And the heartbreaks keep on coming.
If Yohan Cabaye missing a penalty to take two points off the Mags wasn’t enough, we’re then treated to shots of shirtless, euphoric Mackems celebrating an injury-time, equalising penalty from Jermaine Defoe (who else) in a game Stoke should have won at a canter.
And then when it was our turn the Yellow Army were offered the cruellest, most tantalising glimpse of a priceless point only for it to be heartlessly whipped away courtesy of one – just one – moment of hesitant defending.
Don’t you just hate football sometimes? I mean *really* hate it.
It’s easy of course to blame the conspiring football gods – and at 7:30 that’s precisely what I did – but if we are to sink it’s not going to be heroic defeats at the Emirates, the Etihad, Stamford Bridge and the King Power that did for us.
It’ll be the ones where we didn’t turn up… like at Watford, Bournemouth, Swansea, Palace, Southampton and Newcastle.
I fully expect another Arsenal-type performance against Manchester Utd next Saturday. While unconvinced it’ll be good enough for the three points we desperately need, I do expect there at least to be desire and intent; qualities that went missing in the aforementioned dark days.
It’s those afternoons where instead of grinding out points, we ended up with exactly what the performance deserved where we’ve come unstuck and where we’ve failed to realise value in old adage of not playing well and still getting something.
The cynic in me would probably say we’ve actually failed on both counts: picking up wins when playing well and the odd point when playing poorly. And which is why we are where we are.
There were naturally positives to be gleamed from yesterday and the stats tell us that a back-four that was understandably derided in the hour prior to kick-off did a great job, restricting the Gunners to one clear cut chance and a few half-chances.
And on a normal day to concede just a single goal at the Emirates would, when you’re Norwich City, be lauded.
What it needed of course, from such a platform, was a chance to be gobbled up and that’s where – not for the first time – City were found wanting.
Twice Nathan Redmond would sting the palms of Petr Cech – both good efforts. But Danny Welbeck, from his one chance, didn’t sting the palms of John Ruddy. And there’s the rub.
For the umpteenth time this season, what happened between the two penalty areas was actually quite good and, always assisted by the fact we allow ourselves a five across the middle of the pitch, we looked composed… comfortable even.
But the combination of playing a lone striker, not having one of the quality (or cost) of Defoe and not having unearthed another Vardy means when the ball does get into the opposition’s box the threat is insipid.
The cross invariably misses its target or is over-hit, the through ball is intercepted, the one-two is just a one or the shot misses the target. None of which is a direct criticism of yesterday, although it’s a fair depiction of the second-half, but rather a crude synopsis of our play in the final third over the course of the season.
Again, that’s why we are where we are.
The optimists quite rightly point out that we are probably still only two wins away from safety (although I do wonder if another point will be needed) and buoyed by that level of performance it’s not an unreasonable shout.
That is until you consider that we have now lost three on the bounce and at a time when, whether we like it or not, Benitez and Allardyce have started to get a tune out of their boys.
In the cold, dispassionate light of day to ask for two wins out of Man Utd (h), Watford (h) and Everton (a) off the back of three defeats is, in truth, one mighty ask. But it can be done.
We’re certainly not yet in the realms of needing miracles but we do need to rediscover how to win fairly swiftish and if ever we needed a break or two or three…
My heart still believes; my head is less convinced, partly skewed by the fact the the Toon and Black Cats both emerged successfully from games yesterday where City failed.
But we battle on and if nothing else yesterday showed that, while no long-term plan, Bassong and Martin can put together a largely blemish-free 94 minutes; something they simply must do three more times.
And it showed that, despite online chatter to the contary, City are neither yet ‘down’ nor ‘hapless‘. We’ve been written-off, dismissed, derided and, with Villa long since departed, are now the butt of the gags. But we’ve not gone yet.
This weekend always promised to be a painful one and it didn’t disappoint. Next weekend simply has to be a better one.
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