Well, that was disappointing. Not the apocalypse, but certainly disappointing.
In the end, in the crazy world of Championship football, City were lucky to escape with a point, but that would have been harsh in the extreme.
We may not have been at our fluent best for the full 95 but there was more than enough there – especially if you’re a stats person – to suggest City should have won comfortably.
But they didn’t and the issue of breaking down teams at Carrow Road remains, even those whose sole intention isn’t to sit deep and defend.
For a team that’s been on such a rotten run, QPR were bright and breezy last night and while Mark Warburton’s overriding theme was to keep it tight and not overcommit, in Bright Osayi-Samuel and Ilias Chair he had a pairing who will cause problems for most Championship defences.
But, as ever, it was City’s inability to convert a high enough percentage of chances that cost them. A recurring theme, which in itself is odd given that we’re top of the table, but explains why our wins, when they occur, tend to be by the odd goal.
The ship has hit some mildly choppy waters. A single point over Christmas, coming off the back of five straight wins, is a mini-blip I guess but the reaction has been disproportionate.
The surge to the top of the league had some believing that that was where we would stay for the rest of the season, but we’re not Wolves of 2017/18, or Leeds of last season, or even the Norwich City of 2018/19.
And just because we’re fresh from the Premier League, we have no divine right to be where we are right now. Many in a similar position to us have creaked and floundered under the weight of expectation.
For the fallout from every dropped point to be quite so pronounced helps nobody. Never has ignore the noise been more appropriate.
That’s not to say there aren’t issues for Team Farke to address beyond the snaffling a higher percentage of goalscoring chances because there are – namely finding a slightly more solid base from which to perform in the middle and attacking thirds.
The good news is that Daniel Farke does have alternatives available to him, and no longer is he constrained by his first XI almost picking itself.
Some of the personnel changes are obvious and while I admire Farke’s loyalty and his determination to never throw a player under the bus, Ben Gibson for Christoph Zimmermann is a change that just has to be made.
Zimbo, for all his undoubted qualities, is struggling and is a shadow of the colossus who partnered Ben Godfrey two seasons ago. Successive injuries and operations have taken their toll and a centre-back who has one rick a game in him eventually becomes a problem.
For me, that’s a quick win for Farke. So too is Xavi Quitilla for Jacob Sorensen if/when the Spaniard is match fit.
A more tricky conundrum, and one where the answer is probably ‘horses for courses’, is that base of City’s midfield. Oliver Skipp has been outstanding, Kenny McLean was excellent again last night, but with options available who all offer something different, it’s a juggling act for Team Farke.
One thing is for sure – given the way we play, and the way Max Aarons and whoever plays left back are asked to join in, we’re never ever going to fully solve the conceding-too-many-goals conundrum. We’re never going to go full Sheffield United 2018/19 and I don’t think any of us want us to.
To do that would dilute the joie de vivre in City’s play when they do hit their straps and no-one wants that.
But none of that stops us conceding really sloppy soft ones, like we did against Watford and like we did again last night. And that’s something that doesn’t rely on a solid base or formations.
Sorensen, after making a brilliant tackle, was sloppy with his use of the ball, Vrancic lost out hopelessly in a 60/40, and Zimbo made a daft challenge that was only ever going to end up with a penalty awarded.
With Oliver Langford’s ears still ringing from the QPR ear-bashing induced by the Todd Cantwell penalty decision, he was never in a million years not going to award a pen. By the same score, the erroneous decision to rule out Cantwell’s goal meant the merest touch on Dereham’s finest was always going to end in a City penalty.
Rightly or wrongly, that’s how it tends to work, although it was difficult to love the histrionics from the City bench after the disallowed goal.
We harp on endlessly about our loathing of VAR and how it stitched us up when Pukki ‘scored’ against Tottenham last season. The trade-off for not having it is we occasionally get on the receiving end of a wrong decision.
That, as they say, is football. Or at least it was until VAR intervened.
To hurl the toys out of the pram when one goes against us is not a great look, although I guess they’ll argue it did heap the pressure on Mr Langford. I’d still rather we made our point and left it there… but I’m old-fashioned!
Either way, it was a disappointing evening but that relentless 20-minute spell just after half-time was enough to tell me City are not about to give up their place at the top of the division easily or in a hurry.
While it’s still too early to worry too much about the results of others, I’ll not complain that four of the top six are playing each other tonight.
Calm heads people. It’s only half-time.
Thanks for reading MFW in 2020. Never taken for granted.
Let’s hope for a better 2021.
Never Mind the Danger