1. Reading first. If only to keep us from having to face the awfulness of Rotherham. Not that this was quite the perfect display. City put in a typically torpid first half showing and deservedly trailed at the break. It’s maddening to see this gifted side repeatedly decline the chance to seize the initiative, granting it instead to lesser sides who then overcome City with superior application and confidence born from unexpectedly matching us. It has to stop.
2. Credit does go to the manager and his side for the recovery, however. 1-0 down in a Sky fixture is a deeply unpromising position, but the second half was immeasurably improved and while the winner was late (and lucky), City deserve plenty of praise for rescuing the situation. Bruce’s substitutions were unorthodox but effective, and we left feeling that the slide of recent times had been corrected.
3. Oh dear. The debacle at Rotherham followed an unhappily similar pattern to the Leeds fiasco – slow, slovenly football coupled with an unmerited superiority complex followed by a very sharp shock with a couple of opposition goals. Rotherham were an obviously limited side, but their commitment was total. It’s to the City XI’s lasting shame that they didn’t come close to matching it.
4. The defence creaked. The midfield lumbered (and that’s without Tom Huddlestone). The wings provided limited ammunition, and what there was the attack ineptly spurned anyway. It’s rare to see a game with no-one emerge with some credit, but that was the case on Saturday.
5. Chuba Akpom’s had a horrible week. Wearing gloves is bad enough, petulantly throwing them to the ground in response to being substituted is worse, but standing motionlessly when a through-ball is yours to chase and a defender is helpfully playing you onside is inexplicable. He’d already struck the post twice and failed to make a pass to Hernández that’d have provided a goal. By the end it was hard not to feel sorry for him. He’s young, evidently very immature and there’s no hiding place any more. But his attitude and execution have got to improve, immediately.
6. The same applies to Ahmed Elmohamady, who doesn’t have the excuse of being a teenager. If he put as much effort into playing football as he does with the stroppy gesticulations he’d be about the best wide player in the division; instead, he’s sulking his way through games, presumably waiting for January to rescue him from the utter hell of having to play in the Championship. Increasingly, it’s hard not to conclude that he won’t be missed if he does depart.
7. Steve Bruce has some interesting issues to deal with in the coming weeks. Should we cash in on Davies, with whom his relationship is apparently still fractious? Can we get a few million pounds for the underperforming Huddlestone and/or Elmohamady to invest in a new forward? How to get this lavishly talented side to stop coughing up crummy defeats to lesser sides? How to play well in a first half. Unless and until he gets those things right, there’ll still be a few grumbles about his position. It’d be a poor decision to replace him, for a variety of reasons: City are very much in a promotion race whose outcome cannot be guessed at, there are no plausible alternatives that’d definitely be better, and we find it hard to place much faith in the Allams’ ability to get this sort of decision right. So, in Bruce we must trust. Meanwhile – whisper it quietly – but our demands and expectations a little unrealistically high…?
8. The club has acted quickly upon its promise to survey City fans about their preferred matchday entertainment. Why this is even necessary is never really clear, as the football ought to provide the entertainment; if you want crap pop music or cheerleaders, that’s what nightclubs and American sports are for. But no matter. The survey looks straightforward enough, and barring a repeat of the club’s infamous name change poll, ought to decisively settle the matter of goal music.
9. Burnley next, aiming for their 741st straight victory against City. Gah. Let’s not think about it for now.
10. From us all at AN, a very Merry Christmas. And be sure to listen to our next podcast, recorded this evening and available tomorrow. We’ve a guest who’ll hopefully have loads of fun stuff to tell us about…