If there is one thing you can say about the post-Dean Smith Norwich City, it is that you genuinely don’t know what you are going to see.
International internet meant that I only saw around half of the Wigan game. That was enough. Contrast the two most recent midweek games. You could watch them all night.
Responsibility was placed firmly on the shoulders of Adam Idah last night. To lead the line and score the goals. As early as the first minute, he showed that he would not shirk this duty when an early ball forward almost saw him through.
From the outset, it was evident that Birmingham were going to be a very different proposition to Wigan. The Midlanders relied on what is known in modern vernacular as a mid-block. They largely stood off City as they played out from the back while pushing up at the back.
The result created the situation that this City team seem to revel in. They had time and space to pick their way with aplomb through the middle of the park, and also to pick the long passes in behind.
One of the results was a frustrating number of offside flags raised against Idah, perhaps the main criticism of an otherwise encouraging performance.
City were creating chances aplenty. Whereas last weekend, there were yellow and green (OK, red and gold) statues in the final third, last night there was movement. Even when Birmingham dropped deep, chances still came. Kieran Dowell weaved his way through a couple of players to have a shot saved, and Kenny McLean shot wide after a penalty box scramble following a corner.
It took Birmingham 15 minutes before they began to make any impact on the game. McLean fouled on the edge of the area, receiving a harsh-looking yellow card. Then DimiGiannoulis conceded a free kick in a similar position. Both set pieces were dealt with well by the City defence.
City struck straight back. Onel Hernandez and Giannoulis had a neat interchange on the left which set the Greek free. He hit a glorious cross-field ball to Dowell which bounced unkindly out of play. Then a ball from McLean and a cute Idah backheel set up a chance for Nunez which went just wide.
Moments later, a curling Sara ball saw another chance go wide from the diminutive South American.
If you are reading this then you have almost certainly seen what happens next.
City corner to the near post area. The defender, unchallenged, makes a clearing header that looped well outside the box. And Nunez volleyed it home.
If you are the sponsor of goal of the month, goal of the season, or even goal of the decade, then you may as well stop there. This is right up there. Yousef Safri has finally been trumped in the long-range shot stakes. This was simply superb. I may have it as my screen saver… if I can find a teenager to do it for me.
The Chilean was clearly delighted, and the confidence began to ooze into everything City did. A succession of dangerous balls were played into the Birmingham box. It seemed only a matter of time before a second was added.
In fact, it took around 10 minutes. While the finish wasn’t as spectacular, as a team effort, the second goal was almost as easy on the eye.
A ball forward on the right, Idah nods it on, Nunez touches it to Dowell. He runs forward then back to Nunez, still on the right. A reverse, back infield and a ball to Gabriel Sara, who hits a lovely crossfield pass to Giannoulis in the left corner. He then plays it back to McLean who hits a delicious curling cross and Nunez, who has escaped the attention of his marker, side-foots home.
City could have had a third before the break too. Once again Sara played a great ball to Idah who used his pace and hit a decent shot, but John Ruddy in the Birmingham goal showed he still has it and produced a good save.
Clearly, Birmingham had work to do to hang on in the second half. They came out with a much more aggressive approach, a higher press and made the effort to stop the City moves at source. It was a more effective tactic and City were far less dominant.
But City had their tails up and the passing out from the back was composed and secure, all except for some iffy balls from Giannoulis.
Then Birmingham got a goal almost from nowhere. A long ball down the left wasn’t dealt with. The visitors kept the ball well before playing a cross into the area. Hernandez was first to the cross but his touch hit Grant Hanley and landed nicely for Colin to stroke home from the edge of the area.
It should have been game over on 64 minutes. A chipped Nunez ball was headed on by Idah, putting McLean through on goal. His touch went past Ruddy and was goalbound before Long cleared it off the line and onto the post. It should have been a goal, and perhaps it might have been but the Mayor had stopped running to admire his efforts – if only he had followed it in.
Birmingham nearly equalized. Nunez was flattened near the centre circle but play was allowed to continue. The resultant shot went right across the City goal and only needed a touch at the far post.
David Wagner made changes – Jacob Sorensen for Giannoulous, Christos Tzolis for Hernandez and, strangely, Andrew Omobamidele for Dowell. City were playing within themselves, waiting to hit the visitors on the break. Four minutes into stoppage time they got the third. Another good team goal.
City had the ball in the right back position, lost possession but got it back. There followed a neat interchange between Sara, Idah and Nunez before Nunez hit a killer diagonal to Tzolis, halfway into the Birmingham half. The youngster looked to have drifted too wide but then cut in and hit a delightful shot inside the far post.
The young Greek appeared to be almost in tears in the aftermath of what could prove to be a significant milestone for him following his return from loan.
So what to make of all that?
Clearly, Birmingham afforded City more space and time than some of the recent opponents but that should not detract too much from a performance that was full of movement, running and invention. Nunez was a revelation, at the heart of almost everything creative. When it wasn’t him, Sara was there. McLean too.
At the back, the much-maligned Ben Gibson was superb. I’ve said it before. We look so much more comfortable playing the ball out with him and Hanley paired left and right on their natural sides.
And a mention to Max Aarons too. 200 games into a career that has barely started. A consummate professional that other City and recent ex-City players would do well to model themselves upon.
So roll on Saturday. Which City team will we see then?
I popped this elsewhere, but we are rapidly becoming a Jeckyll and Hyde team . Bristol City and Wigan in one hand , and Hull and Coventry in the other. .
Last night we had elements of both in the same game .
I just don’t know which part of the character is going to appear .