Not since 30 April 1994, when Jerry Goss scored the final goal in front of the old Kop for a 1-0 win, have City beaten Liverpool.
That’s nearly 22 years of hurt… and it really does hurt when, for that length of time, you’re forced to withstand that unique ‘Scouse sense of humour’ – just as we did yesterday when it was 0-1, 3-4 and 4-5 etc.
But, in truth, a few cheeky and whiny jibes are the least of our problems after one of the craziest 95 minutes I can ever recall. Crazy but not in a good way. And not just crazy, also infuriating, exasperating, depressing, deflating and bewildering. Hell, it was so ridiculous there was even a bit of encouragement hidden in there somewhere
Like most others of a yellow persuasion, seldom can I recall departing the old place in such a state of shock. Anger was rife among those departing the scene of the crime and it was one that was practically impossible to fathom. So many question…
How can we score four goals at home and not win the game?
How can this Liverpool side put five past us?
Why do we consistently self destruct?
Why don’t we stick it in ‘row Z’ occasionally?
Why do we concede so many late goals?
Why was Ryan Bennett dropped?
And, yes, why does the gaffer think his captain can play at centre-back?
The answers to the final two were offered by Alex Neil post-match, with Russell Martin getting the nod ahead of Bennett because the manager felt his qualities more suited to quell the threat of Firmino. But the sight of Firmino 18′, 63′ in the match stats tells you it was the wrong decision, even putting aside the obvious individual howlers.
Of course, Alex didn’t benefit from hindsight but still there were few among the Yellow Army who yesterday would have made the call he did, regardless of the combination of strikers we were likely to face. It was brave – I’ll give him that – but it was an error of judgement.
If nothing else it should organically call time on the Martin at centre-back experiment, which has gone on far too long, if only to remove the skipper from the firing line.
[It’s worthy of note that the Tinkerman himself, Claudio Ranieri, trusts the Robert Huth and Wes Morgan pairing to cope with all the Premier League can throw at them regardless of whether it’s the guile of Aguero or the aerial prowess of Andy Carroll.]
Russ is clearly a decent, likeable chap who will be as shell-shocked by the events of yesterday as anyone but while he’s undeserving of some of the vile abuse hurled in his direction, neither does he deserve another chance in the centre of City’s defence.
But it was not just about individual errors – it was also about how the Canaries defended as a team and how effortlessly the visitors were able to create chances. Not so much a soft centre, more a sickly, foul-tasting liqueur.
At the risk of repeating myself, to concede five against the most toothless Liverpool side I can ever recall is hard to take, and hard to comprehend.
The void left by Alex Tettey’s illness was an all-too obvious part of the problem but with neither Jonny Howson or Graham Dorrans natural ‘sitters’ it was more than a little surprising that Youssouf Mulumbu was not given the nod.
City’s inherent defensive frailties mean a shield at the base of the midfield is an absolute must and for Mulumbu not to get the call yesterday makes you wonder when he ever will.
I’ve been a fan of Dorrans in the recent past (unlike most it seems) for his tendency to pass to those in yellow shirts but there is no escaping his inability to sit deep and track midfield runners was costly yesterday. And now, with Steven Whittaker nowhere to be seen, I fear he’s close to joining Russ at the top of the unwritten hit-list. I hope I’m wrong.
But equally it’s a given that the return to health of Alex Tettey and the return from suspension of Gary O’Neil can’t come quick enough as the cluster of teams at the bottom the Prem becomes ever more concertinaed.
As it transpired the failure of those around us to win yesterday meant the damage was limited but by the same score it was a chance missed to put clear water between us and the bottom six. And it’s too early to gauge the longer term psychological impact of yesterday’s five minutes of injury-time, which in the short term was horribly traumatic.
Hopefully the nine days between now and the visit of Tottenham – high-flying Tottenham no less – will be used to clear the heads and, amongst other things, to get Master Klose up to speed because with around five wins still needed a quick glance at the remaining fixtures makes difficult reading.
But there were some obvious positives to cling to and, in part thanks to Messrs Sherwood and Wright on MotD, it was fitting that defeat in a nine-goal thriller didn’t detract from a fine Steven Naismith debut. He was everything we hoped, and had been promised, and it was no coincidence that with an ally close at hand Dieumerci Mbokani had his best game in yellow so far.
