Six things you might have missed from City’s hectic draw with Tottenham
PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:39 30 December 2019
After another encouraging performance from Norwich City in the Premier League, David Freezer assesses the survival challenge ahead of the New Year’s Day visit of Crystal Palace.
1 - City fans entitled to be furious
There's no avoiding it, so let's get it over with straight away, the villain: VAR.
The decision to disallow Teemu Pukki's well taken goal after a quite brilliant bit of play from Mario Vrancic, which would have made it 2-0, was nothing short of scandalous.
From the images and replays that I've seen, the VAR cannot have been 100pc sure that Pukki was offside, so should not have been overturning the on-field decision, simple.
But the offside issue has been clear for a while now. It should fall into the category of needing to be for 'clear and obvious' errors in the same way that the other VAR checks are carried out.
Would City have gone on to win from that position? The recent evidence and the need for frantic defending during the draw with Spurs suggests we cannot be sure of that. But we must not forget that errors were made before VAR arrived as well, that's why it was introduced - but the current format is flawed.
2 - Yet more points are dropped
Talking of that ability to hold on to a lead, although VAR didn't help, again City were unable to make the most of their good work.
That's now 12 points which have slipped from their grasp from winning positions, all of which has happened during the last seven games - including having a half-time lead in each of the last four home matches.
Only West Ham (15) and Aston Villa (13) have allowed more points to slip from a winning position, with Spurs, Brighton and Manchester United all tied with City on 12.
While the handball Jamal Lewis conceded may have been a tough unfortunate ahead of Christian Eriksen's free-kick, the second was self inflicted. From Tom Trybull being robbed by Erik Lamela, to Christoph Zimmermann sliding in recklessly, giving Harry Kane a penalty was very much avoidable.
The moaning about VAR can continue but ultimately it was poor defending which allowed Spurs to get a point.
3 - Nothing is settled at this stage
And so we come to points, of which City have 13 with 18 games left to play, teeing up the chance to really get back into the survival chase if they can beat Palace.
However, that's fewer than the Canaries have had in any of their previous Premier League seasons of 38 games, the closest being the 2004-05 team, at two points better off.
While Nigel Worthington's side went agonisingly close to survival, the Alex Neil team of 2015-16 had 23 points at this stage and still went down - emphasising that much can change during the second half of the campaign.
Last season Burnley and Southampton had 15 points at this stage and survived, yet Cardiff were on 18 and went down, while Huddersfield were bottom with 10 points and that's where they stayed.
While 36 remains the target as it's been the average which is required in the past 10 seasons, a win over Palace would be about much more than points, it would build belief that the great escape is not mission impossible.
4 - Window could be affected
There is no denying that the New Year's Day game feels like a pivotal point in this season though.
Not just for the hopes on the pitch but for how Stuart Webber is able to approach the transfer window.
Victory over Palace, allied to the recent upturn in performances and results, could help City persuade players to sign up for the challenge, if affordable players which can improve Daniel Farke's squad have been identified.
Lose and selling a possible Premier League future to a prospective new signing could prove that little bit more difficult, with the FA Cup about to provide a distraction ahead of a trip to Old Trafford in the league.
Outgoings could well be interesting as well though. In spite of having two games in three days, Patrick Roberts was again nowhere to be seen, while Moritz Leitner hasn't even been a substitute since early November and Philip Heise has only been seen with the under-23s.
5 - Pushing hard for selection
Thankfully however, Farke does have some options at the moment and did make four changes to his starting XI against Spurs.
Vrancic clearly took his chance by scoring and setting up the Pukki goal that was chalked off, before a heavy collision with Giovani Lo Celso early in the second half knocked him off course.
Jamal Lewis took over from Sam Byram at left-back smoothly but wasn't able to make too much progress going forward and Onel Hernandez offered his usual unpredictable threat and speed on the wing.
Marco Stiepermann can not buy a goal this season, being denied early by Paulo Gazzaniga but not quite making clean contact. His hold-up play did lead to the second goal though, thanks to a good advantage from referee Kevin Friend.
Vrancic and Stiepermann look to have made the best cases for retaining their place but Byram and Todd Cantwell could well return against the Eagles.
6 - Clash of different methods
It's certainly never dull at Carrow Road.
It's the stadium which has seen the most goals scored in the Premier League so far, of 40 in total: 16 for Norwich and 24 for the opposition.
That makes every match day seem breathless and frantic, even when there isn't VAR drama. Yet it's seven games without a win at home now and two from the remaining nine are still needed just to equal the club's all-time low of four Carrow Road wins in a season, during 1993-94.
That entertainment factor could well dry up against Palace though who have the joint best away record of nine goals conceded, with Roy Hodgson's disciplined team seeing 14 of their 20 games end in a draw or a one-goal margin either way.
They have 27 points and already look safe, perhaps teaching the Canaries a valid lesson in how to become an established top-flight club. You can guarantee Hodgson won't loosen his leash until 40 points are secured though.