It’s all too easy to drown in a sea of hyperbole when things are this good, and it’s a trap I fall into on almost a weekly basis, but there really are only so many ways of putting it.
This is a bloody good Norwich City side.
Give them a challenge and they’ll tackle it. Give them a hurdle and they’ll fly over it. Offer them a sniff of promotion and they’ll just keep clocking up the wins.
Seven wins on the bounce when the pressure gauge is stuck on eleven – who the heck does that?
This is turning into one extraordinary season.
The international break gave us a rare opportunity to take stock after what has been a breathless seven months and for many, the conclusion was that the biggest challenges that await were the two away games at Boro and Villa.
While I’m not sure that’s strictly true, because any game when you have to win it becomes hellishly difficult, but if we take that theory at face value, then last night’s win was one giant leap toward the Premier League.
And Boro didn’t disappoint. They were everything we thought they would be; physical, energetic, organised and huge! Also, I must be honest, unless my eyes were playing tricks, they played a little more football last night than I was expecting.
All to no avail.
It was an uncomfortable first half though, there’s no denying that, and ol’ Tony had his troops lined up in a formation that really did make it difficult for City to get out. If there’s a stat out there that tells us how many times Tim Krul kicked long last night, I’d hazard a guess it will be one of the highest of the season.
Pulis’s decision to play Assombalonga and Fletcher up top as a pair, squeeze our full-backs, and press Tom Trybull and Kenny McLean made it properly difficult to work it through the thirds. When we did attempt it, the pressure was such it was far too touch and go for comfort.
Yet, while both centre-backs had their wobbles, behind them Tim Krul displayed a calmness and nous befitting someone with his CV.
With three defensive giants in situ, it didn’t require the tactical know-how of Guardiola to see that anything kicked long by Krul would be gobbled up and returned with interest, but City hung in there, got the blocks in, kept their shape and remained patient.
And tellingly, when they did get the ball down they slowly but surely started to create chances. The Teemu Pukki of a month ago would have sent City in at the breaks two goals up.
That Boro were unable to maintain their high-energy press in the second period came as no surprise, and the calmness and assuredness that Krul had displayed throughout the opening 45 started filtering through the team.
More composure meant more possession and, despite Ayala’s towering header grazing our post, when Onel jinked inside and fizzed that shot inside Randolph’s right-hand post, it was precisely what City deserved.
Pulis thought City’s good spell was triggered by the goal. I’d suggest the goal came as a result of the good spell.
What followed was another masterclass in game management and resilience – now known as Zimbo-time.
Alongside his three defensive fledglings, Christoph Zimmermann stepped up once again. He was magnificent. There was obviously the goal-line clearance from Stewart Downing’s header, but there was so much more.
Since I’ve supported this club there have been some real leaders of men in that dressing room, with the epitome being Duncan Forbes, but since he has taken the armband, Zimmermann’s leadership has been a class apart. For all our technical proficiency and aesthetically pleasing football, a leader has emerged who underpins the whole thing.
And in Ben Godfrey, he has a first-lieutenant who carries out his every order to the letter, and who is every bit as fearless and courageous, especially when the flak is flying.
Boro tried every trick in the book to recreate the Alamo late on but, for all the reasons stated above, Krul hardly got his gloves dirty. It was defending a one-goal lead at its finest.
In an ideal world, City would have taken one of the many half-chances that presented themselves as Tony threw caution to the wind in the only way Tony knows how, but it mattered not because despite Sky’s Don Goodman willing City’s “Achilles heel from set pieces” to be exploited, there was no way Krul was being beaten last night.
With every passing win, the post-match celebrations mean that little bit more and last night’s had a ‘the finishing line is in sight’ feel about them. As away wins go, those at Middlesbrough when the Teessiders desperately need one themselves have to be right up there.
That our friends in Sheffield choked a little, thanks to Weimann’s rather splendid hat-trick, was a bonus but we are no longer in the business of needing favours. Leeds and Sheffield Utd can both win seven games in a row as far as I’m concerned.
A seven-point gap with seven to play is the stuff of dreams. So too is seven wins from seven. So too is the fact Daniel Farke has virtually a fully fit squad to pick from at a time when he needs it most.
The stars aligning people. Believe.