I suppose that I shouldn’t be as disappointed as I feel having just left Carrow Road.
I keep telling myself that, anyway. Chelsea won the Europa League last season and even under a transfer ban, they still have a terrific squad packed with expensive stars, most of them being full internationals.
It’s all about levels, I suppose, and it shows how far we’ve come since we last played Chelsea in the FA Cup, losing in a penalty shootout eighteen months ago.
It was a stifling hot day, with the temperature being somewhere near to 30c and it was a beautiful day for football. Shorts, “Daniel Farke’s Gelb-Grune Armee” t-shirt and sunglasses. I love August football.
We had a few things to do in the City before the game, among which was the need for my son to have a haircut. That was booked for 9.30, so I was parking the car early doors in a little spot I know on Yarmouth Road. As I walked down Prince of Wales Road to meet up with Mrs T and the boy, I encountered large numbers of Chelsea casuals milling about near the train station.
Quite a few of them were having breakfast, probably a liquid breakfast, at The Nelson Hotel and they were fairly loud. Easily identifiable due to their “uniform” of CFC and Burberry polo shirts along with that London twang. A lot of them are men in their fifties too, this sort of thing fascinates me. Who are these people, where exactly are they from, what do they do for a living, what are their lives like?
All questions that flashed across my mind as I walked anonymously among them.
A little later in the morning, as I was walking towards the ground with the family, I could hear chants of “Chelsea, Chelsea” from some distance away.
If Norwich are to beat teams like Chelsea, they need all their players to be on top form and despite a gallant effort, I’m not sure I can quite say that about this game.
There were particularly bright spots though, like Todd Cantwell who was excellent again. He scored his first goal in the Premier League from Pukki’s low cross and pulled lots of strings in the first half, as well as doing the defensive work too.
Both the goals that City conceded in the first half were gifts. Mistakes, call them what you like, they were gratefully received and smashed home by Abrahams and Mount respectively. Hanley and Aarons were both guilty of poor play, loose passes and at this level, the opposition need no second chance.
Norwich had to equalise twice with Teemu Pukki getting his fifth goal in three games to see things level at the break. Teemu’s movement was again excellent and he found himself in behind the Chelsea defence on a number of occasions.
Emi Buendia is starting to look like he’s getting back to the form that he displayed last season and his quick feet and then pass to Pukki to assist Cantwell’s goal were as mesmerising for the crowd as they were for the Blues’ defence.
Having assisted Pukki’s goal at Anfield, Emi was at it again for City’s second equaliser, a fifth goal in three games for the goat.
Remember that I mentioned that a few lads weren’t quite at one hundred per cent?
Well, I hate to criticise anyone but Mo Leitner’s passing radar was a little off, as was Marco Stiepermann’s and Trybull’s but you have to understand the level that the visitors are capable of achieving.
Ten days ago, Chelsea were competing in the European Super Cup and played very, very well against Liverpool in Istanbul. They ultimately lost the game on penalties but they competed on level terms against the Reds for long periods of that game.
It just shows the levels we’re talking about and what high-level operators Chelsea are.
The second half saw Norwich dominated for the first 20-25 minutes of the half, unable to get into the visitors’ half on a regular basis as shot after shot came in. Most were blocked with Ben Godfrey throwing himself in front of three of them. Tim Krul made one super save in the second period, just as he had in the first but he had no chance with any of the goals.
Eventually and a little disappointingly, Chelsea’s third goal came from a counter just moments after Pukki had a good chance to get a third goal for City. A powerful run and through ball from the impressive Kovacic to Abraham saw Hanley on the back foot as they pass came.
Hanley was making the action of turning back towards goal as Kovacic played Abraham in. Hanley lost his bearings for a split second and Abraham’s shot from the edge of the box gave Krul no chance.
A triple substitution came with ten minutes to go but a change to three at the back wasn’t enough, although Ben Godfrey did hit the bar with a header from a rare corner in the game as City pressed and pressed.
Chelsea started the old falling over and rolling around routine to run the clock down and referee, Martin Atkinson allowed them to do it, allowing them to use a lot of the five added minutes, seeming to me to make no allowance for it.
Ultimately it came to nothing and City ended up losing. As I say, it’s all about levels and the fact that I feel so disappointed to have lost the game tells me where this current Norwich City side are at.
As I sat in the car, crawling along Yarmouth Road after the game, I listened to Canary Call, once again wondering why I bother.
We had Greg Downs as the pundit, moaning about a lack of quality in the centre back areas and continually quoting the same stat that City had conceded 58 goals last season.
He kept saying “apparently the club put a lot of faith in statistics” as if this is a bad thing and then quoted 58 goals to anyone who called in as proof that the Canaries’ centre backs are not good enough.
Maybe, just maybe Greg, the football side of the club know what they’re doing.
The way we play sees our full-backs pressing high up the pitch, offering overlaps and width and it’s become clear that Daniel Farke is not going to change anything about the style of play that got us to this point.
Sometimes, those young full-backs will get caught out, as they were today and at Liverpool, by being a bit too far up the field. I accept that Grant Hanley isn’t our first choice as a central defender but we have had a couple of injuries in that position. Ibrahim Amadou has been brought in to offer a higher quality defensive shield than we currently have and when he’s up to speed with how we play, he could well come into the team as a regular starter.
That, to me, seems likely to help in these types of games against higher-class opposition. I watched Liverpool dismantle Arsenal on Saturday evening and, by the way, Klopp’s full-backs play just like ours do and sometimes they get caught up the field. Arsenal actively encouraged this as a game-plan, looking to isolate the Liverpool centre backs and run at them.
I was also very disappointed to hear Greg talking money and being dismayed that Norwich haven’t spent a lot this summer.
”Getting to the Premier League is worth about £180m isn’t it? Why have t they bought a new centre-back?!” he moaned. It’s just another example of laziness from a pundit. You almost expect and can understand it from the national outlet pundits who don’t watch Norwich often enough or aren’t close enough to things to understand the situation.
The situation, Greg, is that City have spent a lot of money on bonuses and new, much improved contracts and that doesn’t leave a lot for players. Rob Butler tried to see both sides of the argument, as he attempted to explain this to Greg but Greg still didn’t get it.
You have to remember, people, that these conversations are had by folks who have little idea of what is going on behind the scenes at the club. Why would they? That stuff is the club’s business and not widely available to Joe Public until the accounts get released each year.
Greg, you’re a local pundit and you need to be better than just pitching up on a Saturday lunchtime and saying what you see without making any preparations and doing research. Things have changed, things have evolved since you retired twenty odd years ago.
For the record, I am sure that City could’ve got a new centre-back on a free, or otherwise, if they needed one. The stats that Greg mentions will have helped make the decision and as I said above, Amadou could well be the reason why we didn’t and the solution.
The season is still very young and although City’s performance dropped off in the second half here, if they continue to play like they have been, against the teams we are really competing against, then I think we’ll be fine.
I really do.