The Premier League dealt us another harsh lesson last night, didn’t it?
Having done what is now becoming the norm and getting the first goal of the game, Norwich City were unable to get that all important second against a workmanlike Crystal Palace side who managed to stay in the game and snatch a late equaliser, courtesy of VAR, naturally.
It’s a familiar story and despite having all the best chances in the game and hitting the bar, it’s why we are going down. Unless, we can somehow start turning these situations into wins.
I might be accused of wearing rose tinted spectacles here but I do think that we are so close to doing that. We are playing generally pretty well and it’s no coincidence that things have improved since Daniel Farke has been able to field two fit centre-backs.
The loss of Ben Godfrey to injury and the return of Grant Hanley hasn’t really hurt us, in my eyes, as many predicted on social media that it would. Hanley has been decent enough, wouldn’t you say?
The reality of the Premier League is that quite a lot of the teams in it are bang average but that isn’t meant to be a criticism. Far from it because it’s all about levels and Norwich deserve to be mentioned as being at that level.
Before I left for Carrow Road I found myself tuning in to watch the first half of Wycombe versus Ipswich and I was actually a little shocked at what I was saw.
Forgive me, but I don’t watch League One football these days – why would I? I still watch the Championship on TV and some of the football played there is of a high quality. League One though? Well, not so much.
This was a game between the top of the table side (Wycombe) and Ipswich and both fancy themselves for promotion. Other than the first ten minutes, it turned into hoofball and I have to say, I’d forgotten how poor/different the standard down there is.
The thing that struck me immediately was how different the passing levels were between what we have become used to in the Premier League and League One. As I say, it’s all about levels.
Even a mid-table Premier League side like Palace are good with the ball at their feet and all of these sides have one or two (at least) top players. In Palace’s case, they have Wilfried Zaha who was reportedly valued at around £60m last summer.
He was Palace’s biggest threat and for the most part he was well shackled by Emi Buendia and Max Aarons, who doubled up on him throughout, much to Zaha’s visible annoyance.
Todd Cantwell scored his sixth goal of the season inside the first five minutes, putting him on course for ten goals from midfield, the traditional mark of a great midfielder and here, he was again very good along with Emi Buendia, who at times was sensational.
We all know that Norwich are good with the ball at their feet, it’s how we got to the top table, after all, and it helped Norwich create all the best chances in this game. Kenny McLean hitting the bar in the second half felt like a crucial moment and so it proved to be as finally, in the 85th minute, Zaha wriggled free and crossed for Connor Wickham (who was abused by the crowd as soon as he came on) to score his first goal in three years.
Initially, it was ruled out by a linesman’s flag for being offside but VAR overruled it, which having seen the replay was fair enough.
It was another hammer blow to City’s hopes of staying up but when you look at how Palace played here, you have to wonder how Norwich are where we are. I know that’s rose tinted specs again but are we really that much worse than Palace that they are 14 points ahead of us and we’re getting relegated?
Man of the Match?
The difference is how resilient Palace are and how they stay in games and how they get enough goals to do that. When you consider that two of their strikers are Wickham and Christian Benteke, it’s something of a miracle that they score enough goals but that’s where Zaha comes in, oh, and Jordan Ayew to be fair.
If they lost Zaha or Ayew to injury or if Zaha eventually gets the big move he seems to crave then they might be in trouble but at the moment, it’s City who are still in big trouble.