City boss Chris Hughton was tonight playing a perfectly straight bat to questions of the transfer variety as he mulled over today’s 4-3 home defeat by reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.
It left the Canaries ever-more grateful for that ten-game unbeaten sequence through October and November as City found themselves stuck fast in 11th on the back of three straight defeats in a week.
But as the New Year transfer window prepares to open and Hughton begins to assess who he can call on striker-wise for the away trip to West Ham United on New Year’s Day, so the temptation to reach for his cheque book must be growing.
Grant Holt’s absence with his on-going hamstring trouble and the sight of his understudy Steve Morison disappearing before the break with a reported thigh strain left the City boss with little or no alternative but to throw 19-year-old on-loan Spurs youngster Harry Kane into Premier League battle.
As willing a runner as the teenager proved, he is still only just back from three months on the sidelines. Hence, you sensed, Hughton’s needs might have only deepened striker-wise with Morison’s exit.
“We’re the same as everybody – we’ll be assessing what we’ve got,” said the City boss, quizzed tonight as to whether he would be looking to strengthen next month.
“Hopefully the injury to Steve Morison is not too bad but sometimes that affects your thinking,” he admitted. “But we’ll do all the planning and the work that we need to do and whether that will lead to us bringing someone in, we’ll see.”
Rumours have abounded that the Canaries were closing in on the signature of Jacob Mulenga from FC Utrecht.
But even if that were the case, the 28-year-old Zambian international is unlikely to have an immediate impact on Norwich’s Premier League fortunes given his commitments to the forthcoming African Cup of Nations tournament.
As for the game itself, Norwich’s cause was not helped by conceding two goals in the space of four minutes as Edin Dzeko and Co hit the ground running – and, in the case of his strike pal Sergio Aguero, never stopped running.
That’s what you get for £35 million; an ever-willing runner able to cover for the loss of Samir Nasri with a fabulous finish on him – as the visitors title-winning hero demonstrated with their third goal shortly after the re-start.
In between and afterwards, the Canaries demonstrated again the depth of their own resolve as goals from Anthony Pilkington and two after the break from Russell Martin pushed Manchester City to the line. But in the end Hughton had a third straight defeat to contend with – as well as that new injury alarm in the midst of his creaking strike department.
“They have got quality – but that was frustrating,” he told the BBC after a genuine thriller of a contest finally came to a close after seven minutes of added-on time.
“And I was really disappointed with the second goal.
“I think the challenge in the middle of the park is the type of challenge where referees will always give a foul – irrespective of whether it’s a booking. And I’m not saying that it was. But they go on and score from that.”
It was Vincent Kompany’s full-bloodied tackle on Bradley Johnson that had irked. The fourth goal – an own goal off keeper Mark Bunn to nominally complete Dzeko’s hat-trick – was also messy and, in large part, self-inflicted.
“We knew as the game went on that they would perhaps have to defend that little bit deeper, but probably the story from us is that of conceding some poor goals,” admitted Hughton.
In fairness, Norwich have not been far away from regaining that unbeaten habit of the autumn. And in first Chelsea and then Manchester City didn’t pick the easiest of festive home fixtures.
“In each of the games we’ve lost by one goal. And two of them are home games against Chelsea the Champions League winners and Manchester City, the Barclays Premier League winners. And it was a tough one at West Brom,” he said.
“They’re tough games, but we’re in every game. That’s the main thing – and if we continue to be in every game, then we’ll have a chance of winning.”
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