David Hannant: Why City need to be the cat in the relegation dog fight

PUBLISHED: 14:21 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:21 16 October 2019

Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell pleased in vain for a penalty during the first half of City's loss to Villa Pictures: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell pleased in vain for a penalty during the first half of City's loss to Villa Pictures: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

At some point between 3pm and 5pm on October 5, I came to a realisation.

This realisation in one I bullishly did not think I would come to this season.

Whether it was naivety, blind faith or natural optimism, but I genuinely did not believe that relegation was something we would be thinking about.

It goes without saying that I didn't think City would be knocking on the door of Europe, far from it, but I also felt we wouldn't spend the season looking over our shoulders either.

However, I've now come to the conclusion that the reality is, we are in a relegation dog fight.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still truly believe we will be watching Premier League football at Carrow Road again next season, but I feel bums will be much squeakier in seats than I had originally anticipated.

So just how do City make sure they come out on top in this relegation dog fight? For me, the answer is this: be a cat.

It is at this point in the column, by the way, I will isolate around 50pc of the people who kindly read it: I'm 100pc a cat person.

I'm so much of a cat person that were there some kind of warped reality where one cat was remaining on Earth and I had the power to save it - but it was at the cost of making all dogs extinct - I wouldn't even hesitate.

But my personal preference of species is nothing to do with why I feel City need to be the one cat in the dog fight.

It is the classic argument of brains against brawn.

My fellow columnist Robin Sainty pointed out last week the words of Alex Neil, who, when reflecting on his time in the Premier League, said he regretted trying to change his philosophy while at the helm.

This is something I completely agree City can't afford to do.

It took a decent amount of time for Daniel Farke to build a team that could play his way and get them to gel doing this.

We are just not set up to beat teams by playing the physical game - particularly with a number of our more physical players on the sidelines. But we can definitely out-think them.

Therefore, trying to fight this dog fight like a dog, would essentially be signing the club's own death warrant - as one would suspect it would also take time to adjust to a more robust style of play - time we do not have.

So this is where cats against dogs comes into the equation.

To me, everything about Norwich City under Daniel Farke screams cat more than dog.

The way City play is sleek, it's calculating and it's stylish. Cat.

And while some may feel the way to win a dog fight is by scrapping, being strong and robust, I don't see it this way.

I genuinely believe that this fight can be won by sticking to our guns, playing a thinking man's game - and intelligence.

Cats are also unpredictable, difficult to read and very, very intelligent. These are all traits that would come massively in handy for City going forward.

Predictability in football is clearly a downfall - if an opponent knows exactly what you will be doing, they know how to stop you.

It clearly goes without saying that so far this season, City's luck has been pretty wretched, particularly as far as injuries go.

No team on Earth would be able to perform to their full potential with two goalkeepers, three centre-backs and two holding midfielders in the treatment room.

And this isn't even a case of not having strength in depth. You do expect and prepare for injuries, but this many?

Inevitably, the argument here is that near enough the same team that beat Manchester City were toyed with by Burnley, Palace and Villa in the subsequent games.

However, the sheer adrenaline of playing Manchester City inevitably came into it. Without belittling ourselves, the lads can probably forgive themselves for being able to motivate themselves more for the City test.

I'm not suggesting we in any way underestimated the other opponents, but clearly there was just something special in the air that day - and the stark reality of the injury list then took its toll without the added adrenaline.

Obviously the key formula is trying to find a way of making sure the same motivation is there regardless of opposition, but from a certain point of view you do have to remember these players are still human beings.

The international break we have just endured was timely; after the dizzy heights of Man City, it felt we were seeing the beginning of a tail spin.

We've seen already that the break has allowed some key names to get back into training - let's now look at this as the start of a new season and get back to winning ways, starting Saturday.

Just fur fun!

The main focus of my piece this week was all about how City need to be the cat in the relegation dog fight.

So I don't know about you all, but if ever there was a time to make some Norwich City cat puns, it's surely now.

So here we go...

Tee-miaow Pukki

Todd Catwell

Marco Stie-purr-man

Ralf Furmann

Tom and Jerry Goss

Catrick Roberts

Onel Purrnandez

Zema Tabby

Fe-lynx Passlack

Andrew Furman

Siamese Lappin

Daniel Furke

Leroy Fur-ball

Ken Moggo

And just in case the dog-lovers were feeling left out, here's a few for you too.

Spaniel Farke

Christoph Doberman

Tom Trybulldog

Bryan Gunndog

Wes Hoolahound

Jack Russell Martin

Teemu Puppy

PomeranIan Crook

Collie Johnson

Robert Beagle

My Finnish phone call

Something extraordinary happened to me this week.

I noticed on Twitter that the prime minister of Finland had been sent a Norwich City shirt by the club and had posed for a photo with it -- so thought I would put together a quick piece about the gesture.

Within about half an hour of this being online I had one of the PM's special advisors on the phone to me from Finland to discuss it.

To my shame, the phone call was to point out a small error I had made in the copy, but the advisor couldn't have been nicer about it.

Clearly, he was hugely complimentary of our Finnish frontman, but it certainly wasn't a phone call I would have anticipated receiving.

I was told the prime minster was truly delighted with the gift from the club and who knows, maybe one day he will even make an appearance at Carrow Road.

We had royal guests last time around, so why not add a world leader? I'm fairly confident he'd be one of the more welcome of these.

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