On Thursday morning City boss Paul Lambert made it quite clear; come the weekend and given the form that Manchester City were in, Norwich could get turned over.
If they did, the Canaries would simply have to ‘take their medicine’, pick themselves up and go again.
This evening and that’s exactly what Lambert will be hammering home to his players; that – right now – Manchester City remain a one-off team on a one-off roll after the Canaries headed back to Norfolk on the back of a 5-1 dismissal.
Given City have already famously spanked their neighbours 6-1 at Old Trafford, bigger and better sides than Norwich will find themselves chewed up and spat out by the big Sky Blue machine – including the reigning Premiership champions in the case of Manchester United.
“Manchester City deserved to win – there’s no getting away from that,” said Lambert afterwards, as goals from Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson handed the Norfolk side a lesson in just what money can buy these days.
In fairness, however, Lambert can take comfort from the knowledge that the £2.8 million he spent on striker Steve Morison this summer looks ever more money well spent. The former Millwall hitman bagged his fourth goal in five Premiership games to make the score 3-1, only for an all-too slick City to add two more goals before the end.
Better side they may have been, but the goals themselves won’t make for pretty viewing for Messrs Lambert and his No2, Ian Culverhouse; Norwich didn’t always help themselves defensively – Nasri’s free-kick for the crucial second strike being straight out of the drawer marked ‘Soft’.
“At 3-1 we tried to keep going, but we made mistakes and teams like this will punish you,” said the City chief, with the second goal, in particularly, rankling.
“I thought we had the chance just beforehand to make it 1-1 with Elliott Bennett,” said Lambert, with the City winger recalled to the starting line-up for today’s trip to The Etihad. Having found himself one-on-one with Joe Hart – like Morison before him – his final touch proved too heavy as both angle and finish deserted him.
“And when you come to places like this you have to take your chances. But [for the goal] the ball has travelled a long way and I’ll need to see it again – but it has travelled a long way for that to go in.”
Right over a clutch of Canary players before bouncing in front of a bemused keeper, to be precise. Not good. Not at The Etihad. Not six minutes after the re-start when – at 1-0 – you might still have a sniff of a chance.
Morison also had a decent opportunity early on to knock City’s hosts back on their heels only for his last touch to be overly heavy; in the end, however, he had to settle for a six-yard header off a Marc Tierney cross nine minutes from the end to keep his impressive scoring run of late going.
“You dust yourself down and go again,” said Lambert afterwards, echoing his thoughts of Thursday morning. “And there won’t be many teams that will come here and take them on.
“And I think it’s there for everybody to see – you’ve got to realise what you’re up against and they are a top, top side. The players that they have got are big players and big players will deliver at big moments. And they’ve got those in abundance.”
Morison’s latest strike might have sown one or two doubts, only for the home side to conjure up two more strikes before end. Both looked good from an attacking point of view; defensively and people were threading shots home all too easily.
“You can’t give away goals the way that we did for those last two goals – and 5-1 makes it look like a heavy defeat,” said Lambert, with the Canaries dropping back down to tenth on the back of today’s results.
At the bottom of the table, heavy defeats for both Wigan and Bolton keeps them firmly pinned to the floor; Blackburn being the day’s biggest winners with their success over Swansea. With QPR unable to prise more than a point out of West Bromwich Albion at Loftus Road, the Canaries can at least take heart from the fact that that one is out of the way.
And wish every other team that visits The Etihad this season the best of bleedin’ luck in stopping Manchester’s runaway train.