David Hannant: The season has reached its pinch point - will City get stuck?

PUBLISHED: 16:04 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:04 31 December 2019

City have shown plenty of quality... but can they survive? 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

City have shown plenty of quality... but can they survive? Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

There are times when I almost wish City were as awful as some people seem to think they are.

The last month of 2019 was nigh on torture to be a Canaries fan.

Seven games, zero wins, just three points to show for it.

It sounds disastrous - and in the grand scheme of things, it is.

But what makes it more painful for me is this - of those seven games I'd say there was a grand total of zero poor performances.

Not one of City's opponents in that month would have been justified in feeling aggrieved if they had come away empty-handed. Norwich were the better side in every game - no question.

Yet here we are - one win in 14, rock bottom and six points adrift of safety at the halfway point.

Football just isn't far sometimes, is it? Particularly not in the Premier League.

Of course there are plenty of cynics out there who will argue we've been hopeless, that things are dire and that the only way we can survive is to draft in a Big Sam-style identikit Premier League manager clone. I'm not one of these people at all.

Teemu Pukki - City have been reliant on his goals, but need much more to survive Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdTeemu Pukki - City have been reliant on his goals, but need much more to survive Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

But, as odd as it sounds, how well we have been playing without reward is almost as hard to take as if we were dreadful.

The Premier League has seen some truly woeful sides over the years - teams that have looked destined for the drop from day dot.

Teams like Derby County in 2008, Queens Park Rangers in 2013 and Aston Villa in 2015.

These teams never looked close to the quality needed to stay in the league. There were no fine margins, they just withered away.

In a sense, it might actually be easier to take if we were like that.

Were we being swept aside by even the weaker sides with aplomb, it would almost be simpler to accept.

While I have near enough accepted that there's a good chance we'll be watching Championship football again next season, the fact each week we are ruing another result we didn't deserve to be on the end of is just so painful to take.

This is particularly so when given that history only looks at results - not performances.

Obviously I'm not saying I'd rather we start rolling over, but there's just something so unfair about seeing a side put in effort, quality and talent and not get the rewards they deserve for it.

We're just beyond the halfway point of the season and now I feel we are at the critical pinch point in the campaign - where things go one way or the other.

The way I see it, from this point one of two things will happen in the second half of the season.

As I always tend to do, I'll go in on the optimistic one. And that is that things will finally click.

The fact that despite results, Daniel Farke sends his side out with confidence, expression and flair shows just what character exists in this group of players.

Eventually, hard work must start giving rewards and in this eventuality a new year could very well bring those.

There are only so many times a team can play so well, create so much and work so hard without getting just desserts.

Crystal Palace on New Year's Day presents the perfect chance for this trend to start. And just as losing becomes a habit, so too does winning - and we've seen so many times over the years, you can climb through this league very quickly with a few good results.

Almost every year there is one side that makes a great escape - if we continue playing the way we have been, it could be us.

However, the other eventuality is much more worrying - and why I see this as the pinch point of the campaign.

When performances are good and results do not match, there could also become a point where the frustration takes too much of a hold.

Footballers are only human and while the backroom staff at Colney will no doubt be doing everything they can to manage the morale and psychology of the dressing room, the pendulum may well swing the other way.

With the wretched luck they have been having - perfectly encapsulated by that joke of a VAR decision on Saturday - they may lose belief and feel as though the universe is against them.

It'll be a big, big challenge to stop this feeling setting in, particularly when you think just how many times recently we've been by far the better team without coming away with three points. The danger here is, if this feeling sets in and our boys become dejected, then the results will stay the same and the performances will slip.

It's therefore important we all remain positive too and get behind the boys as much as we can.

The season is only half done - there is so much football left to play. We must not lose the belief. It's nowhere near over yet.

What a VARce

Where, oh where do you start with that blasted VAR?

At the start of the campaign I was genuinely looking forward to it being used - who wouldn't want to rule out 'Hand of God' scenarios?

But the more we go on, the more clear and obvious it is that the pooch has well and truly been screwed when it comes to its execution. So often it has outright ruined outcomes of games, no more so than on Saturday.

However, what is most disappointing about it isn't the way it has been used, it's the fact it has become the biggest talking point of the Premier League.

Without it, we would all be sat purring over one of the best passes I've ever seen from Mario Vrancic, or about other individual bits of brilliance.

Away from Carrow Road, Kevin de Bruyne has been an absolute joy to watch. Any other season, a player doing what he has would rightfully be all anyone is talking about. Instead, when history comes to look back at this season it will be at one thing: VAR.

One of us again?

No doubt with the January transfer window now open we'll be linked with every player under the sun.

Only Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke will accurately be able to tell you what business - if any - we will get done before the window shuts.

One bit of business I would gladly welcome though would be Jordan Rhodes.

While Rhodes has not really grabbed any of his previous chances to shine at this level, I think the deserves one last crack at it. With just six months left on his contract, you'd think we could finally test Sheffield Wednesday's resolve and make an offer that works for both parties. We know the player would fit into the dressing room and we know he would offer something different, even if it is solely off the bench.

With Josip Drmic's injuries woes carrying on we surely need a striker to come in. Were anything to happen to Teemu Pukki we'd find ourselves pretty thin on the ground. I'd welcome Jordan back with open arms, even if only on a short-term deal.

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