How was your Super Saturday?
Even those who were able to resist the call of the pub may have been tempted to turn to drink after City’s latest post-lockdown offering.
But let’s forget the performance level for a minute and look at some numbers. *Look away now if you’re of a nervous disposition.
- One goal in nine league games
- Not a single corner won
- One shot
- Not a single shot from inside the box
- Six shots on target in the five games since the restart
- Five consecutive Premier League defeats without a goal
- Two goals scored in City’s last 31 first halves
- Not a single point earned from a losing position
- On course for our lowest points total ever (including when it was two points for a win)
Every stat as damning as the last. Sadly there are plenty more. In fact, almost every metric by which a football season can be measured produces an unpalatable answer.
Of course, there are mitigating circumstances and no-one could have predicted the injury crisis that befell the club in the early part of the season, and its impact on results and then, drip-by-drip, on the confidence levels.
Farkeball relies on those in possession of the ball having the confidence and swagger to execute, just as they did on that balmy September evening when Manchester City were the visitors.
It flowed, the passing was crisp, they were a cohesive unit, and, crucially, there were 26,000 voices roaring them on, telling them how brilliant they were, there to pick them up when a mistake was made.
Take away those 26,000 voices and I don’t think we beat Man City.
But it’s not just the crowd that’s been absent at Carrow Road since the restart. So has the swagger and the belief. So too the unity and camaraderie in the group; that same camaraderie that has dug them out of some pretty big holes over the last 20 months.
Yesterday’s was a shell of a performance. 15 bodies clad in yellow and green going through the motions, devoid it appeared of even the faintest notion of Premier League survival and unable to respond to that most regular of footballing occurrences – conceding a goal.
Of all the stats, the one that says they’ve not even earned a solitary point from a losing position this season is the one. It’s one of those slow-burners. Early on in the season, it’s not even a thing but after a few games and having it pointed out it becomes something that needs to be rectified.
It then becomes a problem that has to be addressed, and subsequently, with it not being addressed, it becomes a hurdle. It’s now gone beyond being a hurdle but instead represents a huge mental block to our players and a major target for the opposition.
He’ll not admit it, but Graham Potter knew that when Leandro Trossard scored that goal it was game over. That all-too-familiar sinking feeling would have washed over the squad, probably the bench too, and there felt no way back.
There was no way back.
Even against distinctly average opposition who, themselves, had a few lingering doubts around their Premier League status. But not any more.
Even in the most must-win of must-win games, City had neither the wherewithal or the belief to make even the slightest impression on Potter’s men. Matt Ryan, in the Brighton goal, had his easiest afternoon of the season.
For those of us watching or listening, it was actually heartbreaking.
Heroes who we saluted 14 months ago for performing heroics and giving us one of the best City-supporting seasons of our lives, reduced to peripheral, bewildered-looking figures on a stage that, at the moment, appears alien to them.
How have we found ourselves here?
Well, it’s clearly multi-faceted and complex, and not as obvious as some appear keen to make out.
We should all accept that little has gone right and much of it out of the control of Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber. Injuries, the VAR fiasco, and the footballing gods have all conspired to make this campaign hugely challenging; the one thing we could ill afford when the whole thing was funded by a wing and a prayer rather than a realistic budget.
And with no room for error, the errors still came thick and fast. The confidence gradually eroded away, things that were once second nature to the players became very difficult, and here we are.
Quite why we appeared so ill-prepared for the restart is another aspect that needs to be uncovered in the end-of-season review, and while the data may prove the players were as physically well-equipped as their opponents, the data won’t show how mentally prepared they were.
Maybe a few had switched off? Who knows, but it’s certainly important to identify why we have failed so miserably to match every opponent since the restart. The crowd factor is clearly a huge part of it, but can’t be the only reason?
More questions than answers I’m afraid. As ever. Including why, specifically, Messrs Drmic and Duda are getting so much game time?
But what I do know is this season can’t end soon enough.
More troubling is the fact that next season will be upon us before we know it, and almost certainly before the pain, angst and recriminations from this one have subsided.
And let’s not fall into the trap of believing that because this squad was good enough to win the Championship last season, if the bulk of it remains it will be able to do the same again.
The damage done by this brutal campaign will be untold, and this summer, regardless of who departs, needs to bring a significant refresh to this squad.
To make this squad fit for purpose in the Championship isn’t going to be as easy as some seem to think.
But, hey, the pubs are open 😠