What an utterly withering result that was – the kind of defeat which is so devastatingly complete that its ramifications can only be widespread, calling into question many of the things that you assumed a side might be capable of in the short-to-medium term, undermining the claims to their roles of key personnel, and threatening to alter the face of an entire season.
But let’s not dwell too long on PSG’s comprehensive and momentum-halting victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Champions League on Tuesday, because it’s none of our business, really – except, of course, in as much as it affects our sense of what lies ahead, going into our own meeting with United in the FA Cup next Monday night.
Let’s direct our attention, instead, to our own upset at the Etihad last Sunday – a 6-0 bashing which was the biggest margin of defeat for this club in 28 years. Now, I’m not here in any way to diminish the impact of that upset, nor to suggest that the immediate effect of it was anything other than traumatic. It was traumatic, not least of all, for my sons, neither of whom were even close to being alive the last time Chelsea shipped six goals in a single game, so neither of whom were fundamentally prepared for something like this, but, more importantly, whose seats in the ground last Sunday were right at the extreme edge of our away section, and left them separated from the home fans merely by the width of a staircase.
This, I think we can readily agree, is no position from which to witness any kind of defeat, let alone a 6-0 one. Really, there is only so much banter anyone wants to hear.
So, in one of the papers, practically everyone in City’s attack was rated 9, whereas practically everyone in our defence was rated 2. Now, one appreciates that player ratings are one of the academic world’s less exact sciences, but even so – that’s not really possible, is it? How can you earn a 9 when you’re only up against a 2? Both those numbers can’t be right, surely. Either the 2 drags down the value of the 9, or the 9 raises the value of the 2. Either City were that good, in which case we weren’t that bad; or we were that bad, in which case City weren’t that good.
Just to be clear, I’m saying that both those verdicts, individually, have merit and could be coherently argued for, and people could have their reasons for thinking one way or the other. But you can’t think both things at the same time. It doesn’t work.
Nevertheless, those considerations aside, I genuinely think there are still questions to be asked about where we rank last weekend on the season’s list of experiences so far. And I’m going to stick my neck out here and suggest that losing 6-0 to this particular City side was not as humiliating as losing 4-0 away to Bournemouth, and definitely not as deeply shaming as losing 2-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates, which, in my book, was borderline unforgiveable. All of which means that last Sunday’s performance only makes it to third in my assessment of the 2018/19 table of humiliations.
Some consolation there, then – although I admit that finding oneself, in February, assembling a list of ‘things that smarted more than other things’ is a fairly strong indication that the season has not quite been going to plan in recent weeks.
Still, a little perspective can’t hurt. And the simple fact is, in every title-winning campaign that they have mounted during the past decade, City have done something like they did to us last Sunday to someone else, somewhere along the line.
In 2011/12, for instance, they smashed Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford. Manchester United finished the season in second place, after the title race went down to the wire.
In 2013/14, having beaten Tottenham 6-0, City humiliated Arsenal 6-3. Arsenal finished fourth.
And last season City beat Liverpool 5-0 (a week before they beat Watford 6-0 at Watford and shortly before they beat Stoke 7-2). Liverpool, it might be worth observing, did not sack their manager in the wake of that swingeing defeat. They went on to qualify for the Champions League.
So six goals? Or four horsemen of the apocalypse? I’m going, for now, with goals. And, unlike four horsemen of the apocalypse, you can recover from goals.