Well, at least I felt able to brave Match of the Day last night. That’s progress isn’t it?
Albeit I hadn’t banked on the incoherent, non-committal, ramblings of Roy Hodgson, even though his only comment on events at Carrow Road was to dismiss the chances of Mark Noble making the Euros.
Instead it was left to Alan Shearer to dissect City’s latest series of defensive calamities.
And there’s the story… again. A single point for the Canaries when three were agonisingly there for the taking.
As buoyed as we all were by a much-improved City performance, there’s no escaping that points are being shipped at a similar rate to goals. And with every passing game without a win the margin for error reduces.
When we beat Southampton the equation for safety was five wins from 18 games, which – at the time at least – appeared do-able. Now make that five from 12 and we’re well and truly into the realms of Fergie’s squeeky-bum territory.
Ironically, despite it feeling like a defeat, Newcastle’s ongoing tendency to implode when in the vicinity of ‘that London’ meant that we actually managed to lift ourselves out of the bottom three.
If being just one hour 45 minutes from the capital by train will be enough to strike fear into Geordie hearts will only be revealed on April 2 but the fact that they and their north-east neighbours have yet to make the trip to the Norfolk’s London overspill remains significant.
Regardless of what happens between now and early April, both games will be adorned with the ‘massive’ moniker from every angle. So too the trip to Swansea on March 5, the thought of which gives me the ‘Fergies’ as I write.
Whether it’s possible to, in the space of just a few weeks, plug the holes in a defence that’s never recovered from the inactivity of the summer transfer window remains a moot point but for City to survive it simply has to happen.
Since August our back four has been the bike tyre that constantly keeps getting punctured and patched up only for another thorn to strike a week later. It’s a cycle (sorry…) that perpetuates almost regardless of Alex’s chosen combination of defenders.
That we’ve had more right-backs than clean sheets speaks volumes.
But, of course, it’s not just about individual defenders. It’s also about how the team defends as a unit. And right now that’s not happening to the level needed to win Premier League points. Not even close.
For three players to get attracted to the ball when at the feet of the silky-skilled Andy Carroll, while leaving Dimitri Payet the freedom of the penalty area was asking for trouble. Ditto giving England non-starter Noble a free strike under no pressure whatsoever.
And then there was the horror and panic that appeared to set in when defending the pace and power of Victor Moses – the key component of the Irons’ comeback. It won’t have gone unnoticed in the north-east and South Wales.
In the words of MotD commentator, John Roder; “… that was all so easy for West Ham – the Norwich defending was non-existent.”
Whether or not it’s too late in the day to be scratching around for positives is up for debate but given there actually were some I’ll give it a go.
The return of John Ruddy was probably the right decision and he did offer a comforting presence, one that came with almost universal approval. I’ll avoid the obvious (lame) joke about his well-executed punch when clearing the penalty box in a late goalmouth scramble but suffice to say he’ll be a shoo-in for the Leicester game.
Nathan Redmond – him of the questionable decision making – did, despite his critics again being in full voice, have an impact on the game and offers natural width and thrust that is beyond the capabilities of Jonny Howson.
The Yorkshireman meanwhile looked more than at home in the centre of the pitch and was, for me, City’s man-of-the-match. His duel, alongside Gary O’Neil, with Song and Noble for control of the centre of the pitch was compelling and in that form Howson is right up there with Noble and Danny Drinkwater in the ‘English midfielder to be overlooked by Hodgson’ stakes.
Wes too, back in the ‘number 10’ role, proved again that only if played off the main striker and given plenty of the ball he can hurt teams.
Unfortunately the flip-side saw Steven Naismith handed the unenviable peripheral wide-left role – something Everton fans had warned us against – and although he did contribute to the second goal it meant there was still at least one square peg where a square peg shouldn’t be.
It was a compromise on the part of the manager in order to get his most attacking players on the pitch and, on this occasion, was one that nearly worked.
So, more defensive woes to agonise over and despite an attacking performance to almost be proud of it was another case of what might have been. The big worry now is over its potential impact on the belief and to squander a two-goal lead for the second time in three home games must leave some questioning where the next win is coming from.
But we’re out of the bottom three, have at last moved off 23 bloody points and are unlikely to see Hodgson darken the doors of BBC Salford ever again. So it’s not all bad.
“On the Ball City…”