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.