The top of tonight’s Premier League table told its own story – of six clubs who will dominate this season, just as they did last season. And will again next season.
And against whom teams of Norwich’s ilk need to deliver an exceptional performance on the day to even cause them to break sweat.
Today – faced with their first, top six challenge in the shape of Tottenham (a) – Norwich were well below their best and were duly brushed aside in routine fashion via two goals either side of the break from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
It could – should – have been a more comfortable success, but it summed up the gulf that exists between the three London clubs, the two in Manchester and the one in Liverpool that Spurs could afford to give their £30 million new-boy Erik Lamela a gentle, 83rd minute introduction to the English Premier League with the contest long over.
The former Roma star was part of a £110 million summer spending spree; five times – give or take – what City boss Chris Hughton had to spend.
Today, such money told. Spurs walked it.
City – unchanged from the starting line-up that racked up that first, and crucial, win of the new Premier League season at home to Southampton a fortnight ago – could at least find room on the substitutes’ bench for ex-Celtic hitman Gary Hooper following his summer shin injury.
But it was no surprise that Tottenham dominated the early possession; Bale-less they might be, but they were still stars a-plenty to delight The Lane as their membership of that exclusive ‘Top Six’ club was untroubled by that exit.
It was Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker who made the early inroads down the right; the former pinging off a sharp, 22-yard drive that flew a couple of yards wide of John Ruddy’s left upright.
The Canaries weren’t wholly trapped on the back foot; Johan Elmander broke with purpose through the inside right channel only for his eventual shot to lack the power required to trouble a covering Hugo Lloris.
The bigger challenge would be for the likes of Leroy Fer and Bradley Johnson to limit the impact Mousa Dembele might have on midfield proceedings; while the Townsend-Walker show would keep Javier Garrido firmly on his toes – and test the defensive mettle of Master Redmond.
And then there was the new boy Christian Eriksen whose jinking, 12th minute run first forced Ruddy into a hasty save in front of his right upright before Robert Soldado found himself denied by the width of the same, said upright as he looked to pounce on Ruddy’s initial parry.
Eriksen looked quite the £11.5 million part as the former Ajax playmaker pulled many an early string on his North London debut.
Certainly Ruddy was by far the busier of the two keepers; Lloris a spectator as the Canaries were pinned back into the final third.
The inevitable arrived in the 28th minute when the Soldado-Erikson combination dropped the perfect ball into the quick feet of Sigurdsson who, cutting in from the left, was handed both the time and the space to tuck the game’s opening goal beyond Ruddy.
The challenge for Norwich was now clear – they had to open up, get on the front foot and try to at least find their way into the opposition half. And all without giving Eriksen even more space to revel in. Redmond, for one, was a shadow of his Southampton self.
But the teenager wasn’t alone in his toils; head-to-head battles across the pitch were being lost to the home side; few appeared to believe that they could ruffle such gilded feathers.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel almost nicked in on the 37th minute; side-footing goalward a Leroy Fer cross only for the late-arriving Danny Rose to deflect wide for an unawarded corner.
It was a rare foray forward; Spurs were dominant. And looked a class above – right across the park. In short, it was a 1-0 scoreline at the interval that as a Norwich supporter you would take; by rights, Spurs should have been over the hill and far away.
They were five minutes after the re-start as Sigurdsson added his second – tapping home the perfect low cross from Joe Paulo Paulinho which had skipped over the hands of the diving Ruddy.
It was, in fairness, all the home side deserved; their pace and their penetration showing little sign of abating as the second period unfolded.
First Sebastien Bassong and then Michael Turner would be forced to fling themselves bodily into the fray and divert two, low crosses off the toe of a lurking Soldado, while Sigurdsson would need little invite to go hunting a third.
Norwich had one chance to dig themselves back into the contest as the ball finally fell to van Wolfswinkel in 69th minute following a blocked drive from Redmond. It summed up the Dutchman’s season of late when the ball refused to sit up at the first touch; two, awkward touches later and the ball was finally free of his feet – by when Rose had the time to block his eventual shot.
One chance is often all you ever get against a team of Tottenham’s ilk. Particularly away from home. And it came and went in that one moment.
It prompted a double change from Hughton as Anthony Pilkington and Alexander Tettey replaced Redmond and Elmander.
Hooper would have to await his debut; why he stayed on the bench when Norwich needed goals would be one for the post-match message boards to ponder.
Robert Snodgrass was handed a chance from an 86th minute free-kick, but the sight of a lame shot cannoning back off the Spurs wall simply summed up Norwich’s afternoon in North London.
It lacked any belief.