City in holding pattern thanks to the queue for treatment
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Short of an outbreak of bubonic plague at Colney it’s difficult to see how much worse things could get for Daniel Farke and his injury-ravaged squad.
With both the first and second choice goalkeepers sidelined within a week and Jamal Lewis injuring his elbow, it would seem that sympathy rather than criticism should be the order of the day.
Farke has constantly been forced to make changes to his defensive unit, and the fact that Ralf Fährmann limped off early at Crystal Palace on meant that City were severely limited in terms of playing out from the back because Michael McGovern is clearly uncomfortable with the ball at his feet - yet whenever the ball is launched long it is likely to come straight back given the relative lack of height in the side.
Whether Fährmann should have started is a moot point given how long he lasted, but it is easy to see why the City management team would have wanted to take the chance.
Nonetheless, it is impossible to ignore the fact that some problems were self-inflicted. The decision to once again keep Ibrahim Amadou at centre back when a specialist was available had two negative impacts, the first of them being his rash challenge on James McArthur to gift a penalty to the home side.
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However, the second and more important one was the fact that his presence in the back four denied City his physical presence in midfield where once again the Canaries were outpowered for long periods, with Todd Cantwell looking a pale shadow of his early-season self and Moritz Leitner racking up the pass completions whilst rarely troubling the Palace defence.
Perhaps if City had scored during their 20-minute period of relative dominance before half-time it could have been a different story, but another slow start in the second half allowed Palace to regain control.
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At the moment, City are falling between two stools away from home. They seem unable to replicate the slick passing moves that we have come to expect at Carrow Road, but are also ill-equipped to cope with the higher quality of counter-attacking that they are experiencing in the Premier League, particularly when the opponents are physically powerful.
What is really worrying is that in four away games their only goal is the one in the season opener at Liverpool. If City don't function as an attacking, goal scoring side they don't function at all.
On the surface that's a damning statement, but it has to seen in the context of an injury list as bad as I've ever seen in five decades of supporting City, and also set against the fact that the team's home form has been extremely good.
Whilst I don't think that it's realistic to expect enough points to be won at home to ensure survival, I strongly believe that City's away form will improve as more players return from injury, but realistically we are currently in something of a holding pattern at a time when we all dreamt of taking the top division by storm.
It's frustrating, without a doubt, but it certainly isn't terminal, despite some of the doom-mongering after the defeat at Palace. The league table is yet to become particularly stretched and to be worrying about relegation with 93 points left to play for is premature to say the least.
However, the injury crisis is severely restricting Farke's options, with the reintroduction of Grant Hanley and a first start for Patrick Roberts the only apparent choices available for this weekend.
I suspect that we could well be in for a high-scoring game as both teams are at their best when going on the attack. Once again the crowd will be a huge factor and it's absolutely vital that we see and hear the same sort of raucous support that was such a feature of the Manchester City game.