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Six things we learned from Norwich City’s latest, all too brief FA Cup foray

11:55 11 January 2016

A young fan illustrates the closest Norwich City have got  to the FA Cup in the last six seasons. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

A young fan illustrates the closest Norwich City have got to the FA Cup in the last six seasons. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

In a tale all too familiar to Canaries fans, their club’s FA Cup adventure ended for another season almost as quickly as it began. Michael Bailey sifts through the wreckage – here are his key observations…

Read Michael’s column

You can read Michael Bailey’s weekly Norwich City column by buying an E-edition of Friday’s Eastern Daily Press – here

What’s more, you also get Iwan Roberts’ weekly thoughts in the same edition of the paper – so two Canary columns for the price of one.

1 – City’s cup floweth over – but not with something you’d want to drink

Norwich City have spent four of the last six seasons in the Premier League. To clarify, that’s the top 20 in England. The other two seasons, they were in the Championship – and went on to win promotion back to the top flight.

Over the same period, the Canaries’ FA Cup record is a disaster zone.

There have been four third-round exits, including at home to Leyton Orient in 2011 and last season at Preston North End, ending Neil Adams’ reign.

To complete the list, we have the third-round replay exit to Fulham in 2014, that so nearly did likewise for Chris Hughton. There was the remarkable feat of reaching the fifth round in 2012 – only to lose at home to a Leicester side in the division below. And while City made it to the fourth round in 2013, the fact they became the first Premier League side to lose to non-league opposition – and at home too – hardly left that season’s Luton effort bracketed as a success. So yes, clearly Norwich haven’t enjoyed the FA Cup recently. But it should also make it clear that losing to a strong, quadruple-chasing Manchester City is far from the same level of embarrassment. That’s where the FA Cup has really lost its romance.

2 – Numbers at the back don’t always make you solid

As we all know by now, Alex Neil is very good at explaining why he does things. He makes it make sense and more often than not, he gets it right too.

So the threat Manchester City pose – however strong the XI they put out – needs to be dealt with in its own way and, as Norwich proved at the Etihad, their plan was one that could work.

Five at the back when their wing-backs were tucked in. Two in midfield screening as best they could. Plus a fluent front three to offer an attacking threat.

That way, Manchester City’s reliance on their attacking quartet would never see Norwich stretched to the point of breaking. It was exactly how it panned out in the Premier League to wards the end of last year. However, it’s never as easy as slinging an extra man in the middle to take up space – as was proven on Saturday.

Possibly the dynamic of playing at home rather than away also influenced the gaps behind Norwich’s wing-backs and City losing the ball at key moments.

But ultimately both first-half goals showed up City’s flaws in how they carried out a plan that should have worked better than it did.

3 – Midfield duo are struggling to put their rivals under pressure

You only have to look around the other third-round ties to see how much of an opportunity the games were giving fringe players to prove a point.

It was even the case for Saturday’s opponents, who gave Kelechi Iheanacho only his third Manchester City start – and he repaid them very well indeed. Fellow 19-year-old Bersant Celina also made his first senior City appearance.

Yet for Norwich, there was not so much of a youngster in sight.

In fact, the only thing that stirred the Carrow Road atmosphere was a rare appearance from Kyle Lafferty – one that could yet prove to be his last, if a club really fancies matching City’s demand for a permanent transfer.

In truth, Norwich have rightly loaned out their most promising talents – so it’s worth shifting the attention on to players who got their chance to force the issue on those currently keeping them out of the starting line-up in the Premier League.

And that’s where the central-midfield duo of Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu come in. Both were expected to play big parts this season – and maybe on Saturday we saw why at present, it’s mostly looking like bit parts for the former West Bromwich Albion duo.

4 – The Canaries would do well to keep hold of their Wisdom

Ivo Pinto strode purposefully out to the centre-circle before kick-off on Saturday. He looks like a man keen to make an impact at Norwich and in the Premier League – and in a couple of weeks, he should hopefully be ready to stake his claim.

The residual effect has been the discussion of Alex Neil’s healthy right-back options – or maybe rather, too many right-back options.

The debate over Russell Martin’s position won’t stop and Steven Whittaker will have to continue to be patient. But one of the few positives from Saturday’s FA Cup exit was the return of Andre Wisdom, following a few weeks out injured.

The fact he played bodes well – he is not be as much use to Liverpool now he is FA Cup-tied.

But his performance was also a positive one – proving not only that he can offer plenty to Norwich for the rest of the season, but that those competition levels will keep everyone on their toes – in a position that really is important in Neil’s shape and approach.

In fact, given Liverpool’s health and form, it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t want him back.

5 – Kun is key to one City – and too good for the other

Some players just look too good. Unstoppable. It was always the case with Luis Suarez – who when confronted with a red rag, used to bite. And when it was a little yellow bird, he used to score. A lot.

And in all honesty, the only player to look on a similar level to the Uruguayan’s skill set coming up against Norwich has been Manchester City superstar Sergio Aguero.

