1. Marco Silva’s has had his first full week in charge of the Tigers, and whisper it quietly – very quietly indeed – but the opening signs are broadly positive. It’s crazily early to offer any sort of definitive judgement on the new City manager, and we won’t make any attempt to extrapolate beyond the immediate future, but nonetheless we’re impressed.
2. Unfortunately, his second game in charge was one that’s probably seen our faint dreams of League Cup glory and subsequent European exploration ended. Overcoming Manchester United over two legs was always a huge long shot, and while City’s 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford hasn’t absolutely settled the tie, it’s close to impossible to believe we’ll be two goals or more better than them in the return leg.
3. However, if the tie is effectively over and our dreams of major silverware have ended at the semi-final stage, then what remains is the memory of a sterling effort and the encouragement it provides. City defending manfully throughout to restrict a side assembled at preposterous expense to relatively few chances. Not much was created up front, unsurprisingly, but for a squad as thin and inexperienced as ours to keep it to 2-0, and be slightly unfortunate even to suffer that, was a superb achievement.
4. If that was the backs-to-the-wall against-all-odds match, then four days later came an altogether different test for Sr Silva. Bournemouth are an enormously admirable side, and even if they’ve experiencing a tick down in form they’re in a position we can only dream of. Nonetheless, this fell firmly into the “really could to do be winning” category. And we won it, deservedly, with a bit to spare and even the faintest hint of a swagger.
5. And that despite making it hard for ourselves too. Harry Maguire’s boneheaded challenge in the second minute could’ve been fatal for our chances, and had Bournemouth extended themselves properly and got a second while City were still coming to terms with a new formation and an early concession, it’d probably have been yet another defeat. However, as the first half wore on City cleared their heads and fought their way back.
6. Some of the play was far better than you’d expect from a side that started the day at the bottom of the table. We’ve seen that before, of course – the luckless Mike Phelan had City playing some attractive stuff prior to his dismissal, but this time there was a cutting edge. In other words, there was an Abel Hernández. His second goal was exactly the sort of predatory finish you can’t easily teach. Shifting the ball half a yard and instantly swiping it past an unsighted, uncomprehending keeper, it’s instinctive brilliance, and how we’ve missed it.
7. However, the hero of the hour may be Tom Huddlestone. He’s frequently frustrated, and a whiff of underachievement has stalked his time here, but he’s playing the finest football of his City career. He’s involving himself far further forward, his passing is not only sumptuously attractive but defence-splitting and he’s notably upped his workrate. In the past month, he’s become a joy to watch and an essential player. If he can maintain this level of performance, then maybe, just maybe…
8. No! Enough. The odds remain stacked against City, and the strong probability of four defeats from our next four games will quickly provide both a reality check and also a lot of late-season work to avoid relegation. We’re probably still going down. But we’re going down fighting, and that’s better than nothing.
9. Two new players – striker Oumar Niasse and midfielder Evandro – have arrived, and we welcome them warmly. We’re pleased to note that a right back appears to be next on his wish list. The sooner the better please, patrão.
10. Oliver Holt, one of the country’s most respected sports journalists, dedicated his entire Mail On Sunday column at the weekend to the situation at City, paying a visit to the UK City of Culture to talk to supporters. It’s a must-read and, while seeing everything we have to contend with via the toxic Allam regime in black and white isn’t an uplifting read, at least someone truly influential has put it all down for the national footballing consumer to digest. We hope the Allams read it, hang their heads in shame and change their attitudes overnight. But then still sell up very quickly.