V is for value for money: OK, those trips to Watford and Southampton may have tested the most patient of travelling fan, but we’re in there swinging where it matters. W is for Wembley: Cue tear in the eye time.
While it’s clear that more consistent quality is needed for the second half of the season at Carrow Road, the best teams of the moment are also benefiting from their boss knowing who to rely on from week to week, as long as injuries and suspensions don’t cloud their choice.
With the bottom of the table getting tightly squeezed, City now badly need to pinch some points from Everton, Man Utd or Aston Villa going into the New Year to give the faithful some indication of a season’s second-half revival for survival.
On Sunday he was an unused sub against Arsenal, watching on as his replacement Ryan Bennett puts in a near faultless performance with the added bonus of him incurring the Twitter wrath of a certain disgraced former newspaper editor, turned genial breakfast TV host.
At the risk of inciting the faithful, Alex Neil is adopting a Hughton-like philosophy – at least for now. Those who did and continue to malign the former boss’s time at the club are seemingly going to have to suck it up.
This was one of those narrow defeats you suffer to a clearly much better team/group of individuals who at their pomp would have converted a few more of the multitude of clear cut chances that were fashioned.
Brady has proved a big hit at Carrow Road and will be on the transfer radars of the Premiership’s richest clubs next summer. Alex Neil and David McNally will have a fight on their hands to keep him in this neck of the woods.
Norwich’s defensive issues have been relentlessly discussed with calls for changes growing ever louder. Fallibility at set pieces, along with silly individual errors, have both been unwanted constants through the season.
All keepers have done it. Joe Hart did it just five or so minutes before after all. Fortunately for him, he did it with enough time left for his team mates to ship him out of the spotlight, whilst also redeeming himself with a blinder to deny Olsson at the death.
It did bring to mind the gung-ho accusations of early last season when Neil Adams had the “as long as we score more than the opposition” philosophy. That was quickly exposed then and is even more of a dangerous game to be playing when the quality and stakes are so much greater in the top tier.
In my stay in ‘the Toon’, I took in a few trips to St James Park. While Newcastle does have a cathedral, the footy ground provides a far more religious experience for the locals who have an unrelenting passion for the game, maybe unlike any other footballing army.
Although the initial exchange with Match of the Day’s Jonathan Pearce was a little frosty and awkward as always, Alex dissected his team’s shortcomings against Leicester with the nerve of a sharp-eyed surgeon.
In the heat of battle our ‘Birdman of the Boleyn’ found the time and decency to move a stricken pigeon from the pitch to the sidelines. A small gesture which no doubt some will ridicule but, for me, speaks volumes of the man.
Publicly no doubt Alex Neil will say it’s just another game with three points at stake but I’m sure that inside he’ll be seeing this as his biggest challenge yet in a still fledgling managerial career.
Jerome is far more experienced than either Glenn Murray or Dwight Gayle. Clearly he can cut it even if chances have gone begging for us so far, but for the worst refereeing decision of this season or any before he would have one goal to his name.
Virgil Van Dijk was maybe a possibility but he was always going to go Dutch at Southampton and his poor performances in the Champions Lwague qualifiers did put up a red flag as to his ability outside of Scotland.
Mbokani is a title winner and comes with an average of a goal every other game – facts and stats which come with the large caveat of being achieved in the Belgian and Ukranian leagues.
If his desired move doesn’t materialise, then it’s hard to see him even warming the bench regularly for the rest of the season. A dose of ‘working with the development squad’ could well be in store for him – a sticky fate suffered by Grant Holt at Wigan last season.
When the draw was made it was clear that the balls had not been kind to us. While the big boys sit out the early rounds, the rest of us Premier League mortals face tasks of varying trickiness. Possibly only Watford – who play Preston away – came out of the hat with a tougher opener than ourselves.
The best form of defence was certainly offence and long may it continue. It worked under Paul Lambert with some great away-day results, while Chris Hughton paid for his adherence to the over-cautious alternative. He’s doing a good job in the Championship though.