“It’s like watching Southampton first team versus Norwich Under 23s”.
The words of Jamie Carragher as said Scouser described, as delicately as is possible for said Scouser, City’s performance last night.
He was right.
Unfortunately, it was a line that could be attributed to far too many of City’s performances this season. As I attempt to cobble together some words on events at St Mary’s, I find myself scrambling around in that same bag of adjectives.
You know the ones.
This wasn’t a one-off. We’ve been here many times before. But last night’s stung a bit more because beforehand it appeared to offer a sliver of hope that simply wasn’t there when we played Man City and Liverpool.
As it transpired, you could argue that Southampton did a similar number on us to Man City. Against the might of Merseyside, we were better.
Dean Smith said himself that if his men could find in themselves a similar performance level to the one they produced at Anfield, then there were points to be had, while at the same time acknowledging that Southampton are a good side who are currently in a good place.
Unfortunately only the second part of that Smith prophecy came to pass.
From the first to the final blast of Simon Hooper’s whistle, City were second best. Southampton were quicker, sharper, and stronger in the physical sense and in every technical aspect of the game were better. In the tactical battle too it was Hassenhuttl who triumphed.
I guess at the end of the day it boils down to the Saints having better players, but that doesn’t excuse how woeful City were without the ball and how lacklustre and lacking in desire they appeared.
A defeat at St Mary’s came as no surprise – in researching the preview it became very clear what a quality, in-form outfit they are – but the manner of it hurt, even though we’ve seen it all before.
Grant Hanley and Angus Gunn should, of course, be exonerated from any criticism as both were excellent on the night, but there were precious few other positives to be gleaned from an evening that had relegation scrawled all over it.
The first goal was about as Norwich City as you can get with numerous cock-ups and mistakes occurring before Che Adams finally hooked the ball into the roof of the net from a laying position, but the second was undoubtedly a quality strike.
The only question mark around that was the amount of space left on the edge of the box – something that happened from every corner and advanced set-piece all evening – something perhaps for Messrs Smith and Shakespeare to look at.
But I’ll leave it there for now – it’s hard to get too worked up over football with Europe teetering on the brink of war.
Others still believe that the next two league games – against Brentford and Leeds – may yet open us up a route to safety, so let’s run with that for now.