I’ve said it many time before: there’s nothing like football to bring you crashing back to earth if you start getting even the slightest bit carried away.
Away draws at Liverpool and West Ham had convinced me, and others, that the current iteration of Norwich City had this Premier League lark sussed, only for one of our peers to come along and teach us a short, sharp, salutary and painful lesson.
And as if more pain were needed, Chris Robshaw’s England were there to provide it.
In the Fine City there was no escaping that, for once, Alex Neil was usurped in the technical area battle and it was Claudio Ranieri – for the first time this season reprising his role of Tinkerman – who drew on his years of experience to lead his Foxes to victory.
But Alex has already proved he’s a quick learner. This one will be stored away and used for future reference.
And, in truth, if the players had implemented the game plan as it had been laid bare to them in the week then there’s every likelihood City could have picked up their second home win of the season. Alas it was a bad day at the office – or at least a bad first 50 minutes.
The City rally, when it eventually arrived, was full of verve and passion but two goal deficits in the PL rarely offer the same whiff of comeback that’s always there in the Championship. It’s to the Canaries credit that they went so agonisingly close to salvaging a point but ultimately they had left themselves too much to do.
That Leicester have pace aplenty and are set up perfectly to play on the break was known by all – and Alex confirmed afterwards that they had spoken about it at length in the week – yet when it came to defending against it City still found themselves all at sea. Such is the quality of the top league.
And it’s frustrating.
But when you’re faced with searing speed and have defenders who are not blessed with a similar turn of pace it’s always going to be tough. Throw into the mix two full-backs whose natural inclination, and instruction, is to bomb on and it becomes even tougher, especially on a day when your midfield struggles to keep the ball – something it’s been good at of late – and when the passing is a little ponderous.
A perfect storm that played perfectly into the hands of Messrs Vardy, Okazaki, Schlupp and Clattenberg; the former and latter combining perfectly to dupe Seb Bassong into giving away a penalty of the innocuous variety.
In what was in truth a fairly torrid opening 45, City must have been counting their blessings that their half-time audience with Alex, Frankie and Gary was only to mull over a one goal deficit but the message about not surrendering possession so cheaply clearly went unheeded.
Jonny Howson – who in the week, for a variety of reasons, found himself the in media spotlight – was critically caught in possession for the second time in the game and within two minutes of the restart City found it almost out of reach.
The huffing and puffing that followed was impressive, and quite effective, and there’s little doubt that Dieumerci ‘Dave’ Mbokani is knocking on the door for a start. The big test of course will come when he’s asked to do it up top on his own for ninety minutes – only then can we really pass judgement but the early signs are promising.
And in fairness, Kyle Lafferty’s late cameo also smacked of one who’s full of confidence and is itching for a chance – which he is.
Yet goals have not been especially hard to come by and, without delving in to the dreaded stats, goalscoring chances too have been in decent supply. The issue remains shipping goals, which we’re doing at almost two a game even before we face any of the elite (no, I don’t count Liverpool any more).
That remains the concern and whether it’s rectified by changing the shape or the personnel, it’s something that can’t and won’t be ignored.
But it’s far from all doom and gloom – even if Twitter and some messageboards may suggest otherwise – and to be jogging along at more than a point a game at this stage represents a steady start. And there are certainly more than three teams who, from what we’ve seen so far, are less well equipped than City to tackle the next 30 games.
As Alan Shearer was at pains to point out, City’s next game is indeed away at Newcastle and, while not as ‘massive’ as he liked to make out, it offers a more than decent opportunity to get back on track and to shut up one or two of the circling vultures (I’m guessing the Magpies’ 6-1 defeat at the Etihad may have had an impact on Big Al’s dark mood).
What must not happen is we revert to type and become that team that ends the bad run of others – one particular tag I’d be more than happy for us to shed. Let us, for once, be the team that further piles on the pressure of those in the mire.
So, not an ideal way to go into an international break but neither time to panic. Alex won’t and neither should we.
