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by Robin Sainty, INCSC chairman
Saturday, January 28, 2012
And so the last remaining monkey has been removed from City’s back, with the elusive clean sheet ironically being achieved against one of the country’s most potent attacking sides.
Long after the Chelsea fans had returned to their homes in Kensington and north Norfolk to weep into their Pinot Grigio, and the pundits had finished damning us with faint praise, City fans were still basking in the warm glow of an outstanding performance.
In last week’s column I referred to how City’s tactical approach had developed and on Saturday we once again saw the team looking comfortable in possession, but highly compact in defence. Great to see from our point of view, but clearly upsetting to our friends from Suffolk as the following forum post from an Ipswich fan illustrated; “Chelsea should have put the game to bed and it’s only thanks to inept attackers that the scoreline was 0-0. Norwich parked the bus for what seemed like 75 minutes and constantly put nine men in the box. Very negative play especially at home.”
It’s hard to believe that only four years ago people like him were waving money at us as they celebrated the arrival of their saviour, Marcus Evans, the man who take them to the Promised Land. Now, as their Sanatogen-fuelled squad stumbles arthritically towards the third tier, the best that they can manage is to snipe at us for actually having a functional defence, something they’d kill for. I think I can live with that.
Clearly this year’s grape harvest south of the border will be another bitter one, but in the attempted insult there is an unintended compliment. Less than two months ago City were taken apart for the only time this season, with Manchester City’s movement and slick passing eventually creating big gaps in an overworked defence. Compare that to the Chelsea game where we always seemed to have men in the right place to snuff out danger, and it’s clear to see that the players and coaching staff have been working very hard on this aspect of our game.
While Andreas Villas-Boas might point to the shot count to emphasise his team’s superiority, Chelsea created only three clear-cut chances, (two for Fernando Torres, who would struggle to hit a cow’s hindquarters with a stringed instrument at present, and one for Juan Mata). Shots from distance that don’t trouble the keeper might make the stats look good, but they don’t tell the whole story.
Despite the various changes to the back four in recent weeks we have continued to look more and more secure at the back, which is vital as we get to the business end of the season. What’s more, on Tuesday the picture became even rosier as Marc Tierney, Elliott Ward and James Vaughan made successful comebacks in the reserves and Jonny Howson signed from Leeds to give us a real goal threat from midfield.
Even if Howson proves to be the only arrival in the transfer window, the return of Ward and Vaughan is as good as two new signings.
And if that’s not enough good news, consider this; in both seasons under Paul Lambert’s regime we have got stronger as the season went on, with more victories in the second half of the season than the first. Whether we can achieve that in the Premiership remains to be seen, but there are certainly no signs of fatigue apparent at the moment.
There’s still a long way to go and none of us want to tempt fate, but this has the makings of an outstanding season for Norwich City.