‘It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand’ ~ Brian Stimpson, Clockwise (1986).
It’s a John Cleese line that’s been paraphrased to death but never has it felt more appropriate. I’m guessing Laura now sits in the Snake Pit.
Just as we start to fear the worst, Daniel Farke’s men go and do something like that and get us believing again. And then Alan Shearer and Ian Wright pile in and tell us we’re a good side, were really unlucky not to win and have a great chance of survival if we can maintain that level.
Expect the unexpected they tell us. This lot take it to the next level.
Brendan Rodgers’ summation of the afternoon was that after a lackadaisical start to the game, in which his side deservedly went one down, they managed to control proceedings for the last 15 minutes of the first half and most of the second. But they were unable to get the win because it was ‘just one of those afternoons where the ball wouldn’t drop’.
Well, here’s one for you Brendan. You took us too lightly. I hesitate to use the word arrogant, but you thought the bare minimum would be enough for you to win comfortably. We saw you laughing and joking with Maddison and Vardy just before kick-off as if you were about to start a Leicester & District Sunday Morning League game. Noted.
As it transpired, I’m not sure I agree with Brendan’s take that if only that damn ball hadn’t been so bouncy and awkward, his men would have made it nine wins in a row. In fact, I’m inclined to think, if that pesky ball had fallen a little more kindly for Teemu Pukki in those two second-half one-on-ones with Kasper Schmeichel, we’d be talking about a hat-trick and three points.
But we’ll take the one all-day long. In the lead up there were some horrific predictions floating around and if anyone had offered us a point, we’d have whipped their hand off.
Credit has to go to the head coach who, despite some social media disquiet at his team selection at 2 pm yesterday, made the right calls.
His decision to go with Tom Trybull ahead of Mario Vrancic was a bold one given that the Bosnian was, in his first full game of the season, one of the better performers against Sheffield United. But Farke identified that against a Leicester team, who he expected to dominate possession, the elegance and quality of Vrancic needed to be sacrificed for the extra combativeness provided by Trybull.
And it worked, particularly early on when Brendan’s ego told him to play two out-and-out strikers up top, that in fact permitted the Canaries an extra body in midfield that they used really well. Rodgers assumed that if he just ‘went for it’, they’d smash us. Rodgers was wrong.
Worth noting too was that it was Trybull’s cute ball round the corner that found Emi Buendia in space, which in turn permitted the Argentinian time to deliver that beautifully weighted through ball to Pukki for the goal.
City are at their best when the confidence is oozing and the patient, sideways and backward passing – necessary to keep possession and work openings – is interjected with a sharp, positive pass that breaks the lines. When the doubts are niggling, the safe pass is the easier option and as a result, that injection of oomph goes missing.
But Trybull’s short, sharp diagonal, while not looking much, was decisive – not something that can always be said of him. He ‘never gives the ball away’ usually because he plays the safe pass but he picked his moment beautifully yesterday.
That Buendia delivered it on a plate to Pukki, given that much time and space, was no surprise to us whatsoever and those couple of games on the bench seem to have done him no harm at all. This was the Emi of 2018/19 and City are an infinitely better side for it.
He’ll have the odd strop and, yes, he will give it away cheaply occasionally and get the hump when a teammate gives him the gee-up, but it’s all part of the same package and would we really want it any other way? He gives us what my colleague Ed Couzens-Lake describes as a little bit of the maverick, and my god we need that at times.
Todd Cantwell too justified his head coach’s faith with a performance that allied some silky skills with similar levels of fire and brimstone. No-one is up for the fight more than Dereham’s finest and the battle between him and Onel Hernandez for that left-sided berth will hopefully drive both on to even greater levels.
One other thing I wanted to touch on was the hunger and desire that was so evident yesterday, on and off the pitch. While the Leicester faithful was happy to persist with the clapper rather than their voices, the travelling Yellow Army was in wonderful voice throughout and showed no signs of resignation or defeatism. That’ll have not been lost on the players.
And while Tony Gayle – Sky Sports summariser extraordinaire – was triggered by City’s habit yesterday of getting in Andy Madley’s ear, I took that as a sign there is still fire in the belly. They care and it showed yesterday. We weren’t particularly ‘nice’ – ask Iheanacho – and that’s exactly how I want.
We’re disadvantaged enough at this level without being the only side that doesn’t delve into the dark arts to eke out a few marginal gains. More of the same, lads.
So, a good one at the King Power but one that could so easily have been so much better. Performance-wise, I’d say it was up there on a level with the Man City game and was further proof that this group are not lacking the wherewithal to compete at this level.
What they do lack, however, is the consistency to do it week in, week out Sheffield United-style. Square that particular circle and we’re still in there with a fighting chance.
We’re not done yet. More hope and despair to come.