I’m starting to think the grass is getting greener and not just because spring is around the corner. I can smell it.
Yes, I’m talking about hope, there’s a sniff of hope.
January has delivered a good transfer window (if a little light on right-backs). Promising youngsters have been loaned out to gain valuable experience, there have been improvements to Colney and with better results on the pitch the plans (perhaps there always were some) are starting to come to fruition.
There are a few more smiles (or at least a few less grimaces) on the faces of our fans at the moment but I’m sure there will be many more steps before we see our team’s full metamorphosis.
We long, as fans, to be in the top flight, those in the top flight long to be in the top six. With big aspirations come big expectations. We can’t all be winners but none of us like to be losers and most clubs have had their share of highs and lows.
We must remember we are not alone and that sometimes even the bigger clubs can underperform; managers under pressure knowing that a trophy is what is expected and if it’s not delivered they could be finding themselves joining the long list of those unemployed.
And of course, there are the starlets who are unable to find the back of the net, the leaky defence and the off-field tantrums.
Sound familiar? Except I’m not speaking of Norwich City, I’m referring to Real Madrid.
I was lucky enough, on a trip to Madrid, to squeeze in a trip to the Bernabeu. I watched Real Madrid versus Deportivo – a spectacular 7-1 win for the home team a great game for a neutral. Yet not all is as the score reflects…
Real Madrid are the Spanish champions and back-to-back Champions League winners but they find themselves currently fourth in La Liga, 19 points behind leaders Barcelona, knocked out of the Copa del Rey and they finished second in their Champions League group behind Spurs. It seems incomprehensible that a great team that has achieved so much under Zinedine Zidane could be in such a position.
Sitting in the dizzy heights of the stadium – and believe me I was dizzy and it was high (St James’ park seemed like sitting on a gentle ride at the Pleasure Beach compared to the Bernabéu being a thrill ride at Alton Towers) – I gripped firmly onto the rail in front of me for the first 15 mins of the game until my feet eventually felt they were on some kind of terra firma. The local fan sitting precariously on the rail with his back to the pitch arms aloft conducting his group of fans to sing just added to my irrational fear.
It was then I realised how the team was passing out from the back, the side-to-side movement and formation – it all seemed so familiar, Real were expertly playing a similar system that Daniel Farke was trying to install at City. Deportivo were allowing them the time on the ball and the movement coming forward was excellent. Modric was centrally key, the playmaker enabling Bale and Ronaldo to get forward and try their luck in the final third.
Don’t be fooled though. This may, at 7-1, have looked like a striking masterclass but it could and should have been double figures. If only Ronaldo had taken all his chances; something he has been struggling with all season apparently. Again, sound familiar?
I also noticed how weak Real Madrid’s defence was. A better team would have capitalised and scored more than just the one.
But these are not the only similarities. Real Madrid is underachieving, and the reasons could be similar to those of our last few seasons.
They have more or less the same winning team, the main players have remained in the squad and the same manager – not unlike our relegation season back in the Championship. There seems no internal unrest, but this is often unknown until a manager is replaced. However, they’ve lacked goals and their players are not giving “gutsy” performances.
Real Madrid has never been renowned for having the best defence as their team is based on all-out attack, and with the full-backs pushing forward, it’s often left an unsteady back line and gaps in midfield, allowing teams to counter. However, their prolific strikers have always been guaranteed to outwit and outscore, masking a general lack of clean sheets.
And yet their strikers have struggled to find form for much of this season, missing sitters and therefore the goals conceded, and lack of clean sheets, are all of a sudden glaringly obvious. They too have suffered a list of injuries, some out all at once. How familiar does this sound?
Previously Madrid would draft in their B team, with their form and performances almost as strong as the first-team, but half of this squad has been sold off, leaving youngsters with little experience as back up. Academy players have even been called upon.
This very same issue could also be a concern for Norwich. We too are light on numbers in the squad particularly cover for the right-back role (Harrison Reed’s ability to fill in notwithstanding).
Then there’s the rub of the green. We all need a bit of footballing luck and often when the chips are down it can seem that nothing goes your way, though it’s true that sometimes you just have to make your own luck and believe.
I have said before that Norwich are more suited to the style of football in the Premier League and this looked very much the case against Chelsea in the FA Cup. The Prem has mimicked European football in recent years, perhaps because the big money has attracted the talented players from La Liga etc, so perhaps the comparison isn’t so shocking after all, with a German coach and so many players now sourced from the Bundesliga.
The similarities stop there though; we have nothing like the disposable income of Real or the large squad, and, despite having our fair share of prima donnas, we don’t possess the household names.
I can also just imagine that “bloke” in the A Block of Lower Block writing an essay on Health and Safety to the SAG. Where else would there be smoking whilst bags and bags of shredded paper are being thrown, men and kids sitting and swinging on the rails, beer, horns, singing and standing all in a stadium while a game of football is being played.
Just imagine that being allowed at Carrow Road! A family affair, home and away fans mixed, a day out and a party atmosphere even when Real go a goal down! Weird.
And just imagine then that the impossible happened and you could get a drink and get back to your seat without missing five minutes of the end of the first half and five minutes at the start of the second. Not bad with 68,000+ attendance.
We can dream.