Ivo Pinto too showed signs of promise although he will quickly learn, and be told, that to be a regular full-back in the Premier League he will need to be as assured defensively as he is in the attacking third. But he did enough in the first hour to suggest this is achievable, in the same way the whole team did enough for 55 minutes to suggest they can retain their PL status.
But it’s a thin line City are treading right now and their propensity to self-destruct, which has been ongoing since the first game of the season, shows no sign of abating. Either it stops now or we can all starting preparing for Deepdale and Elland Road.
COLIN BRINDED says
A Great summary of events, lets hope the recent additions are not too late, albeit still think that we need a left back, to release Brady to play where he was intended to play in Midfield Wide, and also would still like to see a proven striker, as by his goals per game ratio I think that Naismith is an Attacking midfielder with an eye for goal.
Peter C says
Gary, this sums up exactly how I am feeling. Both the manager and the players were at fault for the losing of this game against a side who find it hard to score goals. The fact is that sides that throw away games by bad decisions as we have done against Stoke and Liverpool and fail to turn up against sides like Bournemouth get relegated. Our only hope now is that Klose can fit quickly and efficiently into our defence and that will not be easy. As you say something has to change now.
Gary, great post as always and many key points that I agree with. Whilst we are all really frustrated with the result I do think we need to take a healthy step back and look at the broader team performance. Picking on individuals performances is one thing but the level of vile abuse directed at some players really is unacceptable.
With the ball, City looked good moving the ball around well. Naismith provides us with a missing ingredient and will be a great foil paired with Wes. Mbokani had a good game which is really encouraging. The link up play was great and with more game time for Naismith, improved fitness that will just get better.
Without the ball it was a horror show – I’ve only just ventured moving out from behind the sofa. I was equally surprised that Mulumbu didn’t get the nod because without Tettey we needed a player with the discipline to sit in front of Seb and Russ. For me part of the problem is our full-backs lose possesion too high up the pitch which pulls the centre backs out wide leaving huge gaps. Or they just don’t hold positions tight enough with the centre halves. My first impression of Pinto is that he’s a faster version of Whittaker – good going forward with nice movement, but equally as shaky defensively. For me leadership at the back is key. A Dublin, Nelson, Fleming or Mackay type character who defends simply and really organisers others. At the moment, I just don’t think we have that in the squad and whilst Klose will be an upgrade on what we have I’m not sure he’s that type of player.
For the remainder of the season, tightening up at the back and defending as an organised unit will determine whether we sink or swim. However I do think another foray into the transfer market for an on the pitch leader is important.
Michael D says
Your series of italics questions, exactly sum up supporters feelings, Gary, and I must admit that a day later, it is still anger that is my foremost feeling when I return to thinking about the game! Your last two especially, ‘Why was Ryan Bennett dropped?’
‘And, yes, why does the gaffer think his captain can play at centre-back?’, are really, really frustrating. It is hard to believe that Alex Neil could be in such a minority of 1 vs 40,000 odd supporters who never want to see Russell Martin at CB again. In fact, Neil did Martin a huge disfavour yesterday, since it is likely that if he appears on the pitch again in a hurry he is simply going to get booed, and after all he has done as skipper that would be a huge disservice to him. But he should never, never have been in that position yesterday, and I am angry at Neil both for putting him there, then for not changing things when the repeated c*** ups kept happening. For us still not to keep the ball out for the last 90 secs after Bassong’s equaliser was unbelievable, but personally as soon as we went 3-1 up, my first thought was I’d be much happier if Klose was at that back (since Bennett wasn’t even on the bench). Why didn’t Neil shore it up better in the second half? If he didn’t want to use Klose as a sub, then why wasn’t Bennett there? And if Mulumbu was supposed to be the Tettey alternative, why didn’t he see some action (instead of Dorrans, who is also not a defender)?
