Gunners loan star Henri Lansbury could have played his last game for the Canaries after picking up a hamstring injury in the run-up to this week’s 4-2 win over Sheffield United.
The England Under-21 midfielder was – alongside Elliott Ward (calf) – a notable absentee from the Blades game.
With his loan spell due to end at the middle of next month, Mother Nature is going to have to work hard if Lansbury is to feature again in a Canary shirt.
“They’ll both be out for a few weeks,” City boss Paul Lambert reported afterwards, this morning linked to a transfer raid for MK Dons striker Aaron Wilbraham. Would Lansbury’s injury take him up to the end of his loan?
“It won’t be far off it,” said Lambert. “We’ll just have to wait and see – you never know how quick he is going to heal, but it’s not looking promising at the minute.
“I’ll speak to the medical people here – and at Arsenal – to see what’s best; whether or not he stays here for treatment.”
It was the one dark cloud on an otherwise bright afternoon for the Canaries; Lansbury’s spell in Norfolk – should that be it – will, at least be remembered for that perfect through-ball to Grant Holt in the midst of his derby hat-trick heroics.
There was at least a rare sight of Zak Whitbread warming up on the sidelines. Lambert admitted that, thus far, this season had been a “disaster” for him as the Canary chief finds himself stretched badly at the back.
“I’m just hoping that he’s going to be OK because he’s a top, top player when he’s fully fit.”
Would he come into consideration for the weekend? “He might well do – needs must at times.”
Whether a three-man back line featuring the versatile Russell Martin at sweeper would be seen again this weekend is another matter.
As Lambert explained afterwards, needs indeed sometimes must as he re-shuffled his pack minus the likes of Ward, the suspended Leon Barnett and Adam Drury.
“You’ve lost Adam, Elliott (Ward) and Leon,” said the City chief, never one to shy away from tactical innovation. At his side, of course, is Ian Culverhouse, who knows a little bit about sweeper systems from his own involvement in Norwich’s UEFA Cup campaign.
The fact that it was dropped once City found themselves 2-1 down – with Martin returning to his usual right-back berth – was not, said Lambert, a reflection of a tactical blunder. In fairness, there was little any sweeper system could have done about Andy Reid’s peach of a free-kick.
“We just never got into the game,” admitted Lambert afterwards. “We had a lot of the ball, but sometimes when you have a lot of the ball it can be detrimental to you and we thought we had to go back to the back four.”
The arrival of Wes Hoolahan at the break helped, of course.
“It certainly galvanised us, that’s for sure,” said the City boss, as he masterminded yet another second-half revival this time against the luckless Blades.
“What he (Hoolahan) does do is he lifts the crowd really well and for the two penalties you’ve got to hold your nerve. It’s an art – taking a penalty. And he stuck them away very well.”
The result left Norwich a point off that second automatic promotion spot with league leaders Rangers next on the agenda. Victory over Neil Warnock’s high-flying charges would ensure that the fairy tale runs and runs.
“It’s been unbelievable what’s happened since we’ve come in,” admitted Lambert, that League One title safely installed on his blossoming cv. “Sometimes you tend to find it stops at times, but for some reason the lads have just kept on going which has been incredible.
“As I’ve said before, sometimes you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run. It’s a strange thing – it really is. But the crowd are brilliant here,” he added. “They are a huge part of it.
“And when you have a fan base as vibrant as Norwich, you have got to hit the ground running.”
It is all a far, far cry from when he started some 15 short months ago.
“When I first started, I was told to just try and get us into the play-offs because you were that far behind,” Lambert recalled.
“And I was thinking: ‘If I can get in there, then we’ll take our chances in the play-offs…’ But the lads were brilliant. You had to get them into your way of thinking; the way we wanted to play; to get the crowd going.
“But to keep it going to where we are now is incredible – and it’s not just the football club. The whole city is vibrant.”