That doesn’t just go for Saturday, by the way. He has always looked the part against Norwich, and especially in his appearances at Carrow Road.

Now as someone who has written it a lot since Friday, it’s an easy throwaway line to label Manchester City as quadruple-chasers.

Given their limited joy in Europe, their League Cup deficit to make up and the trek still in front of them in the FA Cup, it’s far too soon to be talking of such success with anything other than a cheeky grin.

And yet… in Aguero, Manuel Pellegrini has a striker good enough to seal the deal in each one of those competitions. The big task is keeping him fit. In fact, a knee twinge on March 12 would be welcome.

6 – It wasn’t quite the same – and it doesn’t mean as much

I refer you to lesson one, and how badly it’s all gone in the FA Cup recently. So here seems the right moment to look into why – something Alex Neil’s honest appraisal may well have brought home.

Given Premier League survival or promotion have been top of the agenda in the last six seasons, you can never expect the FA Cup to rival that.

Clearly there have been missed opportunities, and the Premier League’s demands always offer a convenient excuse.

But likewise, City fans will forgive Saturday in exchange for four points from their team’s next two Premier League games – especially at Bournemouth.

Neil said he felt how relaxed it was around Colney in the week leading up to their third-round tie – not that they weren’t taking it seriously, but that the pressure and tension brought by fighting for Premier League survival had been eased. Not for long, but for long enough.

It may well be that come their two crucial away trips this week, that release of pressure will help them perform better at the Britannia and Dean Court.

Or it could have the reverse effect.

As Alex Neil said, he wants his players to justify his FA Cup selections with forthcoming points. I think we would all second that.

Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey

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22 comments

  • Trevvorkeith , I not having a go at Pinto he my well turn out to be a good buy time will tell I just said he was cheap which doesn't surprise me as this club will always buy cheap that's why they now have tag on them called cheapskates of the premiership I heard one of the TVs critic say we don't like parting with money.

    Report this comment

    City man

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016

  • Butty, what Mike Walker achieve and done it when we where broke with Mr Chase , under this board and owner we will never see that again under this board with no ambition like many of its fans . Apart from the group of fans that are not happy what this board and what they are doing . Apart from some fans that want to see the spend on quality players and keep this club establish has a premiership team but with many of its senior fans are happy what the board are doing by keeping millions in the bank and spending very little money and are not to bother if they get relegated . But this board has no interest what fans would like to see is a business run by small business who only know about making money and nothing about fooball not a loan running a premiership club.

    Report this comment

    City man

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016

  • True fans, irksome comment that, I would bet that there are few matches you weren't at that I was..And where I am it'll be jumping round the dining room drinking cider at 3pm on a Saturday madly texting my season ticket holding mate. Lets not start all that 'god fearing church going' rubbish which was in so much evidence during the Houghton, or was it Howton era..

    Report this comment

    Gruff

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Two things I learnt,1,,, never pay to watch ncfc in a cup game and 2,,,most of the ncfc players on show Saturday are not prem standard!The difference in class between the two teams was enormous!

    Report this comment

    tonyb

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Armchair supporters I salute you, I am sure one day that will be me, true fans never stop following no matter where they are. I've still got the hump over Saturday, was looking forward to it and it was dire. I watched the Spur's Leicester game and both teams closed down, worked hard and pressed when they could. I get the whole prema Donna melarki but as a fan I just want to watch a game, full throttle battle on the pitch with the best team winning. Six things to take away MB I think it's just about passion and hard work. Stoke up next, hope you boys at home got the kettle on and your feet up, God bless the old bois.

    Report this comment

    twopips

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Reading some of these posts,I agree with a lot of you,yes the supporters arnt as important to the clubs and it shows,at the end of the day the clubs money or most of it is from sky and bt . Is it too much to ask these days to do well in the league and cups if any of you can remember,under the Walker era we were top 5 and reached a FA cup semi final.At the end of the day the fans come last today the big money comes from elsewhere as we all know,also the modern super athlete of a premier league player can only manage one game a week poor boys,what would they have done 15. 20 years ago This day and age any premier league side should put in a good shift in the cups when you think the size of the squads they have today

    Report this comment

    butty

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • As Uncle Stew says, the set-up of the team, the general demeanour of our players and the outcome were sadly predictable. I suppose all this will be forgotten provided we survive in the Prem. Lambo was lambasted for the lassitude vs Leicester. Adams was sacked for the showing at Preston (or, at least, it provided a handy hook to hang him from). Hughton's last chance saloon proved to be a limp home defeat to WBA in the Prem. A proper sacking. Let's hope the "Real Norwich" turn up again straight away. Optimists in these haair paarts are expecting 6 points from the next two (away) games. Two would be OK. Zero a tad disappointing, maybe. We have to forget that Cup game. There was nothing worth remembering.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • No, make that 8, Norwich City don't give a toss about it's supporters.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • 7th thing. Giveup the 6 things, Mike. The joke's getting a bit old now!

