Football FanCast columnist David Mooney was disappointed with Sunday’s draw, but felt it could have been worse.
From a winning position, Manchester City dropped two points. 2-0 up, at home, against a side that had played a tough game in Europe only three days earlier and any team should be able to see the game out. The biggest disappointment, though, was that it was a weekend when the club’s closest rivals – Tottenham, Villa, Arsenal – all dropped points and City didn’t take advantage.
But… There are two sides to every story. The way I’m looking at this weekend’s events is: ‘well, it could have been worse’.
This fixture with Fulham is one City have, classically, struggled with. In the 2005/06 season, City were winning 1-0 with a minute (plus added time) to go… And lost 1-2. A year later, City beat Fulham 3-1, but Fulham had two goals disallowed and were always threatening.
In the 2007/08 season, Fulham famously came back from a 2-0 half time deficit to win 2-3, and it was one of the games they needed to win to stay in the Premier League. And then last season, despite being a goal up, City could only muster a 1-3 defeat, much to my annoyance as it is (so far) the only home game they have lost in the whole of 2009. And, typically, it was the only home game my Belgian friend was in the country to see.
If recent history goes to show anything, it’s that City teams in the past would have lost that game, having let a 2-0 advantage slip. And I’m grateful we didn’t, a point is better than none, especially when we played poorly. Given the results elsewhere, three would have been better, but, also given the results elsewhere, not getting three is not the disaster it would have been had Tottenham, Villa and Arsenal won.
City were poor, there’s no getting away from that. If anything, they were perhaps a little fortunate to have been two goals in front when they were, but having gotten into that position, they should not have drawn the game.
But two soft goals later, and they have. This defence, compared to this time last season, has changed significantly. Starting against Stoke last season were: Hart, Richards, Dunne, Ben-Haim and Garrido. Only Richards is still at the club (though I hope we’ll see Hart back here in a few season’s time with a ton of Premier League experience) and he’s not exactly been hitting the heights of form.
I still think Lescott and Touré need time to settle, while Richards needs to sort his positional sense out and he could be one of the best defenders in the country. Bridge, since last season, has been steadily improving his form and I’ll be one of the first to admit I criticised him and am now in the process of being proved wrong.
And all this isn’t being disrespectful towards Fulham, either… The visitors would have been hard done to had they not had a point from the game. If anything, they shouldn’t have found themselves two goals down.
But, having gotten two goals to the good, I’d expect any team looking to finish in the top four to be able to see out the game and take all three points no matter their opposition. Still, Arsenal failed to do that and they’ve been top four regulars, so it’s not a hard and fast rule, obviously.
Actually, come to think of it, it’d be a daft rule if it came in – banning teams who have let a two goal lead slip at any point in the season from entering the Champions League would be an interesting and widely controversial move by UEFA, if anything.
“And, in other news this week, Burton Albion are in line to qualify for the Champions League, providing they don’t let a two goal lead slip against Aldershot, this weekend. Under UEFA’s new regulations, they are the highest placed team not to have given up a two goal lead this season.”
Anyway, where was I?
The point I think I’m trying to make is that one bad performance and a disappointing result doesn’t make a season. Any top team drops points unexpectedly – who, aside from the most optimistic fans, thought Burnley would beat Manchester United? Having lost that game, did the wheels come off their season? No, because there’s still a long way to go.
City missed a good opportunity to take advantage of their rival’s poor results. But at least they didn’t let their rivals take advantage of City’s results, for a change.
City’s coming games are all very winnable. So, City fans, instead of getting hung up over only a point gained, let’s get focussed on beating Scunthorpe in the cup on Wednesday, before taking maximum points from Birmingham, Burnley, Hull and, hopefully, Liverpool. The only way to show this league what we’re made of, is to move on from disappointments and make sure those disappointments are few and far between.