Norwich City are an oasis of calm amid the madness

Norwich City players react as the free-kick by Robert Snodgrass slips past Southampton goalkeeper Paulo Gazzangia. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images Norwich City players react as the free-kick by Robert Snodgrass slips past Southampton goalkeeper Paulo Gazzangia. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Robin Sainty
Friday, November 30, 2012
4:48 PM

It’s not been a great couple of weeks for the integrity of football.

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First of all Chelsea followed up the collapse of their fourth serious allegation against a referee in seven years by sacking a manager who, in less than a year, has delivered both the FA Cup and the Champions League and clearly still had the backing of most fans.

The reaction of those fans on Sunday tells you all you need to know about the morals of that decision.

That was followed by a Shepherd’s Bush soap opera in which Mark Hughes was apparently asked to jump, refused and was then pushed to make way for Harry Redknapp.

At one point it seemed that Hughes might get a stay of execution until the timely leaking of the news that Redknapp was close to taking the job of managing Ukraine forced the hand of Tony Fernandes, a man who had previously backed Hughes to the hilt.

At least the fact that Redknapp is already talking about signing a number of 30-plus stars who’ll demand huge salaries promises a continuity of approach.

With Martin O’Neill and Brian McDermott also rumoured to be under pressure there’s a feeling of instability around the Premier League which makes the air of calm emanating from Carrow Road so much more enjoyable.

With last week’s AGM once again confirming both the club’s strengthening financial situation and the fact that squad building will continue in January this is a great time to be a City fan.

Of course, the feelgood factor off the pitch would lack intensity were it not for the continued improvements on it and Saturday’s game at Goodison Park showed once again how far the Canaries have come.

Everton, even without Marouane Fellaini, are an excellent side and they started like a train.

Having conceded an early goal and unable to get their passing game going City were reduced to chasing shadows for much of the first half but, crucially, dug in and didn’t buckle before coming back to grab the point that extended their unbeaten League run to six games.

While it was entirely understandable that City initially found it hard to match the intensity of their performance against Manchester United, it illustrated how easy it is for a side that’s not at the races to be swept away at this level, which is exactly what happened against Fulham and Liverpool.

On Saturday, however, City showed great resilience and composure and ultimately fully deserved their draw despite never hitting top gear.

Wednesday’s game followed a similar pattern, with a sub par City going behind, only to haul themselves back to parity before coming close to taking all three points.

While Chris Hughton will be concerned at the sloppy way in which possession was often surrendered in both games he will be delighted that the defensive system is now so well embedded that the losses of Michael Turner and John Ruddy have been accommodated so seamlessly.

There is, however, a need to manage expectation.

There were a lot of comments on social media sites on Wednesday evening to the effect that draws at St Mary’s, and even, in some cases, Goodison, were somehow disappointing.

However, we need to keep our feet on the ground. City are incredibly hard to beat now, but the team isn’t yet firing on all cylinders going forward.

However, the point is that a solid defence can get you points even when the goals aren’t going in at the other end, yet a more prolific forward line may not be able to offset a porous defence.

Over the course of the season Hughton will get the balance between defence and attack right, but for now he has to prioritise, and defence has to come first.

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