Plenty yet to come from Norwich City

Chelsea match-winner Juan Mata in apparent discomfort, sympathetically watched by Norwich City skipper Grant Holt. Chelsea match-winner Juan Mata in apparent discomfort, sympathetically watched by Norwich City skipper Grant Holt.

Robin Sainty
Friday, December 28, 2012
3:49 PM

If Norwich City’s unbeaten run started with a bang with the epic performance against Arsenal, it ended with a whimper at The Hawthorns as a strangely supine performance by the Canaries saw them defeated in a game in which they dominated possession without ever really going anywhere.

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While there’s no doubt that the sloppy goal conceded just before half-time rocked the visitors, their possession early in the second half suggested a resurgence that never actually materialised. Instead, West Brom’s switch in tactics from trying to thread balls through a packed defence to fielding four forwards and hitting long diagonals into the channels started to bear fruit.

Ultimately, of course this led directly to the winning goal as West Brom finally managed to engineer a situation in which the impressively powerful Romelu Lukaku was isolated on a full-back rather than a centre back, with a predictable result.

While I’m a great admirer of Shane Long I have to say that Lukaku looked mighty impressive. In fact, as a team West Brom probably created more aerial problems for City than any other opponents (including Stoke) this season, particularly from corners, and it was no surprise that the equaliser came from one.

Unfortunately, it was a gloomy start to Christmas for the travelling fans as we also had to endure a post-match soaking as we sought the shelter of our cars. By then the magnificent Indian barbecue provided by my favourite away pub, The Vine, was a distant, if pleasant, memory.

Sunday, of course, brought little comfort as we watched our next opponents Chelsea totally dismantle Aston Villa and nearly dislodge Ipswich from their position as the biggest losers in Premier League history. The only comforting thought was that they might have wasted all their ammunition on the hapless Midlanders, but it was with no little trepidation that we arrived at Carrow Road on Boxing Day.

In fact, what we got was a performance from the Canaries which was filled with passion and commitment, and which forced the current champions of Europe to work extremely hard for their victory. At no point did City look outclassed or overrun, in stark contrast with their trip to Stamford Bridge in October. If anyone needed proof of how far the team has developed, watching those two games back to back would provide all that was needed.

While some might downgrade their praise because the end result was a defeat for City, that is unfair on a group of players who can now be relied upon to go toe to toe with the very best that the English game can offer without looking out of place.

The victories against Arsenal and Manchester United, in particular, have clearly developed a level of self-belief which may have been lacking earlier in the season, but which should now push the squad on to new heights.

Let’s be honest here. When City went into the eighth game of the season against Arsenal with a meagre haul of three points most of us could only dream of the club sitting in mid-table with 25 points at the halfway mark. To have accrued three points more than at the same stage last season is a remarkable achievement given City’s poor start.

The progress that we have seen over the last 12 games has been quite incredible and I am convinced that there is much more to come, particularly if the right targets can be acquired in the upcoming transfer window.

I’m sure that a great deal of homework has been done by the increasingly diversified scouting network that the club now has and we will all be watching with eager anticipation as the New Year dawns and the various social media are deluged by the usual flood of rumour, misdirection and downright rubbish.

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