City boss Paul Lambert continued to work with this formation and that last night as the Canaries suffered their first pre-season defeat of the summer with a 1-0 reverse at age-old Championship rivals Crystal Palace.
An 89th minute strike from Nathanial Pinney ended Norwich’s goal-strewn run and, probably, demonstrated the distinct step up in friendly class the club had just made from the likes of Gorleston and their three-into-two German opponents.
What was interesting, however, was the way that Lambert continued to toy with both formations and personnel as he began to determine what the Class of 2011-12 would have to offer in the Premiership.
A midfield diamond with Chrissy Martin at its tip featured before the break; skipper Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson reprising their end of season double-act up top.
After the break and Andrew Surman replaced new-boy Bradley Johnson in the middle of the park; Wes Hoolahan would return to tip that famed diamond; youngster Tom Adeyemi would, likewise, add another dimension to Lambert’s midfield options with his athletic, forward-running style.
Up front and the game would end with a big man/big man combo of new-boy Steve Morison and Aaron Wilbraham as ex-Palace loanee James Vaughan missed the game with a knee knock.
Spurs’ loan signing Kyle Naughton was also a notable absentee. He had only just flown in from South Africa after Tottenham’s own pre-season tour and is due to finally hook up with his new team-mates today.
For Morison – speaking ahead of the Eagles’ clash – a manager tinkering with his options is part and parcel for this time of the year.
More important was the game-time every player was getting under their belts – 60 minutes here, 30 minutes there. Such roles may well be reversed come tomorrow night’s trip to Southend United.
The starting line-up at Coventry City on Saturday might just start to give all concerned a better idea of which way the manager’s thoughts are progressing.
“He might know what he wants to do for the first game of the season, but as players we haven’t got a clue,” admitted Morison, speaking at Colney earlier in the week.
“It doesn’t matter who you are paired with, you’ve just got to go out there and do your job and do the best that you can. And, hopefully, you do enough to be in his plans for the first game of the season.”
The fact that everyone was having to keep one eye over their shoulder was, said Morison, only right and proper. No-one can take anything for granted. Naughton will keep everyone on their toes down the right; at some stage, Anthony Pilkington will do the same down the left.
Manchester United loanee Ritchie de Laet has already staked his claim to one of the starting centre-half berths; the fit-again Leon Barnett was his starting partner last night.
“Competition for places is what you need,” Morison confirmed. “At the end of the day, everyone’s looking over their shoulders; everyone’s having the conversations with themselves at home: ‘Is it me? Is it someone else?’
“And, yes, it keeps everyone on their toes. The training has been fantastic because everyone is trying to impress and that can only bode well for the future.”
Clearly the novelty of being billed as a ‘Premier League’ player had not worn off for a player – like so many of his new colleagues – who has sampled both the highs and the lows of a footballer’s life.
“The Premier League is the best league in the world and everyone is just looking forward to it,” he said.
“We all want to make sure that we give a good account of ourselves and we’re not just there to make the numbers up,” said the 27-year-old Welsh international, whose career keeps getting better and better. A new test awaits on August 13.
“From a personal point of view, I just want to see how good I can be,” said the one-time, part-time footballer and full-time paper shredder.
“Obviously I’ve managed to do OK at every level that I have been at so far. It’s an unknown quantity for me – I don’t know what it is going to be like. I don’t know how hard it is going to be – or how easy it is going to be. I haven’t got a clue.
“But I’m just going to go in there and give it my all and I think it’s going to be the team that takes us further, rather than any individuals.”
City boss Lambert appeared content enough with last night’s work-out.
“The score is irrelevant,” said the Scot. “What really matters is the first game against Wigan.”
Minutes under the belt and different lads slotted into different formations; for now, it was all about getting the fitness high and the chemistry right. After that, you hope, the results will take care of themselves.