May 19 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Familiarity would appear to breed contentment for the Canaries on the evidence of the past three Premier League tussles.
Paul Lambert and his coaching team have settled on a formation and the personnel to fit it good enough to triumph against Bolton, Sunderland and give the champions an almighty scare in their own backyard.
Not even Mystic Meg would have forecast City’s starting XI at the Reebok last month. Six changes in total from the previous weekend’s harsh televised defeat to West Brom. John Ruddy for Declan Rudd after suspension. Fair enough.
But Russell Martin in central defence? Okay, let’s run with it. Steve Morison for Grant Holt in a new, lone front running role? Interesting. Wes Hoolahan and David Fox back in from the start? Liking it a lot.
Plus a place for Anthony Pilkington on the left. Three of those men combined for the opening goal. Fox’s delivery, Morison’s knock back and Pilkington’s close range touch via Tuncay. Fox then teed up Bradley Johnson for the decisive second.
First win of the season, first away win in the top-flight since Take That were going strong in their first incarnation and Norwich’s season was up and running.
Sunderland were swept aside in a breathless night under the lights at Carrow Road before Manchester United trooped away with the three points and you sensed a new found respect for the newly-promoted men from Norfolk.
It was as if Lambert and Ian Culverhouse took a step back after the early season skirmishes, decided to try something slightly different and it has reaped some handsome dividends.
But don’t for a minute labour under the misapprehension this was a stab in the dark. Throwing the pieces up in the air and see how they fall. Lambert and Culverhouse are wily operators.
The duo have plotted a route through the Football League only Manchester City under Joe Royle managed to navigate over the past ten seasons. You don’t do that on hunches and rolls of the dice.
Whether it’s player recruitment, player selection or player formations, what the Norwich fans witness when they come to pay homage on a Saturday afternoon or any other time slot that suits the television paymasters, is the product of painstaking homework.
Whether it’s the search for a new recruit or a particular drill on the training fields of Colney or even the phoney football war that passes for pre-season.
And it was in the midst of those revolving summer substitutes where the seeds of City’s recent City’s upward curve perhaps lie.
Southend’s Roots Hall to be precise. An utterly forgettable 0-0 draw in late July, long since erased from the memory of anyone who was present. Except a retrospective glance at the team sheet and the formation that night offered plenty of clues to the thinking of City’s management.
Morison was deployed up front with Hoolahan tucked in behind. Kyle Naughton made his first appearance for the club behind Elliott Bennett on the right flank. Fox partnered Bradley Johnson in a newly reshaped midfield. Leon Barnett started in central defence. Martin was introduced after the interval. In central defence.
It was different. It was inauspicious beginnings for a pattern of play that looks just as ready made for the personnel at Lambert’s disposal as the diamond did on the club’s ascent through the Football League.
Rest assured, things will change again. Stand still, rest on your laurels in the Premier League and you will be left behind. Injuries and suspensions will hit – have hit already, but City’s management have proved time and again they have the nous and the foresight to stay one step ahead.