If we stay up this season I have a request regarding season tickets for 2019/20 Cardiff City home games. It’s a totally selfish request, I realise that, but after sitting through today’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of a dominant Tottenham Hotspur side, it’s one I feel I have to make.
Could a new season ticket category be introduced whereby you are buy a ticket for the thirteen games against the “rest” only, thereby ensuring that the fan buying the ticket does not have to watch the matches against the big six clubs.
I’m being facetious there, but as is quite often the case when someone uses that type of humour, there is a serious point behind it. After giving a typically flakey Arsenal side a good run for their money in a match where we competed throughout and could easily have got a draw, the subsequent home games against Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham have been pitiful – there is no pleasure whatsoever to be taken from seeing your side being taken apart so effortlessly and the worst thing about these thrashings is that there are no signs of any evidence to suggest that we are learning any lessons from them.
As well as our home trouncings, we have lost 4-1 at both Chelsea and Liverpool, while Spurs were pretty comfortable in beating us 1-0 at Wembley with a team missing quite a few of their first choice players.
Last time we were in this division, much was made of our win against a Manchester City side that would go on to win the title and, in many ways, it has meant that our subsequent awful record against the big six has been ignored. The truth is though that, apart from a home draw with Manchester United courtesy of a very late header by Kimbo, we were beaten in all of our other games against the big six in 13/14
Nevertheless, the signs are that the four points we gained that season are going to be a few more than we’ll manage this time around. I make it that it’s now fifteen straight defeats to the big six, with a total of forty nine goals conceded in that time.
This time around, it’s seven defeats from seven with twenty five conceded and, when you consider all of the evidence set out in those last few paragraphs, I don’t believe there can be too much argument with my contention that we are the worst team in the Premier League when it comes to matches against the top six – after all, it’s impossible for any team to have a worse record than ours!
I started by concentrating on the three most recent home matches we’ve played against the top six and I had hoped we’d seen the last of the humiliating home defeats after Manchester City’s cruise of a 5-0 win which denied us even a slight degree of hope that we could score at some time during the ninety minutes. I still believe that the defending Champions could have scored ten against us if they had needed to, but at least we kept them out for the first quarter of the game before our defensive dam burst.
For me, the most disappointing aspects of the two most recent games have been how the hopes of a sell out crowd have been deflated so early on in the game. Against Manchester United, a defensive wall which was not set up very well failed to do its job properly and our keeper could therefore only watch helplessly as Rashford’s free kick whistled in, but tonight was so much worse.
With the scoreboard clock showing something like one minute fifty seconds played, I jokingly remarked that we were going to hold out for longer than we did against Manchester United. By saying this, I accept my share of the blame for what followed in the next thirty seconds or so, but I refuse to be held solely responsible – I would say I should have three or four co defendants at least!
City were the holders of a proud record going into the game – that is that they were the only current Premier League team that Harry Kane had not scored against. Well, he has done now, but having only watched what happened just the once, I’m still not sure quite how this came about – one second Sean Morrison seemed to be on his way to clearing a cross from our left hand side and the next the ball was hitting Kane and rolling into the net.
The sense of deflation as the ball trundled gently into our net was palpable, but City responded in a fairly positive manner which helped to get the crowd going a bit. However, it didn’t take long for for Spurs, who it must be admitted played some lovely stuff in the first half an hour or so, to cut through us again before Christian Eriksen appeared to wrong foot Etheridge by giving him the ”eyes” and then rolling the ball beyond him.
Therefore, City found themselves 2-0 down with barely ten minutes played. This time though there seemed to be an appreciation from the City faithful that there was little they could do to try and transform the situation. The die had been cast and there was no way of influencing things on the pitch – the home crowd found their voices somewhat as the final whistle approached, but were generally a lot quieter than has been the norm this season.
Spurs, now doing much as they wanted, added another from Son Heung-Min before half an hour had been played and that was the end of the scoring, even though I had the feeling that, like Man City, they could have doubled their lead if there had been a reason for them to do so.
City restored a little pride by, largely through Etheridge, keeping Spurs goalless in the second half while also forcing Lloris into a save or two, but there is a reason why the details of the game are a bit vague to me – after the second goal went in, the amount of attention I gave the match declined quite markedly, I was watching it, but my mind often seemed to be elsewhere.
