We asked for a Stoke type performance and were given one.
Unless you’re a die-hard Canary Caller, there was little in yesterday’s win to grind your gears and the no-show of Southampton all of a sudden seems an age ago.
From fairly early on, the odd scare and defensive lapse aside, it was clear three points were there for the taking and, on this occasion, we weren’t to be disappointed.
For once my pre-match confidence was justified.
In the Carrow Road sunshine Wessi’s feet twinkled, Jonny’s tackles snapped, Cameron ran and ran and ran, and the whole team functioned just as it did in Alex’s Friday night dream. And, as heartbreaking as it must have been for the footballing media, Eddie Howe’s men simply had no answer.
Even Eddie had no answer.
Wes will of course take the headlines – and deservedly so – and there’s no escaping the fluidity did take a hit when Alex called time on his afternoon but throughout there was a balance to the side that hasn’t always been there. It’s a balance that is allowing our joint-favourite Irishman to influence Premier League proceedings more than any time in his career.
The ability to bounce back from defeat was a characteristic of the second half of last season and it’s a knack that appears to have been rolled over into this one; something that adds further substance to the case of those who believe mid-table safety beckons.
Of course, there’s a long way to go – and Bournemouth for all their adoration and wealth are still PL rookies – but there was something about yesterday’s performance that supported the view of the optimists.
The much-discussed fragility of the back-four will continue to head the debate but the solidity of formation and method suggests to me that if the Class of 2016 can avoid too many more no-shows and adhere to the meticulously prepared game-plans, there are good times ahead.
It wasn’t a performance based solely on individual brilliance and off-the-cuff flicks and tricks. Instead the shape was robust, the tactics crystal clear and the role of every individual plainly defined.
It had substance. Was built from the bottom upwards. Rock solid foundations.
Add to that the verve and energy that Alex, Frankie and Gary demand and you get a performance like yesterday’s.
Matt Jarvis on debut was most impressive – and afforded us some old-fashioned wing play last displayed in the old place by one Darren Huckerby – but remarked afterwards that a great deal of work had gone into himself and Robbie Brady working as a unit down that left side, both in defence and attack.
And it worked like a dream – the pair linking up as if they had played together for years.
In the first-half, Nathan Redmond and Andre Wisdom had rather less joy but whatever was said, or consumed, at half-time worked a treat and their second 45 was a far more cohesive and confident collective effort. And that particular link-up more than played its part in a 20 minute spell that was good as anything we’ve witnessed in the Alex Neil era.
The changes – Martin Olsson for Jarvis and Graham Dorrans for Wes – had an impact and unquestionably blunted City’s attacking threat but with good reason. The game was won, Wessi had ran himself into the ground and Jarvis, with limited game time behind him, was blowing out of his proverbial.
Dorrans, as City’s pass master, fulfilled his brief and kept the ball and Olsson slotted in to left back as if he had never been away. Being three goals to the good meant it was time to consolidate.
Jerome’s late exit meant a brief-ish cameo for Dieumerci Mbokani but even then there was sufficient evidence to suggest Youssouf Mulumbu’s compatriot isn’t just in Norfolk to admire the scenery. We’ve been promised he’ll “score a few, miss a few, elbow a few” and although he only had time to tick off number two I have an inkling one and three are not that far away.
Interestingly, in his pre-match chat with Chris Goreham, Neil made reference to “big Kyle” and bemoaned the fact he was unable to give him game time. ‘Big Kyle’ too tweeted that he was disappointed not to have had a kick, all of which suggests his international exploits *have* forced him into his manager’s thinking.
With Lewis Grabban currently undertaking a Kevin Pietersen style ‘reintegration’ and Gary Hooper – albeit currently nursing an injured ankle – still in the building, all of a sudden things look quite healthy in the striking department, and the yearn for a Charlie Austin, a Dwight Gayle or a Glenn Murray right now feels just a little unnecessary.
But, like I said, it’s early days.
We do however now head to Liverpool next week in decent fettle and, minus Luis Suarez to haunt us, will approach the game with confidence. Theirs, on the other hand, is not an entirely happy ship at the moment.