Cosmo P. says
They had one Schlupp in their side, we had 4 or 5 on the day worse luck. They played 80%+, we played 60-65%. There’s something about an impending international break that seems to bring out the worst in our boys.
MoTD presenter & pundits didn’t even review the penalty decision – has to be a first.
Well done to Mbokani for getting off the mark.
We’ve always bounced back under AN but the Geordies thrashing makes our task there much harder now. It’s going to be a long, long 2 weeks.
Context – we’ve lost 3 games to form sides in the top 10.
As for the rugby…Lancaster to get a new contract just like Hodgson did after the Brazil fiasco?
Gary Field says
Leicester started slowly, with their midfield close to their back four, as many teams do.
However, as the first half progressed, their midfield started pushing higher up the field to press the ball. This reduced the space usually exploited by our fullbacks.
Additionally, our wide players were often in advance of their midfield and the lack of movement deeper from them and Wes, together with the slow movement of the ball, often meant we struggled to retain possession.
When Leicester got their second goal, their natural response was for the midfield to drop deeper.
This, combined with our subsequent changes, gave us the opportunity to make a game of it.
Regrettably, as Gary points out, all a bit too little, too late.
Jim Davies says
Alex Neil has already said that we did’nt move the ball quickly enough, and it was very obvious inp the first half. I lost count of the number of times the ball was played square across the back, ending up with Bassong, who seemed to take an eternity to decide what to do with it, usually ending up playing it inside to Dorrans or Wes, when if he had moved it quickly, more often than not Brady was going forward unmarked, with Jarvis looking to combine with him, and we all know how well that has worked before. By the time Seb did look to give it to Brady (on the rare occasion that he did decide to do that), Brady had been closed down.
I don’t see Seb as the key playmaker in the side, and while I’m all in favour of playing it out from the back, Seb needs to be more aware of the possibilities before he receives the ball, and to move it on much quicker.
Leicester fan. Watched on web stream. Seen every lcfc game this season. Mbokani was one of very few that troubled us. Redmond looks decent and dorrans and ruddy are good enough. Norwich though did look the second worst team we’ve played after Sunderland and they had quality players who just didn’t bother. To avoid going down you will need more pace in your team. Pearson used to say 50 goals was the target not 40 points. If you get 50 goals you will get the points. Jerome used to be a good striker and might get 8-10, Redmond will get about 5, mbokani and the others need to get 35-40 between them or you are down. I think lcfc realistically could have got 4 (that’s realistic) we always concede so you scoring isn’t a surprise. At the moment I have you in he bottom 3 as Newcastle and Villa will sack their managers and they will score enough. Sunderland, Norwich and Bournemouth as they are all injured. But you have a window to get pace and another 10 goals.
Gary Gowers says
Bob) 4) – Wow. You really are a confident bunch. And to think, for three-quarters of last season you were relegation fodder. Must be great to be you. Well done.
Premier League Pedant says
I’d have to disagree with the comment that the midfield has been good at keeping the ball of late. We played some great stuff at Upton Park, but there too we were sloppy in possession for long periods. Maybe it’s a hangover from a year in the Championship. We seem to want just a couple of seconds too long on the ball
It’s an interesting point in the season. 5 points off the bottom 3, and performances deserving of more points, but also missed chances and sloppy defending a familiar story. Dick is out at Sunderland, we have big teams still to face, and it’s gonna get really tough.
So do we change tack, more sideways passes and defensive mindset, grind out a nil-nil or two, or carry on on the front foot? I think we could look to Leicester for the answer. They stuck at it, and let’s face it have taken the PL by storm in this calendar year.
In Sir Alex I Trust.
Bob in Diss says
Bob (4) – always good to get an opposition fans’ view. We were well off our game in most departments and you deserved the points but don’t judge us on one game, especially yesterday’s – it wasn’t representative of our season so far – apart from conceding sloppy goals and getting the rough end of the ref’s big decisions.
