And so ends City’s cup dreams for another season.
I guess we shouldn’t get too precious. We have after all revelled in a Wembley victory in the last 12 months and, by our standards, three games in the League Cup constituted a proper cup run but there is no escaping that yesterday was tinged with disappointment.
Of course, the fact we’ve been denied the opportunity to put right the wrongs of 1978 came as no surprise. Neither is it the end of the world that our fight for the right to bathe in the rivers of 2016/17 Premier League gold is now free of distraction. Yet, I can’t be alone is feeling just a tad short-changed.
I was made to feel even more so after watching last night’s FA Cup Match of the Day, which (Manchester United aside) showed plenty of cup action of the old school variety. I didn’t see or feel any of that in NR1.
I’m not proposing, by the way, that the finely manicured Carrow Road turf is given the treatment and turned into a mud bath or that Alex Neil should send them out in a 4-2-4 and tell them to “go for it” but yesterday felt more pre-season than FA Cup. As a result, there was an atmosphere to match.
There were lots of new, unfamiliar faces at Carrow Road yesterday and lots of kids. It would have been good for them to have their appetite whetted just a little. Instead, it was the Sergio Aguero show and the marvelling was at those in sky blue.
Naturally it was one of those where City were up against it the second the draw was made and any hopes of Manuel Pellegrini affording us a sniff by making wholesale changes were dashed at 2pm when his team-sheet included the names Aguero, Sterling, Navas and co.
And, as it transpired, it was routine stuff for Abu Dhabi’s finest.
Alex rightly opted not to go toe-to-toe with them and instead deployed a similar formation to the one that almost earned us a point at the Etihad back in October. On this occasion it didn’t work.
With the visitors having most of the possession, what ideally would have been a 3-4-2-1 instantly became a 5-2-2-1 and as a result the chance for Norwich to hit them on the break virtually disappeared; only the occasional thrust of Vadis Odidja-Ofoe, or Cameron Jerome running the channels offered any attacking impetus.
And the age old problem of giving away possession too cheaply reared its ugly head again. The visitors pinged it around slickly and with ease, the Canaries did the opposite.
It was one of those days when if Man City were just a little bit patient we’d eventually give the ball back to them. Against a squad worth circa £420 million that’s a recipe for disaster. So too is giving Aguero the freedom of Carrow Road.
And with five defenders, and a midfield that was both over-run and unable to keep the ball, the outcome was predictable. Everything about the afternoon was predictable.
If the good folk of talkSPORT are to be believed, Alex’s squad is worth approximately one tenth of Pellegrini’s, so we shouldn’t be surprised that yesterday was a painful one to watch. But we all just hoped that the magic of the FA Cup would manifest itself and level the playing field a bit.
It didn’t happen.
But it’s done, out of the way, and there were no obvious signs of long-term damage. So bring on Stoke.
A few other random observations from yesterday…
– Man City fans do sing when their winning.
– Carrow Road can be a quiet place without a full Snake Pit.
– The stewards were busier yesterday than for a league game.
– It’s odd how you miss your Carrow Road ‘neighbours’ when they’re not there.
– A new centre-back remains an absolute must.
As the transfer window progresses, I sense increasing frustration on the #ncfc hashtag.
Perhaps it was a little hasty on the part of the club to suggest they were going to ‘get their business done early’, but despite the signings of Matt Jarvis and Ivo Pinto the natives are getting restless.
Clearly work is ongoing, and indeed if Andrea Ranocchia had (unlikely as it now seems) fancied a move to England we would likely already have a centre-back in the building, but the continued wait for central defensive reinforcements has already convinced some that this window is going to be another “write-off”.
It won’t be.
But, as I’ve mentioned before, as the 20th richest club in the Premier League the transfer window is a precarious market for Norwich City to operate in. “Throw money at it and they will come”, they tell me. And while that’s undoubtedly true, we simply don’t have as much cash as others to “throw at it”.
The fact that Norfolk offers a good quality of life, has good schools and is riddled with history counts for nothing when trying to lure a millionaire footballer to your club. In a two-way fight with another PL club it is – in my opinion at least – hellishly difficult for City to emerge victorious although, admittedly, our recent surge toward mid-table will have helped.
The Benik Afobe to Bournemouth deal however does not necesarily fall into this category, with there being very little evidence that he was on our list of most wanted in this window. Alex Neil’s indifference when questioned on his proposed move south suggests he wasn’t.
Besides, £10-12 million for a striker who is yet to set foot in the Premier League strikes me, when you have a limited budget, as rather a lot. Or is it just me?
Instead, we have to sit tight, trust that the lessons of the summer window have been learned, act like grown ups and await news of a new face or two.