Welcome to the Premier League Alex!
While I’m sure he needed no reminding of how ruthless the PL can be, particularly when on your travels, today’s trip to St Mary’s merely confirmed it. It also gave him a glimpse into the life of a Yellow Army foot soldier when following their team on the road in the big league.
For some it will have rekindled some horrible memories of their last season-long road trip when Chris Hughton was at the helm.
But let’s not panic. Today was horrible, no question, and even before the needless departure of Steven Whittaker there were signs of it not being a great day, but it was City’s first away league defeat in 2015 and the first under Alex’s tutelage.
Doesn’t sound like a reason to head for the pitchforks to me, yet social media has been ablaze with moans, groans and recriminations. And then there’s those who moan about the moaners, and even those who moan about the moaners moaning about the moaners!
So much for Russell Martin’s sensible plea for equilibrium.
Some have questioned the dearth of positives to emerge from the game – and they’re notoriously hard to come by when you play for an hour with ten men – but when it’s been the proverbial bad day at the office that’s generally par for the course.
Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers were both struggling to find any yesterday.
That Whittaker’s dismissal made life difficult goes without saying. Having been shown yellow for some innocuous ‘ungentlemanly conduct’ the Scot desperately needed to keep his head down and clear of the thoughts of Jon Moss.
Alas getting entwined with Dusan Tadic was sufficient for some Serbian histrionics and card brandishing. The rest is history.
It was soft, daft and ultimately costly. The manager will be having a word.
And it did little to ease nerves that were already jangling after an opening 30 minutes in which City’s ball retention smacked of the aforementioned Premier league away days. In truth, at times it was a little ugly and listless.
From that base, to then have to fend off the challenge of an extra opponent was never going to end well; City’s only effort on goal in the opening 45 being Cameron Jerome’s miscued close range header from Graham Dorran’s cut-back.
Had City have been able to survive until half-time with the game goal-less perhaps the manager could have worked some magic but the second Graziano Pellè’s close range effort squeezed inside John Ruddy’s near-post it was almost game over.
A brief flurry of attacks early in the second period offered a glimmer of hope but still Stekelenburg remained untested and it was a brief flurry that soon blew itself out. The longer it went on the more Saints looked likely to get the second.
When it arrived neither Robbie Brady nor Andre Wisdom covered themselves in glory. And when the third arrived just three minutes later – again from the foot of the theatrical Tadic – it was damage limitation time.
So, a bad day and a gentle nudge as to the cut-throat nature of life in the Premier League. Alex will have learned from it, so too the players.
What can’t and won’t happen is for this to be a sign of things to come. It needs to be consigned to history as quickly as possible and lessons learned with equivalent haste.
As ever the boss was unequivocal in his post-match appraisal:
“The manner in which we relinquished the away record was disappointing. That wasn’t like us. We didn’t start well, even eleven v eleven we were poor, our use of the ball was poor.
“I think Whittaker’s first yellow was a bit soft, he was just trying to get back in position, but they were silly decisions and they cost us. We didn’t deserve anything from the game and we need to be better for the next match”, was his no-nonsense retort to the BBC.
What it does leave is an awkward few days for those not setting off on their international travels and some respite for those who are. Alex is not going to be happy. No point in pretending otherwise.
But, equally, by the time Bournemouth pitch up at Carrow Road on September 12, I expect the prep to have been done, the heads to be clear and there to be a game plan that’s good to go. And I expect them to bounce back in style.
Today was a grim one. They happen in the PL. We move on.