Unbelievably frustrating that match, and now we have 0 points from the last 9, and that 0 points is a result of several very poor errors of judgement – O’Neil’s against Stoke, and now I’m afraid A Neil’s against Liverpool, even if his selected defenders compounded it with their collective, calamitous errors.
colin m says
It was like watching a 95 minute penalty shoot out, I’ve not felt so upset & bemused since Cardiff play off defeat. But we will survive yesterday will be our springboard.
Premier League Pedant says
It was very reminiscent of City under Adams, how open we were yesterday. Failure of game management has reared its head again. To concede barely a minute after going 3-1 was criminal, but I feel sorry for Alex Neil, because the errors were so BASIC. Losing shape after scoring, failing to even attempt marking Henderson, Firmino or Lallana at crucial stages. Where to begin on that back pass?! You can’t plan for things like that.
I haven’t seen a City player do anything as stupid as O’Neil’s sliding assault at Stoke in many years. You look where we were then, won 3 of the last 4, back-to-back wins, confidence high, playing well at the Brittannia. We lose that game and the next two, and we’re back in a big dogfight with 5 teams hoping not to go down with Villa. I stick with my original thought that I hope O’Neil never plays for City again.
Bob in Diss says
We are the gift that keeps on giving. Alex has to shoulder some of the blame for yesterday – his explanation of choosing RM over RB was unconvincing and plain muddled. It feels like he’s over-thinking things rather than using his instinct.
All of the errors have been analysed to death already. Fair play to MoTD for focusing almost entirely on our positives although doesn’t lessen the pain and frustration at throwing points away again.
Spurs (best defence and most potent attack) will be a huge challenge for boss and players. Has to be RB and TK at the back. If that fails, then we have nowhere else to go.
The season hangs by a thread.
Jon B says
Gary and 1 to 4 sum up the frustrations a plenty of yesterday. Bennett is a no nonsense occasional row Z man plus his passing ability from the back outstrips others too. We thought the Everton match around two months ago had proved once and for all that Martin wasn’t a centre back. Redmond is getting lost at the moment and needs a place on the bench.
Bucks Canary says
Couple of points re Russ: Lambert played him at CB, Hughton played him CB; Adams played him at CB – now AN plays him at CB.
I prefer him at right-back, but I know nothing. I rely on the manager using his total knowledge of a player rather than the small insight that I get of him on the pitch. When sequential managers all use him at RB shouldn’t we perhaps question our collective judgement?
And, sadly, that incredibly suicidal back-pass was just a dreadful error.
Julian Roberts says
Didn’t think it would be long before our so called supporters started getting on Alex Neil’s back,some have very short memories. I don’t know why and when but the famous yellow and green army are turning into a bunch of whining moaning good for nothings. As one of the three promoted sides we were the bookies and the pundits favourites to go down. Are we cut adrift at the bottom? No. Are we in the bottom three? No. I’m going to be controversial here how about as supporters we started supporting the team and giving them our support because at the minute unless we are winning the team aren’t getting it. It’s no wonder players like Russell Martin are struggling for form when the crowd are getting on his back. It wasn’t too long ago Russ travelled to Liverpool after the birth of his child, had no sleep and scored the equaliser. The way he is being treated is a disgrace he is our captain and will be as upset as anyone with his lack of form. I am concerned with our current predicament as same as everyone else and I too believe we need to make changes but can’t see how slagging every one off helps. I’ll don my tin hat now and get ready for the abuse I will no doubt now receive for daring to suggest our supporters actually support. OTBC
Succinctly put Gary. For the first time this season, I see relegation as a very real, looming possibility. The 15 remaining games gives Alex Neil short time indeed to get new defenders up to speed and a settled back four. Dropping Ryan Bennett to play Russell Martin at CB beggared the belief of all. Maybe it’s Sunday gloom but it seems most of our 23 games have contained more than a fair quota of unforced errors, some we escaped with, others have been cruelly and deservedly punished, as yesterday’s! With 15 games to go, a bad refereeing decision here, red card there, sickness or injury to a key player and that’s us done for as our remaining games diminish. “Doooomed!!” Well, that’s enough cheeriness from me, gotta go, it’s chilly out here on the window ledge!
Thought Pinto was dire defensively but people hate Martin so much they are over looking Pinto’s abject positioning. Emperor’s new clothing scenario and certainly he is no better as RB on that performance. Dropping of Bennett baffling. I’d like to see Brady, Klose, Bennett and Martin next game.
