Connor Southwell’s verdict: Shoots of progress... But is it too little too late for City?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Those hoping to hear the Great Escape film score quietly fading into Norwich City’s season may have to wait before they can press play.
City displayed shoots of progression in a performance that contained plenty of endeavour against Tottenham Hotspur, but returned to Norfolk pointless.
Daniel Farke has stressed this season that despite their precarious position in the league, his side have competed in all bar three of their Premier League fixtures to date.
This was another where City will be left to rue squandered opportunities, as they were narrowly beaten by a Spurs side distinctly lacking Harry Kane's presence in their offensive phases of play.
Mourinho's men were worked hard throughout despite the early stages seeing City absorb waves of attacks.
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Having rode that opening ten minute period out, they sought to impose their philosophy onto the fixture, and Spurs didn't display the willingness to press City in possession that others have shown.
That reluctance allowed City's midfielders to locate pockets of space and progress the ball forward, although Emi Buendia's influence was lacking as they attempted to force passes through nonexistent corridors.
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Farke has spoken about the need for bravery if City are to complete another miracle, and their passages of play, facilitated by Spurs pragmatism, provided them with the confidence required to play their game.
If the Canaries are to keep themselves in the hunt for survival, then extracting confidence from performances will be key.
Following on from that victory against Bournemouth at the weekend, they needed to retain that momentum and not sink without trace like witnessed at Old Trafford only a matter of weeks previous.
They won't elect to become obdurate or stubbornly retain numbers behind the ball, they will be fearless in their approach and determined that their way will allow them to gain the points they desire.
Realists will say it'll take a major effort for City to survive from such a position, but their financial stability off the pitch means relegation doesn't strike the same fear into the hearts of supporters as it once did.
Should they end up back in the Championship come May, they will do by implementing their style of play and refusing to conform to the conventions many associate with being required to play effectively at this level.
That's not an arrogance. It's a deep-held belief that their way will, in the long-term, allow them to forge a path as a stable Premier League entity in their own right.
Relegation would be a difficult pill to swallow given the phases of games where City have looked competent at this level. The real tragedy would be seeing this squad ripped apart by sales when the bigger fish inevitably come calling for their services.
Together, they constructed a footballing miracle last season. They will to reproduce the level of performance witnessed in North London on Wednesday if they are to give themselves a fighting chance of survival.
In epic stadiums, when the odds are dramatically against them, this City squad thrives. They may go down, but they will do so by swinging for every punch.
Ultimately, that approach could see others sink them with a counter punch, just as Heung-Min Son's late header proved. This isn't what their performance deserved over the piece but it lends itself to the argument that they fall just short of the quality required to get themselves over the line.
This performance reaffirms that belief once more, the small margins are decisive, and teams who rely on them going in their favour often lack the quality needed to win football matches outright.
As inconceivable as their survival prospects felt merely two weeks ago, now six points feels achievable, even if that mountain seems to be getting taller and their feet are slipping on the treacherous descent.
Courage will be a characteristic they need to harness. Their survival blueprint is to improve the quality of output we've witnessed this season, because the gulf isn't as drastic as some think.
The next test, after an FA Cup shaped free hit, is a encounter that will be tagged as a must-win in their quest for safety.
A fixture against Newcastle United will allow City the chance to reduce the gap and restore confidence.