What happens at Carrow Road stays at Carrow Road
Six, seven, eight? Just how many were Norwich City going to concede, was the question being asked by fans and 'experts' alike before Saturday's game.
February 12th, 2014
Following the 7-0 mauling at the Etihad in November, record books were being consulted. Would this be the largest aggregate score between two teams in a Premier League season? Would Pellegrini’s team inflict a record defeat on the hosts – a stat still held by our friends down the road following a 9-0 defeat to Manchester United in 1995?
The pre-match stats made for grim reading. Manchester City had scored 114 goals in all competitions this season; Norwich City just 29. The title contender’s squad cost £380m, the boys in yellow and green ‘just’ £40m.
But part of what makes football the beautiful game is when two completely mismatched teams can’t be separated over 90 minutes, and on Saturday that was exactly what happened. In the end Chris Hughton’s men not only held on for a point against free-scoring Manchester City but could have sealed all three, had Nathan Redmond’s cross found Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Both England goalkeepers had a fairly quiet afternoon and it was two consecutive clean sheets at Carrow Road for John Ruddy.
In front of Ruddy, and making his Norwich City debut, was Joseph Yobo. He was a calming presence at the back and brought out the best in Sebastien Bassong, who had lost his way earlier this season but has recently returned to performing like a rock at the back.
A quick note on Yaya Toure – it’s clear that, had he been the recipient rather than the executor of an off-the-ball kick to the back of Van Wolfswinkel then the FA wouldn’t have been so kind to Norwich as they were to Manchester following the game. The dominant midfielder escaping punishment isn’t all bad though. I would rather he face Norwich’s rivals Sunderland, Stoke and Aston Villa than sit on the sidelines serving a ban. Plus there’s no hard feelings from RvW who tweeted: “Good to see Touré not getting suspended. Players like him belong on the pitch! What happens at Carrow Road stays at Carrow Road.”
So where does this totally unexpected, but completely welcome, result leave Norwich City? The majority of the fanbase – me included – had already written off the final four home games of the season, but following the point against a team gunning for the Premier League trophy there’s no reason why the Canaries can’t pick up points from Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and David Moyes’ misfiring Manchester United. After a fairly awful couple of months comes some renewed optimism.
There’s more good news on the horizon too. Jonny Howson – the standout candidate for Player of the Season – is just a couple of weeks away from returning from injury. He has been sorely missed – although fellow former Leeds midfielder Bradley Johnson has filled in admirably – and before his injury Hughton’s midfield three of Howson, Leroy Fer and Alex Tettey were starting to look like a force to be reckoned with. Here’s hoping for more of the same in the final months of this season.
On a final note, the January transfer window predictably saw little action at Carrow Road. In came Jonas Gutierrez and Joseph Yobo on loans to shore up holes in midfield and defence created by injuries. And out went, well, nobody really. The squad was always good enough to stay up and this was reflected by the lack of transfer action. Wes Hoolahan made noises about leaving – disrespecting his employers off camera but not out of earshot of a TV crew – but who can blame the most creative player at the club for not being happy at sitting on the bench. As a huge Hoolahan fan I hope to see more of him on the pitch this season and next.