“I think the important thing is, regardless of the result and performance we need to maintain equilibrium this year. Let’s not get too high or too low.”
The words of skipper Russell Martin in the aftermath of City’s win at Sunderland early on in the season, and a laudable (and not unreasonable) sentiment it was too. But there is no denying that, for the supporters at least, performances like yesterday test that approach to the limit.
For the management team and players it will be a case of seizing on any positives (good luck with that), before dusting themselves down and casting their gaze solely to next Saturday’s clash with Liverpool. And for them that’s the only way.
They really do have to put the disappointment of Dean Court behind them and move on – there is no alternative – but when that same platitude is trotted out after what feels like alternative away games it suggests all is not well.
For the supporters, who ultimately have no control over their team’s destiny, it’s a bit more difficult to remain level-headed.
But with Russ’s plea in mid, here’s my best shot at a balanced analysis of events of yesterday:
Where did it go wrong…
I’ll try and keep it relatively brief (I aim for only 800 – 900 words per piece) but it literally is difficult to know where to start. City were out-gunned by Bournemouth in almost every department and in a one v one match-up across the two teams, only Declan Rudd would give his opposite number – Artur Boruc in this case – a run for his money.
Elsewhere, Benik Afobe – admittedly armed with a far superior supply – offered more threat as a lone striker than Dieumerci Mbokani and across the midfield the Cherries passed the ball with zip and purpose, while City returned to the tippy-tappy, laboured, style of passing that is usually symptomatic of one of the bad days.
Wes continues to frustrate and is in the midst of a dip in form. When he clicks, the team clicks but is it often enough for him to be a shoo-in? And when he’s giving possession away cheaply not only do we spurn some decent attacking opportunities but we find ourselves with players in advanced positions and without the ball.
Vadis playing on the right wing is the original square peg, while his round hole is clearly in Wes’s position just behind the lone striker. Perhaps it’s time he was afforded a start at ‘number 10’.
The back four – the same back four that earned consecutive clean sheets over the Christmas period – creaked horribly and, while Afobe more than occupied Ryan Bennett and Seb Bassong for the duration, it was in the full-back areas that City were really exposed; the space and time afforded by the skipper to Marc Pugh in the orchestration of the first goal being a perfect example.
But it’s too easy and simplistic to just single out Russ – his bad days tend to be at the extreme end of the spectrum – because he was far from alone in being off the pace yesterday. City looked leggy and sluggish, in complete contrast to those in red and black who played with verve, purpose and hunger.
And it’s the latter of those three that troubled me most. Something that is not one iota linked to the fact that Bournemouth have more money than us. They appeared to want it more. And that’s why, as ugly as it probably appeared, some members of the Y’Army felt the need to express their thoughts to the players post-match.
The trip south is arduous. They packed the away ‘end’ out as always. They sang throughout. They, quite rightly, felt short-changed.
We finished the game with 11 men. On another day Dec would have walked. And it was only 3-0.
I’ll give it a go.
Two away games in the space of four days was a tough ask, and the Cherries’ extra freshness could be partly attributed to them having an extra day to prepare. West Brom, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Ham all had two away games in a week and all lost yesterday. Coincidence?
Onwards and upwards…
Now I’m at it! But once we have all had our say, there really is no other way than to cast our glance forward.
Bournemouth fans are understandably lording it up – who could blame them – but despite them consigning City to the bottom three following yesterday’s mis-match their lead over the Canaries is actually just a single point and we remain clear of the relegation zone. It may be worth them keeping their powder dry until May.
Alex Neil’s post-match interview offered renewed hope of some new faces and after 16 days of frustration (for some) it appears this week may, just may, finally see a breakthrough in the Steven Naismith saga. It seems the deal between Everton and City has been concluded for a couple of weeks with, ironically, the only stumbling block being the wishes of the player himself.
If Mr Naismith and, perhaps even more significantly, his wife can be persuaded to head east then the sight of a new, talented face around Colney will offer a timely fillip to everyone. And if, as the German media seem to suggest, Wolfsburg defender Timm Klose can also be lured to the English east coast, then it’ll be a double boost.
So, despite Twitter venting its wrath last night, all is not lost. Too much more of the same will only end one way but with Carrow Road edging closer to being a Premier League fortress, the majority of the four or five wins needed for safety were always going to have to be earned within the city walls.
And, regardless of the thoughts of Bournemouth’s handful of supporters, I still think we’ll get them.