Other children of the 60s may remember an Australian series called the Magic Boomerang in which said implement when thrown would suspend time for all but the thrower.
Apparently a number of Wolves players were carrying one on Sunday judging by their second goal, with three attackers fighting to get the final touch with not a red shirt in sight. It was a moment that both summed up City’s performance and also may well have marked the very moment that the spirit that has kept fans and players going finally expired.
I haven’t often been critical of the players this season, but the performance at Molineux was even worse than the surrender at Old Trafford and after the promising opening ten minutes City offered virtually nothing against a Wolves team that barely had to get into top gear.
It was, sad to say, the performance of a team that seemed to have accepted the inevitability of relegation and produced a range of responses into the away end, ranging from stunned silence, through mercilessly abusing one’s least favourite player to the pinnacle reached by the small group who felt that the best way to express their undying love for their club was to join in with the home crowd’s gleeful serenade of “You’re f***ing s***” by changing “you” to “we”.
The most immediate, and probably inevitable, result of such a shocking performance was the virtual apotheosis of Emi Buendia on social media on Sunday night, with one tweeter going as far as to suggest that he was City’s greatest ever player.
Buendia’s presence on Sunday’s bench was seized upon as a focus for many people’s frustrations and while it’s perfectly reasonable that people should question his absence, it’s worth pointing out that Farke gave a pretty detailed explanation of why he hasn’t been starting recently at Friday’s press conference.
Let me say here that I love Emi and what he brings to the team, but I can also see where Farke is coming from.
Emi can be fantastic going forward (although Farke is right to point to his lack of goals) and in a team where he didn’t have anything more than rudimentary defensive duties he would probably be virtually indispensable, but City is currently not that team. Perhaps they were last season when they could outgun virtually any opponent, but that is no longer the case.
However, the problem goes deeper than one player being in or out of the side. The fact is that City’s midfield as a unit has been an issue all season. The failures of Marco Stiepermann, Moritz Leitner and Tom Trybull to make the step up to Premier league standard has been a huge setback for Farke, while Ibrahim Amadou’s miserable loan spell has already been acknowledged by an ever-candid Stuart Webber as being a failure of recruitment.
As a result, Alex Tettey has become a vital component but as we all know his ability to disrupt opposing attacks far exceeds his capabilities as a constructive passer. This has not gone unnoticed by opposing managers who are setting out their sides to deny space to the likes of Todd Cantwell, Ondrej Duda and Buendia so that Tettey finds himself on the ball with increasing regularity and as result City’s attacks invariably lack pace.
What’s more the lack of an effective second screening midfielder despite several options being tried has had a double impact, firstly in terms of leaving the back four exposed and secondly, and as a direct result, by requiring the creative players, like Buendia to do more defensive work.
Of course, it would be easy to say, “Why didn’t City sign one then?”, but they did – Amadou. On paper, he was a great signing but on the pitch, he wasn’t.
The other thing that Premier League managers have done extremely effectively is to deny City room on the flanks. How often this season have we seen Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis or Sam Byram get to the byline? Invariably they are forced to check back and so one of the key factors in City’s promotion surge has been effectively blunted.
With very little money to spend, City’s ability to stay up was always going to hinge on how many of the squad could make the step up this season and how quickly Farke himself could adjust to the demands of the higher level, and I think the fact that fewer than expected have certainly hasn’t helped him to do so.
As Webber has admitted the summer transfer window didn’t produce what was required and while I think that both Duda and Lukas Rupp are good players it’s an established fact that January transfers invariably fail to make a big impact, particularly when coming to English football for the first time. Neither played well at Molineux, but to expect them to refloat a ship that was already holed below the waterline is perhaps a little unfair.
Of course, the horrendous run of injuries didn’t help matters but the bottom line is that City’s on-field success came faster than the financial rebuild that has now been achieved.
As a mate on Twitter put it sublimely “ Promotion was like Jim Bowen telling you you’ve just won a V8 Range Rover, when you can’t afford to service it or put fuel in it.”
For City to have stayed up with this season’s budget they needed an awful lot of stars to align but in fact, the opposite was true and Lady Luck has administered a number of kicks to the gonads. But despite the disappointment, it’s vital to remember the unity on and off the field that made last season happen and ensure that we don’t lose that.
One City strong.