Michael Bailey: Jamal’s gesture, a trio outnumbered and a missing click – Six things learned from City’s Chelsea example
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After one of the better days this season with Norwich City holding defending Premier League champions Chelsea to a goalless FA Cup draw at Carrow Road, MICHAEL BAILEY serves up his six of the best from the third-round stalemate.
1 – They are the trio with plenty yet to give
They are arguably City's three most valuable assets, given free rein to conjure something from nothing – or rather, from a three-v-eight.
Generally the combination play of Alex Pritchard on the right and Josh Murphy left with James Maddison supporting centrally, was excellent – especially given the weight of numbers they were up against at times.
In fact, perhaps all that was missing was an option in front of them.
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The trio have caught the eye before, with the wins at Birmingham and Millwall cases in point – when Nelson Oliveira played ahead of them. The striker didn't carry much of a goal threat in those games, but his presence will have helped give a bit more space to the three sat behind.
Matching Chelsea's formation is one thing. Doing so in the Championship and effectively being a man down in midfield may not be as palatable. That's OK so long as City play – or maybe simply keep – their key trio.
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2 – It was just like the good old days
It felt nostalgic as it was happening – so it was nice to see him acknowledge likewise on Instagram: 'Interesting game…reminds me of the PL days.'
Once again, Alex Tettey provided the perfect screen for Norwich City's back line – albeit just the three this time. It means the Norwegian remains unbeaten so far this season in league and cup.
And yes, it did feel just like when Tettey was relied on to keep top-flight attacks quiet on a regular basis.
Lots of Norwich fans want a new contract for Tettey but for me, Saturday was part of the next phase. Tettey's chance to show what he's got against big opposition, before those contract offers are put in front of him.
City have enjoyed his best years. Tettey has enjoyed it here. This may well be time and there is a little while yet before it all winds up. Don't forget, there is also a young defensive midfielder who just coped very well with West Ham, all ready to take over the Tettey mantle.
3 – We have seen why he is ready
We can often be told a player is either ready or not, but find ourselves wondering what exactly that means. Well, we've been told for a while Jamal Lewis was ready – and one time on Saturday, we saw just why.
Goalless with the minutes ticking by, the 19-year-old left-back in his fourth professional outing was busy telling every one of his more experienced team-mates to focus, with the international football sign language that is a finger from each hand pointed to your temples.
The point isn't that he was clued in enough to make the gesture and not be lost in a world of playing Chelsea at such a tender age.
No, it was his willingness to instruct those around him. The confidence to take a bit of responsibility. The fact he is now a first-teamer, rather than a young player simply parachuted in.
Needless to say the rest of Lewis' performance belied his tender age too – and that makes it extremely exciting for him and the rest of us.
4 – It's the trait that's as fickle as it gets
Josh Murphy has been written off, castigated, criticised, praised, cheered and jeered this season. Sometimes all within the same 90 minutes.
In many ways, even his evening against Chelsea carried a few of the erratic traits: great movement and pace let down occasionally by a wayward shot, miscalculated angle or one touch too many.
When Murphy has made some of Saturday's misjudgments in other performances, he hasn't left with the standing ovation he received at the weekend.
But in many ways it's the running, the confidence and taking people on that has everyone on Josh's side. The rest comes with the territory.
It's great to see Murphy appreciating his own form and thriving off it. And it's great Daniel Farke has helped manage his young winger out of his slump so swiftly – Josh's words, and mine. It bodes well for City's journey, their youthful ideals and the man placed in charge.
5 – Money can't buy you love
At some points in the first half I spent more time trying to work out what the weird pattern was, hidden in Chelsea's changed strip. A lot of national journalists were more excited by Antonio Conte's prospective response to Jose Mourinho's dig, than kick-off.
Then by full time, Gary Cahill was stood in front of me complaining about the replay and wishing for a winter break to help out English football's elite.
Chelsea's much changed team and laboured performance was a long way from what they've brought to Carrow Road in past Premier League games.
We also know they won't be bouncing off the walls at the prospect of taking their turn to host the third round tie. Maybe that's why they are charging £30 for the replay.
Chelsea are still fighting on three fronts – four if you include Jose. But they're not really bothered about the FA Cup yet, which makes it frustrating City couldn't take greater advantage.
6 – We know we don't know… Not yet
When Alvaro Morata entered the fray, it was a new challenge for City – and it didn't take long for him to be grappled by Christoph Zimmmermann. Needless to say, the German won.
It was a stark moment because once again, you start to think about how far the 24-year-old back has come since the summer – as well as the fact Farke mentioned he also caught Arsene Wenger's eye when Arsenal hosted City in the Carabao Cup.
There have been some real positive signs in the most recent handful of games and their remains – as proven by the crowd and atmosphere on Saturday – a real desire from paying fans to see it work out.
But such peaks and troughs breed scepticism too.
The threat of a big sale this window is a depressing reality. You can't say Farke's tactics would work better in the Premier League, when City haven't faced a first-choice XI. And we can't say it's clicked until it clicks. At least the rest of this month may offer some real insight.
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