There were still positives for Norwich City in loss at Stoke
06:30 16 January 2016
I hadn’t watched City live in the FA Cup since the Luton Town debacle and based on a performance against Manchester City that was more anaemic than a vampire’s leftovers I probably won’t bother again for a while.
Sadly the grand old competition continues to wither and die on the vine as managers persist in putting out weakened teams, although the ridiculous decision by the Premier League to have a full midweek programme this week just as clubs are recovering from the four games in 13 days of the Christmas period did nothing to encourage them to do otherwise.
Saturday’s game was almost a glorified training session with neither side appearing to want to risk injury and the lack of passion on the pitch was more than matched by the apathy in the stands.
City were largely architects of their own destruction by regularly over-playing around their own box and offered little going forward: all in all it was a day best forgotten.
At least there was no hangover on the proverbial wet Wednesday night in Stoke where City started with a level of confidence and composure on the ball that suggested good things until all of the groundwork was undone by Gary O’Neil’s moment of madness.
O’Neil has been excellent this season but as a seasoned professional he knows himself that he let his team-mates down without the vile torrent of personal abuse that was poured upon him from the computer keyboards of people who would never have the guts to say such things to his face. One assumes that they have never made a mistake themselves.
While the result was disappointing there were plenty of things to be positive about at Stoke, including another impressive showing from Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe whose combination of power and comfort on the ball gives City another dimension, and a remarkable target man performance from Dieumerci Mbokani whose ability to maintain possession when surrounded by opponents is reminiscent of Grant Holt at his best.
What City must do now is to take those positives into today’s game, which will inevitably draw all the usual clichés about being a ‘six pointer’ or a ‘must win’.
Whilst its always good to beat the teams around you because it generally makes the threshold for safety that little bit lower, the fact is that out of the remaining 17 games City need to be aiming for five wins and a couple of draws to reach the magical 40-point mark.
The sooner those points are achieved the more comfortable everyone will feel, but as long as they come I don’t mind where or when.
Meanwhile the madness that is the January transfer window continues in the background with the usual plethora of rumours being repeated to the point where they take on a life of their own, and the number of those claiming to be ‘in the know’ rising daily.
I’ve lost count of the number of players that City have been linked with this month, but the problem is that every time such a player signs elsewhere there are those who will claim it is a target missed even though there is no real evidence that the club actually made a bid.
Whilst we all appreciate how important it is to strengthen the squad a transfer window can only be objectively judged once it is complete, not with over two weeks to go, and while I would love to see business being completed sooner rather than later there’s a lot more involved in buying a footballer than popping down to the supermarket for a bag of frozen peas.
Ultimately I’m sure that most of us would prefer that the club get the right players rather than those that can be signed quickly.