Heavens above. To ship six goals away at Man City could be explained away with some embarrassed looks, statistics and mumbled interviews – but five goals at home, to a Liverpool side who have some way to go to emulate the European champs of yesteryear, rather makes one pause for thought and sip the evening bourbon with a little more concern than normal.
One trying to shake a stick at the plethora of mishaps, mistakes and moments of buffoonery will need a jolly large stick, but using the infallible AVB method of shrugging, closing my eyes and randomly pointing my finger, I point ye gentlefolk firstly towards the high defensive line.
Or, more accurately, the yawning gap it creates in between back-four and goalkeeper, into which Liverpool and their merry band of runners tore with gay abandon. A couple of one-touch passes, some of them – shock horror – going backwards first in order to move forwards, and our befuddled heroes were ripped to shreds. To shove poor old Daws bang into the middle of a system that relies so heavily upon pace seems suspiciously to contravene the UN charter on Human Rights, and sure enough, in the midst of the bedlam our intrepid leader earned his yellow card for hurtling into a centre-circle challenge as a crafty forward slipped the ball beyond him.
It is a measure of quite how bad things were that the more obvious candidate for withdrawal was young Master Naughton, who was sent spinning this way and that, evoking memories of that afternoon last season when Walcott tormented him to within an inch of his life as we conceded five at the Emirates. A theme begins to emerge, what?
The midfield deserve a jolly hefty couple of clips round the ears too. Paulinho generously found the time to squeeze in a couple of wild shanks into the upper tier and moments of halting our own speedy counter-attacks with that old ‘put-my-foot-on-the-ball-and-turn-backwards’ gambit, before getting sent off. Holtby buzzed around with some intent, to his credit, but as ever the whole thing was painfully pedestrian going forward (a term I use lightly), while the back-four, the goalkeeper and the seismic gap between them were afforded precious little protection.
Suspicion grows that locked away in the safe at Chadli Towers are some compromising photos of AVB, explaining the Belgian’s weekly selection, while the cunning plan to starve Lennon of the ball again failed to break down the Liverpool defence.
All things considered, quite the muddle, and with precious little in the way of game-plan or consistency of team selection, our glorious leader might be forgiven for shifting his feet uneasily and sporting the look of a toddler discovered with one hand in the biscuit tin. One rather hopes we won’t have to go through this nonsense every month.