Stephen Kenny couldn't have put it better last night when reacting to Ireland’s head-scratching 3-2 victory over Armenia.
In absolute control and cruising for 70 minutes, Ireland somehow conspired to self-destruct against a desperately average Armenian side and after conceding two goals in two minutes, they were left hanging on before a late Robbie Brady penalty saved them.
"I’m not sure exactly how to feel," was Kenny's immediate response after the game when asked to sum up what had just transpired, and most Ireland fans would agree with him.
Like much of the Kenny era there were positive signs and things to like, but there were also big lows, over-confidence, complacency, and confusing decisions from the bench.
Armenia had not been in the game in any shape or form until the 71st minute when Nathan Collins, who had been handed licence to roam up field from defence, was caught out of position for a rare counter-attack from the visitors.
That usually wouldn’t be an issue but Ireland were left without a covering midfielder and so there was an overload which afforded Vahan Bichakhchyan the time and space for a speculative effort which Gavin Bazunu pushed onto the post.
Collins had recovered by that stage and was able to help shepherd the rebound outside of the penalty area but, again with no defensive cover from the midfield, the ball fell to Artak Dashyan who fired home.
Not a great goal to give away but not a disaster, especially considering it came against the run of play and on the break. The disaster was Ireland’s reaction - and two minutes later Armenia were level.
If the blame for the first goal could, at a stretch, be shared between the Irish defence and midfield, there was no question about who was at fault for the second.
GOAL Rep of Ireland 2-2 Armenia— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 27, 2022
73' Disaster for Ireland as Armenia pick off a second goal in as many minutes, Spertsyan with the smart finish
#IRLARM #COYBIG #NationsLeague
📱 Updates https://t.co/vWFplRobwr pic.twitter.com/omaO7iAjg5
Under no pressure and in plenty of space inside his own half, Conor Hourihane attempted a feeble and needless cross-field pass which went straight to the feet of Eduard Spertsyan, who curled a fine shot into the bottom left corner.
In the space of 87 seconds, Ireland’s midfield failings were cruelly exposed and it’s becoming a worryingly recurring theme.
While the defence and attack has been reinvigorated under Kenny, with the blooding of the likes of Collins at the back and Obafemi and Chiedozie Ogbene up top, there’s a worrying lack of depth in an Irish midfield that was already looking stale.
Even before kick-off there were many sighs of resignation across Lansdowne Road last night when Jeff Hendrick’s name appeared on the team-sheet.
Hendrick has been a solid servant for Ireland down the years, and phenomenal at Euro 2016, but last night and in the 1-0 defeat to Armenia in Yerevan, his failings were exposed. Lacking any kind of creativity or incision and slow to get back and help the defence when needed, he looked anonymous in the centre of the park.
The same couldn’t be said of the overly enthusiastic Jayson Molumby who was obviously eager to impress as he filled in for Josh Cullen but instead was fortunate to escape a red card and had to be substituted to protect himself from himself.
To Molumby’s credit, it wasn’t a coincidence that Ireland’s second-half collapse coincided with him leaving the pitch as his replacement Hourihane was largely absent when it came to covering the defence, but his lack of discipline and composure perhaps speaks to larger issues within the squad.
It was a similar situation in Hampden Park at the weekend when Ireland, having taken the lead early in the first half, slowly lost control of the midfield battle and seemingly had no way to wrestle it back.
Those midfield problems aren’t just focused on the defensive side of things, with creativity from the centre continuing to be a major problem for Ireland.
Much of the talk from Kenny in the aftermath of the Armenia game was of the visitors' packed defence and low block, as if their approach had somehow been a surprise, but there was never any doubt about the way Armenia would set up. It’s telling that the goals Ireland did score came from a corner-kick, an xG-busting long-range effort from Obafemi, scoring from a position where he really had no right to.
Once again there was no incision or killer final pass from the Irish midfield who mostly looked happy to pass the ball around in front of the Armenian defence and wait for someone else to try and do something. The rare passes and balls behind that defensive wall came from the likes of Collins and Matt Doherty, on an adventure up from the back.
Kenny’s midfield issues are coming into increasing focus and the manager doesn’t have a lot of time to find answers.
Victory over Armenia was only his third win from 20 competitive games and was a disappointing way to end a Nations League campaign from which the manager had targeted promotion.
Few managers have enjoyed the support and backing from Irish supporters that Kenny has been able to count on and the fact that there were 44,000-odd tickets sold for a September game against Armenia speaks of the desire to see his approach succeed, but that has to start happening soon.
Supporters are able to see what Kenny is trying to do and how he’s attempting to rebuild the national team but at a certain point all that promise and potential has to be delivered upon, while he attempts to solve that midfield conundrum - not an easy task.
The Ireland boss has a couple of November friendlies against Norway and Malta to tinker and test things out before the real business of Euro 2024 qualification begins in March.
When he signed his contract extension back in March, Kenny admitted that the qualifying campaign will be the yardstick by which he’s judged and if his side are to take their place in Germany, they will have to be much more convincing than they were on Tuesday evening.