1. Given the pastings handed out by Arsenal and Liverpool in previous weeks, it would have been understandable if City had started nervously against Chelsea. On the contrary the Tigers were by far the brighter starter out of the blocks, with brisk passing and comfortable possession, they fashioned some decent scoring opportunities: Thibaut Courtois made smart saves from both Snodgrass and Mason in the first half, and City should have gone into the dressing room at the break in good spirits having made a team regarded as a title contender look fairly pedestrian.
2. The second half, sadly, was a different and manky kettle of fish. As Chelsea moved through the gears, pressing when not in possession and showing more attacking intent when with the ball, City suffered a mental collapse and a crisis of confidence took hold. After Marshall made a good save from Eden Hazard a few minutes after the restart (the first time Marshall had been tested in a meaningful sense), City’s communication broke down: a few times players got in each other’s way, passing sequences were ended after just two or three hurried balls as the Blues pressed and we didn’t have the quickness of thought to adapt, and we struggled to move the ball beyond the half way line.
3. When Chelsea had the ball, we now invited deep forays and looked weak in the challenge whereas earlier we had been stubborn and resolute. There was a grim inevitability about Chelsea’s first goal as City lived dangerously, after that goal, heads dropped and some players hid. City were so off the pace at that stage, it looked as if we again had only ten men, blue shirted players on the ball had no markers within 5 yards many times. For the second goal, Nemanja Matic was allowed to saunter from ten yards into Chelsea’s half to the edge of our box before anyone wearing amber and black got close, and when a shot was blocked, Diego Costa was on hand to curl the ball into the corner of the goal.
4. Whatever time Mike Phelan has with the full squad during the international break will no doubt be spent rebuilding a shattered confidence. Our next series of games are in theory winnable, but we’ll need to show belief if we’re to turn any expectation into reality. A few Twitter tirades aside (and let’s face it that medium essentially exists for the spewing of not entirely rational anger) City fans have tempered criticism during a three match losing streak against sides of repute, but meek showings against Bournemouth, Stoke and Watford could see that reserve disappear.
5. A few individuals enhanced their reputations on Saturday. Dieumerci Mbokani was impressive up front, a perpetual nuisance to Chelsea’s defence and looks well worth a start in upcoming fixtures. At right-back, David Meyler rarely looked comfortable in possession (worrying, he hasn’t all season), but deputised solidly in an unusual position. Snodgrass and Henrikson buzzed about well.
6. Unfortunately, too many let high first half standards slip. At this rarefied level of the professional game, you can contend that the skill level between many of the players isn’t vastly different – it’s the ability to apply it consistently in games and consistently throughout seasons that separates the good from the best. It was chastening to see just how quickly levels can drop in a single game. An illustration that while City are good (both this season overall, and certainly when viewed historically), we’re not the best.
7. While football’s agenda turns to the fates of Lithuania and Moldova, Mike Phelan might just have his immediate future at the club secured, though that is by no means certain. Phelan being messed about by the Allams should come as no surprise to anyone with knowledge of how they regard employees, but the caretaker-manager’s willingness to air frustration in public is an eyebrow raiser. Perhaps he feels he has nothing to lose, given the things he’s seen while with the club.
8. Football has been wracked by the Telegraph’s pretty sensational revelations over the past week concerning alleged malfeasance by many employed within the sport. While it does little for the sport’s short-term reputation, which had already suffered at the hands of conspicuous greed, these sordid tales present its governing bodies with cover to take serious and lasting action to root out improper conduct. Sadly, we don’t have much confidence in the FA’s serial hand-wringers having the guts to do it.
9. Phil Brown described Sam Allardyce’s downfall this week as “like a bereavement”. Now, we do love our former manager, and we understand his eternal closeness to the ex-England boss, but honestly, get some bloody perspective, Phil. That’s the kind of artless hyperbole you came out with when you lost your focus as City manager.
10. It was dismaying to see yet another outbreak of rugby hooliganism on Saturday. We trust that the local media and local police will treat them as harshly as they would had this not taken place at a minority sport, and when their identities are known, City could do worse than pre-emptively ban them from the Circle. We don’t want rugby hooligans spoiling football, not when our sport has made such progress combatting this problem in recent years – something, incidentally, rugby could learn from instead of sanctimoniously prattling on about it being a “family sport” and deliberately looking the other way when violence flares.