Lessons to be had from Spurs (a)? That in the EPL, a life of having it all is not all its cracked up to beSat 14 Sep 13 by Rick Waghorn
Let’s do a quick ‘thought piece’ – whilst the memory of this afternoon’s events in North London are still fresh.
How many players wearing a Norwich shirt would you put into a Tottenham starting XI? Not necessarily on today’s conviction-less performance; but when you stand back and soberly assess the overall level of their capabilities as a professional football player?
I would offer one – John Ruddy.
Not that any of his colleagues disgrace the Premier League; they are just not in the same league as their opposite numbers in a Spurs shirt.
Which is, very literally, the point.
The fact that the English Premier League is divided into two leagues is becoming ever more readily apparent ever earlier in a season – to an increasingly embarrassing degree.
The financial mis-match that now exists within the top flight of the English game after years of filling their troughs with either Champions League cash or the riches of their foreign benefactors ensures that, as a sporting contest, games between the six teams in League A versus the 14 teams in League B are becoming wholly lop-sided.
Yes, Norwich were poor on the day; yes, Tottenham, were very good.
But my sense is that teams of Norwich’s ilk are going into such contests lacking any real conviction that they can ever over-turn such formidable, individual talents as are arrayed before them. It’s an exercise in damage limitation; keeping it respectable; saving yourself for the real contest ahead.
Like Aston Villa (h).
And it’s not just a Norwich thing; it’s a Palace thing; a Fulham thing; even these days a Newcastle thing.
None of those boys really believe they will get anything out of a trip to an Old Trafford or an Etihad; a Highbury or a White Hart Lane. City’s end of season win at the Etihad was a freak of the fixture list. Their hosts didn’t give a monkeys; their season was lost.
Norwich’s season – as is the case for 13 other clubs in this league – will be decided on how they fare against a Southampton at home and a Villa at home. And a Hull away. The latter was poor. Because nicking at least a point there was something that mattered.
Certainly it matters more than coming away from The Lane with nothing to show for your half-hearted troubles.
Look through the rest of today’s results and, for me, Norwich have had a good weekend.
Fulham would have banked on three points from a home game against West Brom; Hull three from a home game against Cardiff.
Villa would not have wanted to lose at home to Newcastle; already the pressure is building at Villa Park to avoid another repeat of last season’s struggles.
Sunderland look distinctly vulnerable; that’s one, unhappy ship leaking spirit and confidence.
No-one in that group would look at today’s result at Tottenham and say: ‘Hmmm… Norwich look in trouble…’ Because they would all take it as read that Spurs would win that game.
City lose at home to Villa and it is a different story.
But this is where the dysfunction grows; where it gnaws away at the very fabric of the English Premier League. It is not a level playing field.
And mentally – before a ball is even kicked in anger at an Old Trafford, an Etihad or a White Hart Lane – teams are losing games.
There are freaks; there are one-offs. Villa’s win at Arsenal. Before Wenger opens his cheque book.
The biggest games – the deciders – are the home games against your fellow also-rans.
The Southampton win was huge; as will be a win against Villa. There are 13 home games against such teams; 39 points upon which your survival will be founded.
Given events of late, those with glasses half-full will suggest that Everton (h) was two points dropped. That they are now ‘one of us’; not one of them.
But you look again at that Spurs game and money told; by and large – as in life – you get what you pay for.
Norwich look to have bought some good players; not great players. Great players will continue to be out of their financial reach – as it will for 13 other clubs in this league.
Yes, question the conviction. On the day, Norwich weren’t ‘on it’.
But I strongly suspect that for a whole clutch of players across a whole raft of teams being ‘on it’ at a Spurs (a) or an Arsenal (a) equally demands that your hosts are ‘off it’ to the same, converse degree. Everyone in such dressing rooms believes that getting anything out of such a contest is a complete bonus; that if the opposition plays to their full potential, they are in trouble…
Which – if truth be told – is pretty much the story of Manchester City (a) last season.
As ever, for the paying, away-day punter the news is not good; they turn up at White Hart Lane and the players don’t.
And you’re left to hope that the players do turn up at a Hull or a Stoke – places where survival by March, April or May will be decided.
All of which makes for a less than appealing prospect; it’s not too much to look forward to.
Quite right. Welcome to real life among the rest of the English Premier League.