‘We are close, we are so close!’
Those who have watched the Amazon documentary All or Nothing, which follows Man City throughout the course of the 2017-18 season, will recognise Pep Guardiola’s words as his team closed in on their first title under his tenure.
Given that Pep is a self-proclaimed watcher of Norwich City and a friend of Daniel Farke, I’m sure he’ll not mind if Daniel plagiarises those words in the moments before the players depart the Carrow Road dressing rooms tomorrow night.
Because we are we. We’re that close.
But, as we all know, that final step is often the most difficult. And with the two relegated teams to come, both of whom were 1-0 victors over City on their own respective patches, we’re having to do it the hard way.
But, never fear, we will.
We owe them both, but first up are the Cherries of Bournemouth; they of the (formerly) iffy finances, the small ground and three managers in nine months. And they of the 1-0 win back in late September when we were both Emi-less and Todd-less, and Danjuma scored the only goal of the game.
In City’s defence, aside from being minus our two most creative forces, it was only the third game of the season, the transfer window was in full swing and the summer additions to the squad were either injured or still finding their feet.
Jason Tindall, Bournemouth’s then-manager, was cock-a-hoop and no doubt readying himself for a procession that would see his men open up a big gap at the top of the division prior to their coronation. Didn’t happen though.
Instead, the Cherries, who were unbeaten in their opening nine games, zigged and zagged around the promotion places, winning more than they were losing, until four consecutive defeats in January/early-February triggered a P45 for Tindall.
The appointment of Jonathan Woodgate – he of the failed project at Middlesbrough – raised a few eyebrows at the time but has proven to be a good one. In his 14 games in charge – initially as a temporary measure but now permanent – Woodgate has overseen nine wins, two draws and three defeats.
Crucially, five of those wins have come in their last five games – a run that has seen them reassert themselves in the fight for the playoff places – but doubly crucial is the fact that their journey to fifth has now taken them five points clear of seventh-placed Reading.
They still have work to do to claim that playoff place though and that makes for a dangerous opponent tomorrow night: a dangerous opponent with good players who are playing well.
Woodgate looks to have gone with a 4-2-3-1 formation that looks familiar to us, albeit they do it a bit differently in the attacking third.
Against Huddersfield last week, in front of the league’s second-best keeper, Asmir Begovic, the Cherries lined up with a back-four of Adam Smith, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Cook (one for the kids), and Lloyd Kelly, with the ultra-combative duo of Jefferson Lerma and Ben Pearson acting as the shield in front of them.
In the attacking third, the rather splendid trio of David Brooks, Philip Billing and Danjuma were there to offer ammunition and support to the lone Dominic Solanke, and on the bench were such luminaries as Jack Wilshere and Junior Stanislas.
And when I say they do it differently, while Woodgate encourages his full-backs to push on and join in, it will be Brooks and Danjuma who more often than not will occupy those wide areas and who will engage Max Aarons and Dimitris Giannoulis. And in Billing, they have a Marouane Fellaini-type number10.
For Giannoulis in particular, this will be present a challenge unlike any other he’s encountered so far and will be a really good test.
The same applies to Andrew Omobamidele, who last Saturday came through an unsuccessful attempt to ‘rough him up’ from Colin Kazim-Richards but tomorrow will be asked questions of a more technical nature from Solanke.
Based on all the evidence, everything points to Giannoulis and Odobamidele taking this latest examination in their respective strides, but it will be both interesting and a useful pointer for next season.
So, let’s not kids ourselves: this could well be City’s toughest test of the season.
But… a big but… we’re top of the league and on the cusp of both promotion and the title for a reason. We didn’t get this far by being second-best to anyone and I don’t see that starting tomorrow.
Yes Bournemouth will be motivated – not least because they expected to be in the position we are in and because they see themselves as Premier League players being asked to play in the Championship – and yes, they have some technicians who can hurt us, but with the finishing line in sight, I don’t see us wobbling.
We’re nearly there guys. As Pep says, we are so close.
While Carrow Road will be again empty, I sense the players, more now than ever, are aware of the whole Canary Nation roaring them over the line.
That we’re not there to do it in person is a tragedy; that the players have still managed to do it without us is a mark of their quality and desire.
C’mon lads! Let’s do this. NEVER MIND THE DANGER.
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martin penney says
Can’t have been the Steve Cook from the Pistols – that one would have been wearing a knotted hanky on his head and failed every post match drugs test going. Guitarist my ar$e.
Seriously tomorrow might not be the *P* night but I fecking hope it its.
Gary Gowers says
ha! Should have typed “guitarist”
martin penney says
Didn’t even notice the spelling – I just meant he was crap on guitar 🙂
Alex B says
Well Woodgate is making a good fist 👊 if his second attempt at management maybe due to the better players he has but Colin is doing ok with the same players.
Most pundits recon city will win by the odd goal and I can accept a 2-1 or 3-2
Onwards and upwards
Stay Healthy and Stay Safe 🙏
Derek Piercey says
I think playing a team like Bournemouth could be to our advantage tomorrow.
No doubt they will come and play, rather than park the bus, and that, in turn, gives us more space to play. And when we play, boy do we play! Sorry, too many plays!
Seriously though, we are top for a reason, and I am looking forward to us showing it tomorrow. I fully expect both Swansea and Brentford to win tomorrow lunchtime, so it will be up to us.
John Coombes says
should be a great match, pressure on both teams but of a different type, with the players Bournemouth have available if they approach it the right way I fancy they might just come out on top, but it should be close
Colin M says
How things change without realising, from the corresponding September fixture only Krul, Skipp, Max, The Mayor and Pukki started from recent sides. As you say Emi & Todd were on the naughty step and no Dowell instead Rupp, Placheta & Onel with Zimbo and Godfrey as the CB pairing, (it was to be Ben Godfreys final game before his move to Merseyside).
I don’t really feel that we are under much pressure, win, lose or draw but we’ve only ‘contrived’ to lose once at home this season and don’t see us doing so tomorrow. Bournemouth will be strong contenders in the play-offs and I wouldn’t be surprised if the 3 that came down go up again.
P day can very well already been happened when Norwich starts to play. That is surely the best possible scenario, so Farke could also give rest especially to Pukki and Pukki could start preparing to euro21 tournament. Hugill and Idah surely wants to play.
Colin B says
Difficult to call tomorrow’s game as both sides are on good runs. If Swansea and Brentford drop points and we are up without playing then I think we could lose as the pressure is off. If we have to win to go up then I think we will shade the game by the odd goal. This will be a tough test for Omobamidele but I think he has the ability to see off Solanke. I suspect Skipp and McLean will be giving him added protection.
Onwards and upwards.
Is there room for both Kazim Richards and Solanke in Omobamidele’s pocket?? Or does he have one on each side?
O T B C
Herr Cutz says
Bournemouth will give us a taste of the kind of opposition we’ll be expecting to beat next season, can we do it? Of course we can! Everything we’ve seen lately shows we’ve got the motivation, the skill and the confidence. OTBC.
I have to agree with some of the comments in that the Cherries HAVE to attack us from the off and the first goal will dictate what follows – in all honesty, I can’t see it affecting us too much, as it will only take a bit of magic from any of our front 4 to undo the damage!!
However, if we were to score first, then I feel we could end up with a VERY convincing winning margin!!