City boss Paul Lambert is banking on the two-week international break ‘galvanising’ his troops ahead of their next, big Premiership task – halting a resurgent Arsenal side in their tracks at Carrow Road in the lunch-time kick-off on November 19th.
Before then his Premier League new-boys have the chance to re-group and re-charge after this weekend’s 3-2 away defeat at Aston Villa which brought a ‘relentless’ spell of games to a close.
It will also give one of this autumn’s real star turns – midfield tyro Bradley Johnson – the chance to clear his head and see one or two less stars after exiting early in the Villa game with a head knock.
He, certainly, will benefit from the international break as the Canaries look to kick on again in the live, TV clash with the Gunners.
“The break will galvanise us again and the first game back will be Arsenal which will be another mammoth task,” admitted Lambert, hard on the heels of Saturday’s away reverse.
Johnson’s unscheduled exit and the decision to pair club skipper Grant Holt alongside Steve Morison from the start – at the expense of David Fox – together ensured that the Canaries were a different-looking beast to the one that been unchanged for the previous six games.
The decision to go with the two big men up top, said Lambert, was based on the hope that they would give the Villa back two of Richard Dunne and James Collins rather more to think about than the lone striker of previous weeks.
The sacrifice came in the shape of an extra, protective body in the heart of that midfield. And once a dazed Johnson disappeared, so it was a wholly new-look centre two that was left to try and stem the service to the flying Gabby Agbonlahor.
“We just thought we needed another striker up there – especially coming up against the two, centre-backs that Aston Villa have got and I made the decision that I thought was the right one,” Lambert explained to BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
His best-laid plans, however, didn’t legislate for losing his midfield engine room before the break.
“Losing Jonno [Johnson] was a blow with a head knock,” said the City chief, who towed a cautious line as the midfielder’s memory briefly deserted him.
On the basis of you don’t what you’ve got till it’s gone, his exit didn’t help the Canary cause.
“He’s a good player – he’s been in exceptional form for us and he’s done really, really well for us. But if you get a bit of concussion and you can’t remember then it’s safer to bring him off.”
As much as the game might be remembered for the ghastly back-pass from Leon Barnett that sold John Ruddy so short, there were still positives to be had – not least the eye for a goal that Anthony Pilkington brings to the party.
That peach of a free-kick was his fourth goal of a blossoming campaign; he looks the Premiership part – he has the frame, the gait and the touch of a top flight player.
The other big point came from the opposition – in the sense that the performance of Agbonlahor away on the Villa left merely confirmed the wisdom of Lambert’s decision to invest in both pace and width with the summer arrivals of both Pilkington and Elliott Bennett.
“You’ve got to have pace and legs to get about the football pitch,” said Lambert, with Agbonlahor having all too much of both for City’s liking.
Morison’s third goal of the season off a perfect, hanging cross from his new striker partner Holt at least ensured that Villa had to work for their win – even if, on this occasion, Norwich failed to conjure up their traditional last-gasp leveller.
“We gave them a fright – I’m quite sure if you asked Alex [McLeish] he’d say we gave them a fright. And if we keep that spirit and keep playing the way that we’re playing, hopefully, we’ll be OK.”