There is little point in sugar-coating it. That was rotten. A no-show. The third one of the season. And too many more of those and we’ll be returning whence we came.
The coup de grâce came in the form of Bournemouth’s win at Chelsea – the goal scored by one who opted for the South Coast when he’d been offered a home in Norfolk.
It was that kind of day.
That City are now just one more poor result away from dropping into the bottom three tells us all we need to know.
So much for the season of goodwill.
Yet again the Canaries were the architects of their own downfall, with Alex Tettey being this week’s contributor to the ever-growing list of defensive calamities. And unless they can be eradicated there will be only one outcome – as the Hornets’ fans joyfully reminded us.
It was a first-half bereft of anything resembling quality – from both sides – but in those circumstances the one thing you have to do is hang in there and give nothing away. We did and, in truth, having done so we never looked liked recovering.
It hurts to say it – but we didn’t look good enough. Worse still, we lacked desire. And it’s the latter of those two qualities that strikes the loudest, most resonate chord.
The quality, or otherwise, of the squad has been discussed in infinite detail and most have concluded that in Premier League terms we’re nestling safely in the bottom three. In terms of the size of the wallet we’re at the bottom of those three. Therefore, togetherness and desire were always going to be key to our hopes of survival.
The dearth of passion (a term I hate when used in footballing parlance, but which seems appropriate here) was therefore doubly costly – and worrying – on a day when we locked horns with members of our own mini-league.
Many are citing the January transfer window as our potential saviour. I disagree.
My fear is we will suffer the same series of set-backs, disappointments and let-downs as we did in the summer. Why will it be any different? What’s changed? If anything we are a potentially less attractive option now than we were in August.
If, just for example, Charlie Austin had decided that Norfolk was for him in the summer, then he would have had a full season to help ease us clear of any threat of relegation. If he were to arrive in January (he won’t), where the likelihood is we’ll be in said bottom three, he’d be immediately hurled head-long into a relegation scrap.
Not going to happen.
The only way to square the circle is to throw ridiculous money at it. Quite rightly, we won’t be doing that either.
I’ve had many a discussion with the good folk of Twitter who deem City’s board to be at fault because they want to ‘do it on the cheap’ but, essentially, the board only operates on that perceived basis because we simply don’t have the oodles of spare cash that some seem to believe.
And then there’s my old favourite: location. We may only be 1 hour 42 minutes from London (or “15 minutes” in the McNally spiel) but for most we are ‘in the middle of nowhere’.*We* know it’s beautiful but try convincing a young twenty-something when a Watford or a Crystal Palace or even a QPR come calling.
So… in a relegation scrap, ‘poor’ in comparison to PL rivals and geographically disadvantaged. Sounds like a perfect storm for another transfer window struggle to me.
I hope and pray I’m wrong – I really do – but I’m already bracing myself for a turbulent January. The best, in my opinion, we can hope for are some short-term loans to help bolster the squad for the second half of the season.
Yet it’s only seven days since we were lauding Team Neil and the players for so nearly overcoming Arsenal and it is hard to believe that in the space of one week they have, with the help of all that Colney has to offer, morphed from a decent side into a poor one.
In there, somewhere, is a side capable of giving it a right good go. It just didn’t reveal itself yesterday and, credit to Watford, we got from the game exactly what we deserved. They did a job on us, just as we did on them last season – twice.
And while the morning of the afternoon before feels laden with doom and gloom, it’s important to remind ourselves we’re still only a wonderful piece of skill, a cracking goal or a performance brimming full of verve and zip away from having our passion (ggrrrr…) reignited – and that’s what we all hope for next Saturday. That’s the beauty of sport.
There’s lots of work to do between now and then of course and, while Declan Rudd did more than enough to retain his place for the Everton game, few others did – particularly in the centre of defence where Messrs Deeney and Ighalo had a far too fruitful afternoon. In fact it was one of those afternoons where those missing found their stock rising.
Expect more changes next weekend although I do just to wonder if this ‘horses for courses’ approach, of which I spoke so fondly last week, is actually working. One win in ten suggests it isn’t.
But let’s keep the faith and get behind Alex – he’s earned it. Still 69 points to play for.