In the past three weeks, City have woken up, and shaken up, the bottom half of the Premier League.
Finally given a near-fit squad, Dean Smith had galvanised them into a competitive team. Whether or not inspired by the 120-mile-distant Billy Gilmour as the BBC would have us believe – I think not, though I’m happy to have him back – City are no longer pushovers.
Energetic and committed, the team has given us unexpected hope that relegation may not be the foregone conclusion it seemed. It’s having the opposite effect, of course, on fans of other teams in the bottom half.
We’re now playing more like a 14th or 15th-placed team than a 20th-placed one.
Unfortunately, Man City gobble up 14th and 15th-placed teams. Proud as we rightly are of Norwich’s resurgence – and I’m not going to write off our chances of competing on Saturday – it’s going to meet a very hard reality.
The facts are to get away from. Man City have scored 57 in the league this season while conceding 14; Norwich have scored 14 while conceding 46.
It’s simply not a level playing field. While acknowledging – as we should – that Pep Guardiola is one of the world’s top coaches, the resources at his disposal are obscene.
On Wednesday, for instance, he had Jack Grealish (£100m), Kyle Walker (£47m), Nathan Aké (£41m), Fernandinho (£34m) and Ilkay Gündogan (£25m). No, not in the starting team – on the bench.
They’re part of the just over £1 billion Man City have spent on players since 2015. That’s not a typo: £1 billion, a thousand million. Pep has spent over £900 million since arriving in 2016; he inherited Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling from the previous summer’s spending of over £100m.
That’s without mentioning current form. Man City’s last 15 Premier League games have been 1 draw, 14 wins. Many of the wins by large margins.
Actually, head-to-head games in the Premier League between these two Cities have tended to be eventful – at least in terms of goals. Across the past 11 meetings, Norwich have scored 12 and Man C 38. Despite averaging 3.5 goals a game, though, Man C actually lost two of the games.
One was a memorable end-of-season encounter at the Etihad under Chris Hughton; Johnny Howson’s solo winner would be on anyone’s decade-highlights DVD. The other, more recent and perhaps even more memorable, was Man C’s visit to Carrow Road two seasons ago – an effort by an injury-ravaged Norwich that was as heroic as it was unexpected.
Could we pull off another unexpected result? The odds are stacked against us, of course.
But we now have one of the two keys to that possibility: a pragmatism and fighting spirit. We may have back two of the players who embody that, Mathias Normann and Josh Sargent.
The other key we’d have to re-create from two seasons ago. Somehow that day, we had the composure and belief to keep the ball. Our passing and possession were magnificent: Farkeball at its best. It’s the only way to draw Man City’s sting.
So what may happen on Saturday?
An upfront admission: this time, I’m copping out of a prediction. Norwich could lose heavily and without shame; those past 11 encounters have seen Man City wins of 7-0, 6-1 and two 5-0s. Or we could run them close if we can keep the ball better than we did against Palace.
The real point is this: it doesn’t matter too much. No one expects us to get anything out of the game – hence the “free hit” in my headline. The likelihood, of course, is that we won’t get anything.
It would be a huge bonus if we avoided defeat, but the relegation outcome won’t depend on games against Man City. It’ll come down to games like the visits to Carrow Road of Burnley, Newcastle and Brentford.
On the other hand, it would be a huge bonus…
Fingers crossed John Stones plays, you always feel any team he’s in will give you a couple of chances in 90 mins
We deserve a bit luck against a big team maybe it will fall for us tomorrow
Ennis Pipe says
The starting 11 (should include both Normann and Sarge), their work-rate, concentration levels, crowd getting behind the team, and physicality. Am I expecting anything from this match? No, but if the score is close, i.e. 2-0, 3-1, then it sends a message to the rest of the league in terms of how far NC have come and that they will be competitive for the balance of the season. The cup is always half-full….
We have seen a team coming together over the last few weeks and Gunny Jr looking as if he could get his mojo back and be the keeper we all hope he can.
But tomorrow will not be about individual performances but how the team preform for the first 20mins any sloppy errors will be punished.
Like with CP ManC have top players and a few that likes to get penalties and will react to any touch in and around the box and the Ref and var likes to help out the top 6 in there hour of need
James Mitchell says
Friendly Palace fan here:
Your analysis is fairly predictable and likely correct – however, you should never assume that the more money a team spends, the more certain it is to win a match. City ARE a strong side, but no matter how many billions they spend, they are only permitted to play 11 men at a time and spending (say) 100 times more than your opponents does not ever make you 100 times better. On any day, a team like Palace or Norwich can beat City – and indeed Palace already have (our only away win this Season, at their own stadium, by two goals to nil and having matched them in performance). Norwich played very well against Palace midweek. Despite conceding much of the possession, it took a world class strike to beat Gunn in goal. Other than that (and a comically poor penalty) the Norwich goal never seemed to be in too much danger. Norwich have learned how to defend, and defend well. I think another hard fought draw is more than possible.
Anyway, I shall definitely be rooting for Norwich in the late game this afternoon – as I know a lot of my fellow Palace fans will be! We mostly love Carrow Road and its great atmosphere and hope to be back next Season in the PL.
Solid defence and midfield, keep possession, take our chances.
If we get an early goal try to score more, long-range, close-range.
Man City are an apex team, giving it your best and possibly getting a result is what Norwich need to aspire to, and it would possibly drag us out of the bottom three.
A result against them would great on your CVs boys!