1. Steve Bruce described City’s first half against Leeds on Saturday as “pathetic”. If anything, the City manager is underplaying the awfulness of his side, whose collective lack of interest stank Elland Road out for 45 excruciatingly inadequate minutes. City improved in the second half, of course. They could scarcely do otherwise. But even against a side as limited as Leeds, too much was left to be done as a consequence of that pre-interval capitulation. The manager was right – tackles were shirked, headers weren’t made, frankly they absolutely bottled it. Shameful.
2. Steve Bruce didn’t get much else right, though. No recognisable forward, and let’s look at the right side. Odubajo and Elmohamady look increasingly incapable of playing together, constantly getting in each other’s way and repeatedly swapping filthy looks. Their respective understanding and basic respect for one another is decreasing as the season progresses, and it’s beginning to appear untenable to play them both at once. With that in mind, Elmohamady looks the one most at risk of being dropped, because his high standards are not being met and his attitude looks questionable.
3. Tom Huddlestone. He should no longer be dropped to shake him up, he should be dropped because we simply cannot afford to carry him any more. He clogs City’s midfield up far more effectively than any opponent with his listless ambling, sideways passing and reluctance to wander beyond his centre circle comfort zone. Please, David Meyler, get fit again soon. And in the meantime, Mr Bruce, pick someone else alongside Jake Livermore.
4. Much of the same applies to Sone Aluko, who must surely be running out of opportunities. The dazzling, fleet-footed displays that so impressed us a few years are now a fading memory.
4a. Defensively, we’ve gone from being unbreachable to frighteningly porous. Harry Maguire is earning plaudits for his displays, though City’s leakiness has coincided with his introduction to the side. However, that’s almost certainly more to do with the loss of Michael Dawson than anything else. He’s not easily replaceable.
5. Manchester Hunter was an even heavier defeat, though with the obvious qualification of being against the Premier League title favourites. Just how much strength a club can amass with hundreds of millions of pounds at their disposal was chasteningly illustrated, and though City gamely kept going after a fear filled first half and didn’t deserve a 4-1 loss, even our first team would probably have been comfortably beaten.
6. Apropos of which, why on earth was a League Cup quarter final not deemed important enough to play our first team?
7. Let’s not panic, even if strong criticism is rightly being aimed at players and manager in the aftermath of the Leeds debacle. It’s important that we regain form quickly and that this becomes a blip, not a crisis. Much of that will depend upon Steve Bruce, the way he deals with his bruised squad this week, the decisions he makes before the City play Bolton (a club in genuine crisis) – and of course, the result of that game. This is nothing a 3-0 win on Saturday won’t go a long way towards repairing.
8. The forthcoming transfer window is going to be interesting, given that seven players are out of contract in the summer, which may incline the club into taking something at the season’s halfway point rather than getting nothing at it’s end. We’ve already castigated Huddlestone and Aluko, so perhaps their loss would be no bad thing. Both ‘keepers will be free to leave in June but probably won’t leave in January, though having to find two worthy netmen in the summer may be tricky. David Meyler has been excellent this term and we’d be sad to see him go, though he is perhaps the most likely of the seven to sign a new deal. Curtis Davies is well worth keeping, but probably hasn’t felt enough love from the manager over the last year to be compelled to stay. Ahmed Elmohamady, exceptional for three seassons, has merely gone through the motions this year and looks like a man who knows his future lies elsewhere. Tom Huddlestone expressed surprise when he found out that City let contracts run down when at other clubs new contracts were offered when two years remained on existing deals, we can but hope we don’t rue a lack of forethought in the summer.
9. It’s the draw for the Third Round of the Football Association Cup this evening. Somewhere near and exciting away, please. Though at least it can’t be as bad as last season’s draw. Err, right?
10. Last week, City fans were praised for their ongoing good behaviour at games, with banning orders now at a two decade low. “Hooligans” indeed.