    Report this comment

    alec

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Make that 7 things....... John Ruddy is hopeless.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • To the six things were learned on Saturday I would respectfully add two others 1- too much detailed talk about tactics. Its a simple game. Stop complicating it! In the end it is down to quality and commitment on the pitch and in that respect...2- we simply do not have enough quality in depth and in selecting player such as Dorrans and Martin nothing was ever going to be learned that we didn't already know. The game could have been an opportunity for us to look at other options and maybe learn something. For instance how would the young Loza equit himself in a competitive game against good opposition? Could Andreu offer us something different,? Maybe these two could at least have lifted the level of enthusiasm and commitment which in turn may have given the crowd something to get excited about? Sadly we got exactly what we expected on Saturday. I am not talking about the result but about the quality of our fringe players. By selecting the expected we got the expected.

    Report this comment

    malaga flier

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • As a sad, wireless listening MOG, I can tell when the team is doing really badly, because Goreham shouts only most of the time. Very decent of young MB to have intercourse with Stew. Much respect, Michael! Note, no ^sarcastrophes^ either!

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Although I do not goto matches at the moment, I think it was terrible to capitulate so easily with these"fringe" players. It is about time all Premier and Championship clubs take the FA cup more seriously instead of reverting to type and saying that the league is more important. A lot of supporters would like to see NCFC win or attempt to win some silverware. Does it matter which division you are in, in my opinion , the FA Cup or the League Cup is just as important.

    Report this comment

    kevin473

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • …..Thanks for a reply Mike!….My real point is that The Management had one whole week to pick the players who would be representing us against Man City…. Even the dumbest of the dumb knew that certain players would not take part, and I had suggested a team quite comparable with those selected much earlier in the week! ….My gripe is that they looked and acted as though they had come together for the match, without preparation to work as a unit….The manager and maybe others had no interest in the outcome of the match, as long as we lost honourably!….They did not even achieve that!….Perhaps the time has come for a manager to be appointed for the cups only, and he has a group of players available to select from (a reserve eleven)….At least those buying a ticket would know what to expect!…..

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Item 7 , Dont bother ever buying an fa cup ticket to watch ncfc , players and manager not bothered . defeated before the game started .

    Report this comment

    tyre-kicker

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • As always I was there and will renew my season ticket whatever happens this season. Ruddy made a couple of excellent saves but Rudd may well have stopped one or even two that went in, however, we need cover and I am happy with the current keeper situation. To be fair, most of the fringe players put a shift in but Aquero showed why he cost £65million. I still think it was right to start with three centre backs but possibly would have put Wisdom in there as he is a better defender than Martin, who in turn is better going forward. Yes Pinto may have been cheap by Premiership standards but lets give him a couple of games before judging. There are definitely benefits to watching televised games but they often miss the movement of others contributing to various moves etc. All people have a right to comment as this site is free and open to any that want to register.

    Report this comment

    TrevorKeith

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Fear not Stew, I could watch plenty of the game. it wasn't preparation - they played the same way not that long ago. They just didn't play very well - against a talented side.

    Report this comment

    Michael Bailey

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Many of us fans still love the FA Cup and feel cheated when the club we support, and pay good money to watch, show no desire to progress in it.

    Report this comment

    Captain Birdseye

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Maybe we would stills be in the FA cup if Rudd had been in goal , time to sell Ruddy he is over weight and getting slow in getting down to balls he's had his best at city time to go and get another keeper to put pressure on Young Rudd on top of his game. But weather we see the players sign what we been hearing about talk is cheap will the board cough up the money needed for these players .Pinto was cheap but as we know this board don't like partings with money unless they come cheap players the club will never change its way when buying players .

    Report this comment

    City man

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • I have no problems with the team selection. Fringe players needed a run out. Good chance to practice the 3 centre back formation that, barring Ruddy's howler nearly worked away to Man City. OK, it didn't work but far better to get it out of the system here rather than in an important game.

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    PaulWho

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • Yes stew I think your right , like you I have to watch games at home , a certain person does not class us as supporters but armchair fans , so our thoughts aren't valid although true .. AN said sfter the interview , must concentrate on Wednesday game that's our bread and butter thrown away the game with the team selection

    Report this comment

    iMac

    Monday, January 11, 2016

  • …..Mike Bailey!….I feel sure you report on the match as you see it!….that is when you are able to glance away from your computer, which now seems to take up more and more of your Match time!….Problem I have is that I watch the match as it happens on Live TV...via the internet...not this one however...and I am not distracted by having to write a column at the same time!….Those that attend the matches ... sitting low in the Barclay... see little of the action happening at the N&P end, and vice versa!….and often have to wait for Match of the Day and hope their questions will be answered…. It is inevitable that differences of opinion will follow!….That however is not my main concern!….What bothers me is that our manager puts out and unprepared side...can't call it a team...to in effect throw the match, and then has the gall to admit to it!….Do you see it my way?…..

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Monday, January 11, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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