We’ve got pots of pace normally but for some reason our boys just didn’t get going – some credit to your boys for that but mostly a bad day at the office.
You’ve had a cracking start and well done to your club but things can turn very quickly. Enjoy it for now but don’t get too carried away on the wave of euphoria.
No need to push the panic button just yet. Leicester were very good and with this team are definitely worth a top 8 finish…sadly for them they won’t get anywhere near the top 8 because come January Vardy et al (including possibly Ranieri) will be snapped up for ludicrous fees by larger and more desparate clubs. Although very strong they (in common with most clubs in the prem) and only three or four lost players away from being very average.
Our next two matches are against Newcastle and West Brom and are winnable. If we manage to play with the pace and passion we manage in our better performances this season we will be fine…..providing we don’t get Clattenburg for too many more games that is…the audible groans around the stadium at the announcement that he was the ref presaged another one sided performance that did us no favours at all – anyone believe that penalty would have been given against Man Utd at Old Trafford?
Ash Diback says
Bob the Leicester fan seems to have hopped on board the crazy bus to delusion city. Refs will soon wise up to Vardy’s penalty box antics the way they finally did to Costa’s. Unbelievable (and yet believable) that Lineker et al didn’t even discuss the penalty decision.
Conversely, is Cameron Jerome just too honest? I’m CJ’s number one fan and think he’s good enough at this level but maybe will benefit from coming off the bench for 2-3 games the way he did last season.
Stewart Lewis says
Re comments from Bob (4). He’s perfectly entitled to talk about Leicester who he watches (presumably) every week. But we really should know better than to make these one-game assessments of other teams.
Anyone who saw Norwich only at Southampton would have them down as relegation fodder – as would anyone who saw Man U only at Arsenal, Liverpool only at home to West ham, or Chelsea…well, most of this season.
On the other hand, a reasonable person watching most or all of Norwich’s games so far would conclude that there’s much to praise, and we look a good cut above for instance the two North East clubs, West Brom and Villa.
Keith B says
Whilst Bob (4) may be getting a little carried away with Leicester’s start he makes some good points about us.
I haven’t see the game so have no idea how badly we played. The one plus from the aftermath for me is Alex Neil’s refusal to get into a lather over the officials. If he did it would achieve nothing other than appear to give the players a get-out they don’t deserve.
If deep down they do feel hard done by it will be reflected in the reports they submit. But to be honest I think the only really tough call we’ve had so far was Jerome’s disallowed goal on day one.
Cosmo P. says
I’m not so outraged at the fruity tone of Colin (8) as Keith B clearly is, but feel such language is best reserved for that other lot in blue currently languishing in 12th place in the division below.
It’s good to hear the view of another team’s fans from outside our own bubble..even if they are talking complete and utter b******s (as with Foxy Bob).
Keith B says
Ah good, in case anyone thinks I was imagining things it was originally a comment from Colin Castle at 8 which has now been removed, thanks.
Love that after a narrow defeat (1 goal is a narrow defeat) we are now “5 points off the relegation zone” as opposed to “6 points off the champions league”…
I wonder how much West Ham’s last minute goal took out of us. We certainly played against Leicester like we were still a bit shell shocked. The international break and introducing strong players like Mbokani and Mulumbu should give us some much needed steel for the coming months. We’ll be fine.
Premier League Pedant says
I think a lot of City fans are guilty of doing what we hate when others do it to us, dismissing Leicester because they aren’t a ‘big’ club. I heard it a lot – “we should be beating teams like Leicester at home.” Teams like Leicester? What does that mean? They’re in great form, were better on the day, and it’s no disgrace to lose to them.
We didn’t play that badly Keith, but I think the fact Leicester are so good on the counter lingered in the City players minds, so the usual forward thrust wasn’t quite there, and in the end Howson’s ponderousnous (if that’s a word) cost us 2 goals and the game.