for City – if there is such a thing as fortune after being thumped 5-1 – with the exception of those in deep, darkest Suffolk, most were more interested in discussing the utter brilliance of Luis Suárez than delving into the deficiencies in the City performance.
And they’re right of course. Suárez was simply unstoppable last night and as Rick (Waghorn) put to me earlier: “Even Barca, Bayern, Real and Dortmund would have struggled to contain him last night”. And he’s right too… as always.
What I find a little hard to commute is why is it always us? If Premier League hat-tricks are so easy to come by for the little Uruguayan why not unleash them on all and sundry? Why wait for Norwich?
The answer I suspect is in the mindset. Suárez *knows* he’s going to score against us in the same way the City players *know* he’s going to score against them. That appears to be how it works, or is at least how it feels.
Hull’s defence certainly didn’t suffer the same inferiority complex on Sunday afternoon.
And there’s no getting away from the fact we do little to help ourselves.
While the first was a speculative forty-yarder tinged tinged with brilliance, there were elements of sloppiness in the way it was conceded. Leroy Fer could have done better in preventing the supply to Suárez in the first place and the way both centre-backs backed off the Uruguayan just invited him to shoot.
And it’s not as if he hasn’t scored against us from that range (plus some) before.
If the first was a little sloppy, from a defensive perspective the second goal was worse – much worse – and smacked of defending for which I’d have been roundly castigated back in the days of Suffolk and Ipswich League Division One (I know… poor me). Whoever had been detailed to be the ‘first man’ and block off a near-post corner did a rotten job – the ball even bouncing in the six-yard box – and Russell Martin’s half-hearted attempt to block off Suárez smacked of someone who needs to be rested.
Forgive me for dissecting them in chronological order (I was once an accountant…) but the third, while brilliant in its execution had an element of the Pied Piper, with four players seemingly in touching distance without being close enough to do a thing about it. Brilliant, yes, but still preventable.
Of course it’s easy to analyse and criticise, and if no mistakes were made every game would end goal-less, but the regularity and volume by which City make them – particularly when going toe-to-toe with the ‘big boys’ – means it’s invariably ‘game over’ before we even get a foothold in the match. It happened last night, it happened at the Etihad and, to a degree, it happened at St James’ Park.
As Rick said, the form of Suárez would have tested the resolve of the best last night, and therefore the very last thing City could afford to do was give him a helping hand, but they did and did so more than once. To be in damage limitation mode from minute 29 onwards was crushing and scant reward for the travelling Yellow Army whose own resolve is being tested to the limit right now.
While others of a similar ilk are able to go to the Anfields and Etihads of this world and compete, at the moment we’re going to these same venues and getting thumped. No lack of effort – I didn’t see any heads drop last night – but a severe lack of belief in their ability to do anything other than lose.
And it’s a problem. A big one.
Quite how such a cycle can be broken is not obvious, but perhaps a trip to the less heady and refined atmosphere of the Hawthorns is what’s needed. Certainly there will be no excuses for the level of subservience on show last night.
One thing’s for sure, Hughton needs a result on Saturday and another limp and lifeless away day will only cause the McNally brow to furrow ever deeper. The home form is keeping the wolf from the door right now and amen to that, but the longer the form on the road continues to frustrate the narrower the margin for error at Carrow Road.
A form guide that shows two wins in the last four suggests nothing more than the norm, but the reality is currently the lows of the away defeats are far outweighing the highs of the home victories.
It’s a cycle that needs to be broken… and quickly.