I need to be careful how I word this.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few messages bemoaning the negativity on MFW this season, with a few people telling me they are departing these pages for good. I deliberately, on request, turned to Mick Dennis and Stewart Lewis to offer a more positive outlook. (Lads – expect an email this week).
I suggest those good folk who are here for the happy clapping, look away now.
There’s no sugar coating that performance. Dire… pathetic… woeful… gutless… embarrassing… humiliating.
Take your pick.
When a club legend describes it as ‘as bad as it gets’ you know it was bad. And Hucks is the voice of reason. It was one of those days when you ended up wishing that football, as a sport, didn’t even exist. It hurt that much.
Social media and the messageboards have, of course, been awash with comments and rants; many likening the sense of humiliation to that infamous afternoon when Colchester United were visitors. The circumstances and level of opposition were obviously different but in terms of pure undiluted embarrassment, there isn’t a better comparator.
Because that’s what it was and what we have become. An embarrassment. A laughing stock.
We get the hump when the idiots at TalkSPORT treat us as a joke and get riled up when the Match of the Day pundits treat us with dismissive contempt, and then we watch as our players and management dish up a performance like that. What is there to defend?
We’ll be treated with scorn in the media this week and we deserve it. A performance like that is indefensible.
Adrian Durham, Jamie O’Hara and those two blokes we’d never heard of will be filling their boots and we are armed with not a single piece of ammunition with which to defend those players… or the coach.
There is not just a single reason why it went so horribly wrong yesterday – there’s never just a single reason – but it felt as if the die was cast on Friday lunchtime when Daniel Farke faced the press. In his usual measured tones, our coach described the task that faced his players but this one came with added submissiveness.
“We face the toughest task in world football”, was a phrase used to describe the size of the challenge. It was therefore not too much of a surprise that the players looked out of their depth from minute one and as if they felt unworthy of being on the same pitch as the Galacticos in blue.
Being respectful of your opponents and aware of their qualities is one thing. Laying on your back and allowing them to tickle your tummy is another. The deference shown by Farke to his opponents was embraced by his players. All that was missing was a red carpet and guard of honour.
Against opponents whom they had been told were the best in the world, they froze. Even the simplest footballing tasks became nigh on impossible and the nervous energy used up overthinking the magnitude of the task drained the limbs and minds.
Chelsea are obviously a very good side – as you would expect when you have an almost bottomless pot of money to construct a team – but even good players can be closed down, put under pressure and be made to hurry.
But there was none of that. Those good players were given time and space to do almost as they pleased. They were given time to pick a pass, time to shoot and time, if they wanted, to have a cup of tea.
No pressure on the ball. Wide-open spaces for the recipient of the pass. The freedom of Stamford Bridge.
If there indeed was a plan, other than to absorb Chelsea pressure and pray, it unravelled on seven minutes. As Mason Mount’s shot nestled in the corner of Tim Krul’s net, City’s chance of anything other than a heavy defeat disappeared.
We don’t do comebacks in the Premier League, let alone against Chelsea.
But it wasn’t just the lack of closing down. It was everything. Loose and careless passing, a lack of intent, a lack of energy, lack of belief.
Questions have obviously, and quite rightly, been asked of the formation and personnel – all perfectly valid when you’ve just been humped 7-0 – but in many ways, both of those things are irrelevant when you’re not fulfilling that most basic footballing function of competing.
We didn’t compete.
A non-league team drawn away to Chelsea in the FA Cup for their big day out would compete on a grander scale than City did yesterday, and would likely emerge with a less brutal defeat.
Tactics and formations matter, especially at elite level, but players still have to perform at their best level regardless. Personal battles can still be won even if the shape isn’t right. And at said elite level, there should be enough leaders in the team to re-organise and tweak a shape in real-time rather than wait until half-time or a pitchside instruction.
We had none of that.
‘A rabbit in headlights’ is an overused phrase but it sums up perfectly the wide-eyed expressions of our finest yesterday. It was the day we took Murphy’s law to a new level.
A sending off followed by a twice-taken penalty that Tim Krul saved at the first attempt merely added to the sense of circus, but there was nothing entertaining about listening to Stamford Bridge echoing to the sound of laughter. Even if we did perform like clowns.
Men against boys is how it’s been described in the nationals. Who could argue?
But where from here?
Well, to start with, questions have to be asked of a management team that has overseen such an appalling couple of months. I’m not suggesting an immediate Monday morning P45 is the answer, but Stuart Webber is not doing his job if he doesn’t examine closely the failings and ask himself if there is someone out there who could get a better tune out of this group of players.
The lack of passion and fire on display will not have been lost on Webber, neither will the ill-discipline.
For us, the fans, we have no option but to suck it up and take on the chin all the brickbats that are about to come our way. Look upon it as character building.
At Colney, I’m hoping there will be serious soul searching. Yesterday wasn’t good enough by any metric going and I’d like to think that professional pride will soon kick in. No one wants a 7-0 defeat on their CV, especially one as humiliating as that.
This squad may well be the weakest in the league – the stats don’t lie – but even the poorest team in the league can play with fire and passion and perform the most basic of footballing functions.
Right now, the Leeds game looks like a make-or-break, although that level of jeopardy may fade a little by the end of the week. What I don’t want is for it to turn toxic.
For all his current struggles, Daniel Farke has given us two of the best seasons of our Norwich City supporting lives, and what he doesn’t deserve is for it to all disappear under a cloud of venom and unrest.
Quite how this ends, I’m not sure but the deference shown to the big six has to end now.
Watford and Brentford are competitive and fearless. Why are we neither of those things?