I wrote all of the above straight after getting home from the game before the need for sleep took over and I nodded off. Looking at it now, there are clues that I was getting very tired because it does get a bit rambling, but I’m going to keep it as it is because, having now slept on it, I still think it accurately represents my feelings when it comes to our hopeless performances against the so called top six clubs.
The way we have been opened up so easily in our last two fixtures against the league’s recognised stronger sides is an indication that our problem with them is getting worse rather than better.
We had one hundred and fourteen points to play for at the start of the season, but, based on the evidence so far, the reality may well be that the figure is actually seventy eight because there is very little to suggest that we are going to get anything from our twelve matches against the teams currently occupying the top six places in the league.
Trying to be optimistic, although they were beaten 4-1 at the Emirates yesterday, Fulham, just like Burnley at the same ground over the Christmas period, were well in the game for long periods – Arsenal are not playing well and haven’t done so for weeks, so we might possibly get a point if we go up there and play with the sort of spirit and skill we showed at Leicester especially. Manchester United on the final day of the season may offer some hope as well I suppse if we go there needing something from the match and they have nothing to play for.
Apart from those two slight possibilites, it’s hard to see where we can get anything from our five remaining matches against the top clubs, but, on the available information, I suppose we should be grateful that only two of the five games are at Cardiff City Stadium, because, contrary to the overall theme of the season so far, we seem to be better off playing the leading sides away.
Maybe, there is a bit of a feeling that we have to at least look to attack when we play at home, but only one of our four home matches with the top six so far has been remotely competitve and, with the way we went about things against the two Manchester clubs and Spurs, there has to be a chance that even Arsenal would find a visit here much easier to cope with now than they did back in September.
When you look at the sides around us, only Fulham look possible contenders for our title of worst team in the Premier League when it comes to playing the top six – Burnley gave Liverpool a very tough time of it at Turf Moor a month ago before losing narrowly, Huddersfield took Arsenal all the way at the Emirates before losing by a late goal to nil, Southampton beat Arsenal, it needed a wonder goal for Man City to beat Newcastle at the Etihad and Palace won at that ground, as well as drew at Old Trafford, recently.
Although we’re almost certainly not talking about many points, it seems to me that most of our relegation rivals can be more hopeful of getting the occasional good result against the big boys than we can. However, thankfully, there are only six of them and the signal sent out so far in our encounters with the rest of the division is that we may be able to amass enough points for survival even if we don’t get any of those thirty six points on offer againsr Liverpool, Man City and the rest.
We’ve taken eighteen out of forty two points on offer so far in our fixtures with our other thirteen opponents in the division and our largest margin of defeat in these matches has been the two goals losses at Bournemouth and West Ham. There are another thirty six points on offer against the rest before the end of the season and, if we can maintain our current results against them, then I’d say we should get another fifteen, possibly sixteen, points.
Thirty three or thirty four points might well be enough to ensure survival based on the way the season has gone so far, but it would be cutting things fine. However, I would say that there are two things which offer hope for City that our final total may be more than that.
First, contrary to what is happening when we come up against the top teams, we appear to be getting better at competing alongside the rest and so it’s a possibility that those reamining fixtures may bring more points than I have anticipated.
Second, after looking incapable of gaining points on our travels for much of the time, our last two games, especially the win against the side currently standing seventh in the table, offer the hope that we can go into the away matches we have left against sides in the relegation dogfight more confident of getting something out of them than we would have been before Christmas – again recent events and performances offer the hope that we can get to more than thirty three or thirty four points, even if we don’t get a single point against the top six.
One thing I should mention before I finish, last night was the third occasion this season that Kevin Friend has taken charge of one of our games and I sincerely hope it was the last. Although we managed to beat Fulham with him in charge (he also officiated in our first game at Bournemouth), it was despite him rather than because of him – he has given us virtually nothing in those three matches. That said, I’m sure the linseman on the Ninian Stand side of the pitch did break the monotomy of him awarding everything to our opponents by giving us the very occasional throw in decision somewhere along the way last night, but I can honestly say that this morning I cannot recall it having happened!
Mr Friend and that linesman weren’t the reason why we lost last night, but, as City are proving so well, it’s hard enough trying to get anything from games against the top sides anyway, without having officials who seem to have a default setting which always favours the Spurs’ of this world taking charge of these games.
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