Gary Field says
@10 – Julian. Personally, I thought the Carrow Road support was excellent yesterday and can’t really be held as a contributing factor to what was unfolding before our very eyes.
The whole defence needs to look at both their own individual and collective decision making before we start going down the route of selecting off the field reasons for the defensive faux paus.
Ultimately, there’s no room for sentiment in football, if one, or more players aren’t doing the business, then changes have to be made, irrespective of whether the player is wearing the captain’s arm band or not!
Robert Tressell says
Sound analysis, but predicated on assuming that AN dropped RB.
If, as is widely rumoured, RB was unavailable for this match, then I don’t believe that RM at Centre Back was so unreasonable. AW wasn’t available either, TK isn’t ready to play, and was always going to be an unused sub gaining experience (and hopefully sowing some seeds of doubt on the opposite bench). IP has had 3 weeks with the club, but no game time. Add in the unavailability of GON, and the late withdrawal of AT the only real mystery is why YM is out of favour.
Otherwise AN did the best he could under the circumstances.
The match underscored our well known defensive weaknesses, but these are being addressed with the new additions. In SN we look to have not only a missing piece in attack, but also a possible future captain in the making.
This match can go down as ‘events, dear boy, events’. Let’s focus on the positives and move on.
colin m says
10 Julian, I’m with you. Just watched Everton, Stones, Colman, Baines etc and they’ve won once in 10 and leaking goals
Ok RM back pass and Brady header reasons for defeat but Liverpool were rubbish at back also.
Proud to support our boys win or lose. A N is still learning and there is no guarantee Ryan B would have made amy difference. Going to go to the wire but best thing we can do is support our boys. They must be devastated today.
Ryan Bennett was available, but Alex Neil unbelievably thought Russell Martin was better suited to dealing with Liverpool’s “strikeforce”.
Defence was a weakeness last season and Alex Neil has had a year to sort it out.
Andre Wisdom and defensive midfielder Mulumbu appear to be poor recruits.
Maybe we need a dedicated ‘Defence Coach’ and still need another new Centre Back.
I’m not sure how much I want to criticise Alex Neil after that game.
On one hand, after 54 minutes and 3-1 up, you would say that he was proved right – in a comfortable position, playing good, attacking football. There were no complaints over team selection or tactics at that point. It was simply horrendous individual errors, not only Martin, that led to our downfall – which raises the question whether these players have the ability or character to keep us up this season.
On the other hand, I think back and I can’t help but think back and feel that this has happened too much this season – either ridiculous defending or just complete no-shows (Bournemouth, Watford). The buck stops with the manager and he needs to do something about it.
Premier League Pedant says
It’s harsh to point at individuals after a defensive display like that. No one has mentioned how Brady was caught napping and playing Firmino on for the first goal. The whole team is culpable. The positives are that we’re still in the top 17 (just), Naismith looks very promising, and WE HAVE BOUGHT A NEW CENTRE-BACK! HALLELUJAH!
Also, congratulations to Liverpool because judging by the celebrations they have finally won another title.
Christ. Anybody would think we lost 5-0. It was a ding-dong match with terrible defending on both sides but let’s not write the whole season off because of it. For quite a considerable time in the match we looked REALLY GOOD. Then it all went bananas. Let’s learn our lesson, move on and appreciate that some days football is the best spectator sport in the world bar none.
John Speck says
All Liverpool goals were defensive errors:
Goal 1: botched NCFC offside trap. We aren’t sophisticated enough to play that game.
Goal 2: after going 3.1 we have to get the defenders and THE MIDFIELDERS back in our box to help defend. There was time to do that but howson lamentably failed to track his man at all and just watched him move away to score.
Goal 3: quality goal as quick, crisp counter but shocking by howson again as fails at all to track back his man and just watches as the Liverpool man runs through to score. Was howson worn out?
Goal 4: just plain weird, especially as he had a teammate 5 metres from him in space for an easy pass.
Goal 5: scrambled miss-hit after a botched Brady header across his own box. Why not just head it out of play for a corner?