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”