It's going to take some time to get over our third cup exit of the season. It's not simply because it leaves us with no reasonable hope of silverware this year, but because the defeat on Friday night , and for that matter the calamitous evening at home to Odense, was so lethargic and awkward in its making. The draw that left us cut loose from the glories of Europe was, ultimately, unexpected and perplexing, while our trip to Goodison Park left 400 away fans wondering why they bothered to book the day off of work.
Why skip sitting in your office emailing funny pictures to your friends when all you have to replace it is yet another dire display away from home?
As much as we'd like to think it is, and as much as I'd like to make him a scapegoat, Martin Jol just isn't the problem, though. Our away form has been nigglingly poor ever since we entered the woozy heights of Premier League football, but under Roy Hodgson the problems seemed somewhat accentuated. He decided the best way to counter that fact was to simply defend and throw as many bodies as plausible behind the ball, which, while effectual on occasion, was nigh-on paralysing with its blandness. He'd become more adventurous as the season wore thin but, ultimately, Fulham had become a pushover on their travels.
Mark Hughes didn't go a long way to changing that but, under Jol, there is a feeling that something, albeit impotently as of yet, is being done to address the issue. Our only away victory was at Wigan Athletic and it wasn't in any way deserved or particularly joyous to watch, but it was, nonetheless, a rare occurrence in that it came so early in our campaign. Since then we've at least looked adventurous on our travels - it's just a shame that the increased importance of our attacking forces has left defensive frailties open to exploit. Our draw at Arsenal, for example, wasn't achieved through backs-against-the-wall defending, but a mixture of solid attacking football and sound organisation. Under Hodgson, those attacking forays were but distant dreams.
We had eleven shots on goal at the Emirates and we played them at their own passing game - even achieving a better pass success rate. Clearly, while the results aren't quite coming Jol's way, he's set us up nicely.
While we can play that free-flowing football at times, the Dutchman also knows when to change things around and doesn't seem afraid to do it - Friday night's substitutions aside. The Newcastle game is the most perfect example, a game in which we were being outplayed and out-thought. He changed things at half time and we were a different team, and the argument that we should have simply started out in that tactical set up is just a ludicrous one.
Meanwhile, as all this goes on above the surface, we fail to notice his commitment to youth. Marcello Trotta made his first team debut in the defeat to Everton and the likes of Matthew Briggs, Pajtim Kasami, Marcel Gecov and Kerim Frei have shone when at their best. Could we see any of the above getting genuine first team opportunities under Hodgson or Hughes?
What it shows is also an engagement with the club. With his policy on younger players, it is palpable that this man is in it for the long haul as opposed to just coming along for the ride. He's more loyal than Hughes and we should be thankful because, no matter how poorly some of our results appear, he is a manager with credentials of the highest class.
He'd be difficult to replace, were he to leave, and although it's a cliché, Jol just needs a little time. Time to make things his own and truly place a stamp on this club. After all, 12th really isn't that bad.