So… what were the positives?
Chris Hughton is undoubtedly one of the nice guys – no doubt about it – and I reckon by the end of the season we will all be extolling his virtues.
He also likes a good cliché – no doubt about it. Nothing particularly wrong with that – after all, 90 per cent of the footballing fraternity are regular users. The reader of this column (Cheers, Dad…) will note that I’m not averse to them myself, usually inadvertently.
Predictably, in his post-match interview Hughton was keen to accentuate the positives – and quite right too, because there were several. The lack of goals is obvious to all and no-one would wish our tally after five games to be a measly two.
Equally the new-found solidity in defence has been the most prominent feature so far of the class of 2012.
Sebastien Bassong’s injury early on in the Newcastle game immediately gave Hughton a problem; such has been the Cameroonian’s influence. There’s no denying his influence in the heart of the defence has been huge – not only do we look tighter, we defend higher up the pitch and we look more organised. The statistics back this up and we can only hope his withdrawal was precautionary rather than the result of something more sinister.
Having said all of that, the outstanding start that Bassong has made to his Norwich career has been well documented, and has been obvious for all to see. Not so the performances of Javier Garrido – the summer loan-signing from Lazio – who was arguably the most eye-catching of the summer.
To date, little has been spoken of his fledgling City career, in no small part due to the quiet, unassuming and efficient way the real King of Spain goes about his business. No frills; no dramas; few errors; few misplaced passes and a left foot that can open a tin of beans.
Whilst his approach is considerably less gung-ho than that of the previous incumbent, Marc Tierney, his ability to pick his moment when to overlap fits in perfectly with the Hughton philosophy. Tierney was, and still is, great at bombing on when the situation calls for it – just what the L man wanted – but Garrido’s more measured approach fits in nicely with the new regime’s call for caution.
Nothing wrong with either approach – whatever floats the manager’s boat – but the need to stop conceding was clearly Hughton’s priority #1, and Garrido has played his part to perfection so far. The fact he comes with the inbuilt Spanish trait of being comfortable in possession has certainly helped the team’s ball retention. Swanseaola we’re not – I’m not sure I want us to be – but the passing has most certainly been pleasing on the eye so far, the Fulham game apart.
Another positive comes in the form of those players we still have at our disposal, but who have yet to appear. Alexander Tettey, Jacob Butterfield, Steven Whittaker… all of whom we have seen absolutely nothing, but all who will surely feature prominently in Hughton’s thinking before very long.
With respect to Whittaker – we pretty much know what we are getting from the experienced Scot – it is the sense of the unknown that Tettey and Butterfield bring that intrigues. We know that the Norwegian international is a midfielder of the defensive variety, but it’s his potential impact on the side as a whole that will figure high in the manager’s thinking. Bradley Johnson’s early season form left Hughton with little need to tinker with his central midfield partnership with Jonny Howson, but with the first win remaining elusive perhaps now is Tettey’s time.
One thing is for sure – barring a training ground injury – we can expect our first sighting tomorrow night.
Similarly with Butterfield – who it was also suggested could feature on this week – we’re getting ever closer to seeing some of the two-footed trickery that Barnsley fans promised upon his arrival. Once fully fit it would seem logical that, at some point soon, his mercurial skills will be unleashed on some unsuspecting Premiership defenders, and in doing so providing us with a much-needed touch of the unexpected.
The prospect of both making a first Canary outing tomorrow is likely to add yet a few more to a crowd that will no doubt still be the envy of that lot down the road.
So the glass is still half-full for most of us, I think. It is still early days, even though some of our number decided to take to Twitter to grill Chief Executive, David McNally on a number of issues. Typically he played it with a straight bat, and sensibly gave those looking for confrontation a swerve.
He – more than anyone – knows that Hughton still has another hand or two to play, and that as the season evolves the starting XI is likely to have a very different look.
For those that have been counting, I think the cliché count is around five. At the end of the day, I gave this article 110 per cent, and that is all anyone could ask for.