In this current hellscape we live in, you have to learn to appreciate the small victories. 12.30pm games in Manchester’s version of the Death Star mean you can be passed out from the ale before the last team on your accumulator can let you down (Norwich City, you owe me £245 you mustard-making bastards). Also, losing to Citeh is not so bad when you get to see a kopite from thousands of miles away cheering for Everton only to be disappointed.
Obviously, we wanted to win this for ourselves, but losing to Man City at their place isn’t too shameful. They’re the best team in the league by a mile, despite what the great unwashed will tell you. But the performance in many ways wasn’t good enough, and you all need a scapegoat to sacrifice to our Holy Trinity, like many lambs and Alessandro Pistones. To be honest, most of the team was dodgy. Lookman looked bright when he came on, but we’ll come to that later.
With Gueye out injured, Marco Silva decided to throw three CBs at the back with Andre Gomes being helped by Sigurdsson dropping back during defence. Richarlison took Walcott’s place with Calvert-Lewin up top. Bernard and Coleman had big games ahead of them with recent poor performances putting them up on the stake, denizens of our moodiest message boards skuling nearby with torches in hand. City had Jesus up front, a man with cheekbones so sharp you can cut through your turkey with them. Sterling and de Bruyne were kept on the bench, I only hope we can have a wealth of talent that on the bench one day when Usmanov floods us with that sweet, sweet Megafon money.
It looked like the plan was to sit back then launch the ball to the aerial threat of DCL – it’s almost impossible to play through or around this City team so that seemed like the logical approach. Instead we tried to pass it out from the back, which is even more daft considering we were halfway through a named storm. The best chance of getting anything was trying to punish individual errors in their third rather than our own – 15 minutes in, Digne punished that and whipped a cross in to Richarlison, who couldn’t keep the volley down. Waste chances like that, or the one he had later, and you’re frigged. And it came to pass, when City decided to move to 2nd gear.
Just after Pickford had to save well to avoid Keane scoring an own goal, he passed to Mina who couldn’t find anyone else to pass to, panicked and lumped it right back to a Man City player, then played Jesus onside to score their first. He hadn’t scored in a while, so it was nailed on. Like cranberry sauce on everything at Christmas, or the idiots singing ‘feed the scousers’ after walking past their own local food bank collections, it’s guaranteed. First half ended up just trying to survive without conceding another, and stringing more than two passes together. We achieved one, at least. Referee was shite as expected, there’s no point gobbing off to Craig Pawson (aka the worst Fursona name in history) as he’ll just book you before changing his mind.
Everton needed to start well in the second half, not concede again, and try and find some chances to come back into the game. So obviously they conceded again within 5 minutes. Sane whipped in an early cross to Gabriel Jesus who found himself in some free space. I wasn’t sure whether to pin that on Marco and his zonal marking, Coleman for letting Sane cross it in, Keane for letting him get free/misjudging the flight, or Mina for not covering the right man. I just shook my head and put it down to ‘Everton, that’ while I kept wrapping presents. I apologise in advance to my family for the swear words I’ve probably carved into their gifts. My friend’s getting a bottle of Sauvignon FUCK OFF EVERTON Blanc.
Being 2-0 down is probably a good time as any to make subs. Coleman and Bernard were rightly shelved for Walcott and Lookman, with Zouma moving out to left back. We had 5 minutes of insanity last Monday, and we had one again this time around. Some good luck for once saw the ball bounce to Digne on the left, who crossed it to Calvert-Lewin who’s header bounced off Delph’s shoulder past Ederson. Game on…for about 3 minutes when Sterling scored 3 minutes after coming on. Again, a sub-6ft Man City player free as a songbird to head in. Glad we gave the former Liverpool player some redemption after a difficult week, we’re a generous club, us.
Lookman made us look a better team when he came on. He seemed to fluff his chance starting against Watford, but he arguably adds a new threat to our attack when he plays – and he created a blinding chance for Richarlison to tuck it in from just outside the box on 70 minutes, but like the chance early in the game he hit it off target. In the 33 minutes Lookman was on the pitch, he created three chances from open play than any other player has in the last five games. Good stat for him, but a bit worrying for the rest of the team that a kid is showing them all up.
You can look at this game in two ways, really. One is that it was an off day for us against a much better side, Silva was allowed to experiment in a ‘free hit’ game, our top tackler in the team was out injured and we got punished for individual mistakes. We’re still up in the top half of the league and we now only have one away game against the “Top 6”, and that’s the last game of the season.
The other way is that we have to do a lot better to get something from these games due to the home draws against the likes of Huddersfield or Newcastle. There’s some worrying concerns in defence and in attack; just as quickly as Digne’s establishing himself, Coleman’s looking more and more hamstrung on the other side. The front 4 is ineffective in both creating and finishing opportunities, whichever variation we have. We’ve only had 6 wins in 17 games (just one away from home) and we’re only 3 points above 13th place.
It’s a pisser at the moment after having a decent stretch of wins, but the problems were obvious back then and they’re only amplified now. There’s not much we can do until the transfer window opens again and we can address the problems for the second half of the season. Until then, we just have to crack on and maybe rotate the squad through Christmas – just don’t play 3 at the back again. It just doesn’t work. Like cranberry sauce on anything. Don’t @ me.
A YERRY BAD DAY: If you want an indicator of how Yerry Mina’s game went, the way he dived to the floor on the 88th minute to cheat a penalty then try and start a fight with their goalkeeper when he went to pick him up is a good one. He had a stinker. Players can have bad days, we all can (a good day for me is the rarity), but I reckon he could do with being benched against Spurs.
START THE CALVERT-RY: Dom worked hard all game despite not having much in terms of service, and did well for his goal. Given we have one if not the highest number of crosses into the box, his skill with headers could be utilised.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: One of the very few positives from last year was the amount of times we utilised the likes of Jonjoe Kenny and Beni Baningime. It might be worth giving them a run out over the festive period alongside Lookman and DCL at some point. Kieran Dowell also deserves a look-in, I reckon. Could be before the Lincoln game.