The pained expressions on the faces of the
players were clear for all to see…and that
was BEFORE kick off! Manchester City
It’s one thing to have a steely focus expression on your face but the players looked 'stressed as hell' before KO last night – huh…perhaps for 10 of ‘em that demeanour was forced when they saw the team sheet and saw that they were effectively playing with 10-men again; as Dzeko’s name appeared alongside Aguero’s…
And when Samir Nasri came on to replace the invisible man – effectively brining our numbers back up to 11 on 66 minutes – even he looked like he wanted to come on the pitch and kill somebody (although I thought he played well for his 28 minute stint). Correction: Nasri came on for Navas and played just 17 minutes. Ooops...
Add into the mix Manuel Pellegrini’s ‘What the hell to I do now / next’, utterly defeated, dejected & grave expression; and we go into a derby game at Cold Trafford in the worst possible shape in many ways.
In a game where we, strangely, did o…kay for the most part - and certainly had way more possession and more shots / chances than Palace - Demichelis had, in the early stages at least, a woeful time of it last night. £34M-man Fernandinho had an indifferent game once again where he was, at times, okay and at other times quite awful; Navas for all his running (again) was mostly ineffective (again!) and Toure had wrongly set his alarm clock for 9:25pm; just several minutes before his-own-personal, extra impetus resulted in a very fine goal indeed.
Most of them look like they need a few sessions on a psychiatrist couch…followed by an ice-bucket challenge!
Unbelievably the Premier League form guide shows us to be as high as 9th from 20…but chuck in an F.A. Cup defeat and a couple more in the Champions League as well and from 14 games since 10th January 2015, W:4 D:3 L:7 tells its own story of a side in rapid decline.
The pundits started early last night on Sky Sports but, in fairness, they appeared to be trying not to twist the knife too much. It still hurt though.
Jamie Carragher quite simply said we were a team that had seen its best days; an aging team that deserves credit for an F.A. Cup final win; likewise in the League Cup and 2 Premier League titles in 3 seasons (playing some amazing football at times and banging in so many wonderful goals I’ve lost count, I will add).
Gary Neville, quite accurately, preceded Jamie’s comments by saying that the mentality of the players was wrong; getting to the top of the mountain by winning the league and then breathing a huge sigh of “We’ve done it!” relief, before relaxing the following season.
We’ve flippin’-well done that twice under two managers now!
There does need to be a fairly large clear-out / re-build in the summer but I would suggest to the club that if we are to inject some youth and some much-needed pace into the side (and not the sort of Navas, no-end-product kind of pace) then we also need to desperately address the lack of leadership in the middle of the park and ‘depth of character’ elsewhere, which Gary alludes to.
Although under the cosh for large parts of the game last night; Palace most-definitely ‘smelt blood’ before last night’s encounter and their instincts were correct. I’m guessing now that Manyoo will get a similar feeling before next weekend’s game.
Get the couches loaded-up and the ice-maker working at 100% City…