And, for me, if there’s one thing that’s been missing from our recent forays into this league it’s putting one over the only club who can rival Ipswich in living off former glories.
Perhaps I’m just getting carried away but…
“Never mind the danger”
Jez we can says
8.5/10 all round. Wes 9.5/10 – loved the shin-pad celebration.
I didn’t hear Surman’s name mentioned once – that’s how far the squad has progressed.
Alex Neil 2, Eddie Howe 0.
..and congrats to this chap for his recent award – top manager and nice guy. There is room for them in the game.
Douglas Millar says
One or two things occurred to me at the game not covered in the excellent article. First, what a capture Robbie Brady is. His goal saving tackle on Wilson and his athleticism and mobility will be an asset this season. £7 million well spent!
What a great game Howson had. With players on the flanks, there was more space for him to show what a good all round player he is.
We also saw the ability of the coaching team to tweak the set up at half time. Before then even the greatest Whitaker sceptics were looking forward to his return as Wisdom looked out of place at full back. In the second half this weakness was less apparent.
At last some positive reward for a good home performance, made even sweeter by the fact that the much vaunted Bournemouth looked as if they will struggle this season. OTBC
Gary Field says
Great to see Carrow Road rocking during that first twenty minutes of the second half, as Wesley ran the show.
August player of the month is surely his and deservedly so.
Arguably, Bournemouth are the weakest team to “pitch up” in Norwich – actually, the didn’t – but you can only beat what’s in front of you an we did so comfortably.
The biggest test of the season so far now beckons. I fancy Alex Neil is really looking forward to this one. Hopefully, more misery beckons for BR!
Brill Stepshort says
It’s a long time since I’ve seen us move the ball so quickly, and that made for a very entertaining game. I saw City win at Anfield Road in 1975 – I don’t mind living off that past glory!!
Jon B says
Shame the first proportion of Canary Call was so negative and focussed on defensive concerns, I switched stations! Pleased for Wisdom and his second half performance, possibly over exposed by Redmond not doubling up in the first half ?
Bob in Diss says
Bournemouth were poor – shocking in fact like their pink strip. Good old ‘Arry would never have authorised that.
Why did they have to resort to their 3rd strip for us? Showed a lack of respect I feel. Mind you, it was worth seeing Eddie Howe’s face go a similar shade when Jarvo curled in that beauty.
I just hope that a backroom deal hasn’t been made such that we have to wear the ‘deckchair’ kit for the return fixture?
David Bowen says
Very good read Gary and very much on the money. If Olsson is to return to a starting role, who is going to make way for him? Jarvis and Brady have made themselves un-droppable!
It was good to get that “1951” monkey off our backs too! OTBC
Premier League Pedant says
Well said Jez (1). The name Hughton became a dirty word on this site, but respect is due. Very happy for him.
I’m sure everyone here is familiar with Football365. Both Norwich and Hoolahan made it onto their Premier League Winners list this week. and they also came up with the incredible fact that all but ONE of our last 88 league goals was scored by a player from Great Britain or Ireland.
Another reason to be proud of NCFC and the way we do things, although if Mr. Mbokani fancies changing that stat next week I’m all for it.
LP – Yes, I’ve always been pleased to see how many of our squad are ‘home grown’ unlike some of the ‘big teams’. I’m certain that Mbokani will change that stat over the next few games, once he is fully fit and becomes accustomed to how the rest of the team play.
Anna Gram says
Good point PL Pedant (and not a xenophobic one as I’m sure some will say) – we’ve got a healthy balance between UK/ROI and overseas players at present (unlike many PL clubs).
I think Elmander was the last overseas player to find the net for us in the league.
WES HOOLAHAN – HE OWNS A HALO
..top of his game but can he do it week in week out. Consistency has always been an issue.
Premier League Pedant says
Yes far from xenophobic, I just think it’s important that team and fans can identify with eachother. It helps with club unity, and with fans’ emotional attachment to the players they pay to watch. I believe the last all English-born starting XI in the Prem was the City team that won at White Hart Lane a few seasons ago. Can’t see that stat being broken for decades.
It was Jamar Loza by the way, with the 98th minute equaliser at Huddersfield in March.