City boss Paul Lambert this morning laid a glorious opportunity at the feet of Messrs Pilkington, Hoolahan and Tierney as an in-form Arsenal prepared to roll up the A11 for tomorrow’s lunch-time Sky clash at Carrow Road.
The three Canary stars have, pretty much, all been centre stage thus far this season; left-back Marc Tierney is alone in starting every Premiership game, whilst Anthony Pilkington currently tops City’s goal-scoring charts with his latest strike away at Aston Villa.
Wesley Hoolahan has, of course, always been one of those that makes the magic happen in City’s midfield.
The three have, of course, one other common bond – over above that Canary on their chest; all three have a drop of the Irish in them; all three could yet book themselves a trip to next summer’s Euro2012 finals after the Republic of Ireland’s play-off success this week.
Opportunity knocks, if – Lambert said – the three can sustain their current form into the spring.
Make a big impression against van Persie and Co this weekend and the City trio could start to make a big impression with Republic chief Giovanni Trappatoni.
“Pilks [Pilkington] is playing really well at the moment,” said Lambert. “And if I was him, Marc Tierney and Wes Hoolahan I would be doing everything I can to get in that Irish squad.
“And the opportunity is here for them to play as well as they can for the Norwich side and then push on for the Irish side.”
The trick, he said, was to bolt on a level of consistency to their games; prove that they weren’t just autumn wonders.
“It’s OK doing it for half a dozen games, but you’ve got to do it through-out the season. And if you can do that as an individual and you can do that as a team, then it’s better for everybody.
“But I don’t just want those three doing well, I want them all doing that to help this football club.”
Tomorrow’s challenge is formidable. After a stuttering start over-shadowed by the whole Fabregas saga, the Gunners are bang in their stride again – witnessed by their away win at Chelsea. The football – and the goals – are flowing again.
City’s task is to knock them out of their rhythm; don’t let them pass the ball for fun.
“We can’t let Arsenal pass the ball the way that they do – because they’re a top side,” said Lambert, informed earlier that it is 27 years since the Canaries last beat Arsenal at home.
“That just goes to show you the magnitude of the task,” he said, with the Gunners now on a roll of nine wins from their last 11 games. And in Robin van Persie they boast the Premiership’s hottest striker with 11 goals to the Dutchman’s name this term.
“Even when Arsenal were having a bad time at the beginning, you still knew they were a top side,” added Lambert. “Yes – they might not be getting the results, but they can still play the game.
“They’re a top side and have a manager that’s been there for years and years,” added the Scot, clearly a big fan of Arsene Wenger and his works.
“It’s funny when they’re having a hard time, people said that Arsene Wenger didn’t know what he was doing. After so many years he suddenly doesn’t know what he’s doing? Which was all a bit pathetic.”
As for the departed Chrissy Martin – signed on loan by Crystal Palace this week – Lambert revealed it was simply a case of a young man wanting to get out and play games.
“And I can totally understand that,” he said. “And I can only pick 18 players every week; I can’t keep everybody happy.”
Injury-wise both Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala are back in training; both remain way short of match fitness. The worry remains Elliott Ward whose knee troubles continue.
“It’s a concern that it’s taken a lot longer than I thought would happen,” admitted the City chief, aware that a further surgical procedure might be on the cards for the luckless centre-half. “I think there’s one more stage that can happen before that, but we might have to do that.”
With both Bradley Johnson and Russell Martin fit again after their respective bumps and bruises from Villa Park, Lambert’s biggest selection headache probably lies up top – does he pair Grant Holt with Steve Morison again? Or does he go back to a one man frontline and restore David Fox to the heart of his midfield?
That – for now – remains for Lambert to know and Wenger to guess.