Melissa Rudd: City have created an atmosphere to be envied
PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:11 28 February 2019
After another blockbuster at Carrow Road on Saturday, it was perhaps too much to ask for Sunday’s televised double header to provide similar entertainment.
Yet, after tuning in to the much-anticipated visit of Premier League leaders Liverpool to Old Trafford followed by the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Chelsea, almost three and a half hours of football had been played without so much as a goal.
That was when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s antics at Wembley minutes before the end of extra-time shocked fans, players and pundits alike. The Brazilian stopper refusing to be substituted and angrily gesturing at the touchline as his number was held up by the fourth official is a moment that will go down in footballing history.
While his replacement Willy Caballero continued to awkwardly limber up, waiting to enter the pitch, Kepa stood firm, despite a word from his captain David Luiz. Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri was apoplectic. Predictably, both parties have since tried to brush the cringeworthy episode under the carpet; Sarri claiming he misunderstood that his goalkeeper was injured when he was actually fine to continue, Kepa apologising for the way he reacted.
Either way, the incident is an embarrassing one for Chelsea and indicates a worrying culture of player power at one of Britain’s elite clubs. While the kind of behaviour exhibited by Kepa makes you lose faith in the modern game, another goalkeeper’s Instagram video on Monday morning did much to restore it.
Tim Krul posted a clip of Marco Steipermann taking his chances on spinning a ‘wheel of fate’ in the changing room at Colney to try and avoid paying a fine. Presumably the kind which players incur for misdemeanours like turning up to training with dirty boots, or failing to turn off their mobile phone. The German midfielder ended up landing on a segment labelled ‘Wash the manager’s car (inside and out)’ much to the delight and audible laughter of his team-mates watching on.
It’s a further sign of the fantastic spirit in the dressing room that has translated to the pitch. The togetherness in the squad seems unbreakable at this moment in time, as demonstrated again by coming from behind twice to win a pulsating encounter against Bristol City on Saturday afternoon.
The recent derby aside, I can’t recall a time when the Carrow Road atmosphere has been as electric at a home fixture, and it wasn’t just once the three points were confirmed at the full-time whistle.
The magnificent work of the Barclay End Norwich and Along Come Norwich campaigns to improve the atmosphere has made a noticeable difference in the feel of a match day at Carrow Road. The sight of more than 500 flags being flown across the lower Barclay before kick-off really was something to behold. Of course, it helps that the team are playing sumptuous football and are top of the table, but the fan base seems to have been especially galvanised this season and the ‘One City Strong’ banner behind the goal encapsulates that feeling perfectly.
With Leeds losing their game in hand at Loftus Road on Tuesday night, the promotion pendulum has swung again in favour of Daniel Farke’s side ahead of Saturday’s trip to Millwall. Leeds could even have lost again by the time City kick off against Millwall given they face West Brom the previous evening.
No one will need reminding of Norwich’s last trip to The Den on a sunny afternoon in August 2017, not least Daniel Farke who saw his side booed off after being trounced 4-0. It was a score line that still didn’t reflect the home side’s dominance on what was a dark day for everyone concerned.
The feeling around the manager and his set of players 18 months on couldn’t be more different. We can only hope Saturday’s result will be, too.