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Published on February 10th, 2014 | by Ian Cheeseman

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Should we be worried, or was Norwich just a blip?

The draw at Norwich felt more worrying to me than the victory by Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium. Any team can have an off day, any team can be beaten by one of their main rivals, and let’s be honest, Chelsea are a very good team. I’ve already written about that game, so I’ll not go over the same ground, so let’s just look at the performance at Norwich.

Early on in the season, there were a couple of “surprising” results against lesser lights like Stoke, Cardiff, Aston Villa etc, but I believe those results were due to different reasons than this below par showing in Norfolk.

I looked at the body language of the players at Carrow Road, and for the first time for ages, I detected a slight lack of belief, and they played with less togetherness than of late. City’s USP (unique selling point as marketeers call it!) is to play quick tempo, skillful, attacking play, the type of football that suffers most when confidence is compromised.

I’m picking my words carefully because I don’t want to sound like I’ve suddenly changed my view of a team and a manager that has so richly entertained me this season.

I could refer back to some of my previous blogs, and point out that three of my “super eight” didn’t play, and those are the “mitigating circumstances” I referred to in my immediate post match tweet, but maybe in this case, that would be too simplistic.

There are a few issues that contributed to City’s tepid draw at Norwich.

I understand the human need for a scapegoat, when things don’t go as well as expected, and Martin Demichelis seems to be fulfilling that role, in the eyes of some fans.

I accept that the left sided defensive area is weaker than elsewhere, and Demichelis seems to be a first choice at the moment. For the record, I’d be selecting Joleon Lescott alongside Vincent Kompany, though again, I’m prepared to admit, that ideally a world class signing or two, would be brought in at left centre back and left full back, if City are to win trophies regularly.

Demichelis might not be my first choice, but the performance at Norwich and at home to Chelsea, were not down to him.
City didn’t score in either game, if they’d been anywhere near their season average they’d have won both games.

Remember the philosophy is to score more than the opposition, and so far most fans have lapped it up.

So why did City not score in either game? Silva doesn’t really score goals, but he is the creative force and needs others on the same wavelength, so the absence of Nasri and Aguero are huge. Edin Dzeko doesn’t play like those three, his game is based on finishing, and Negredo, when he plays well, is about movement and power, and being on the end of the good work of the creative players. Negredo can’t do it on his own, neither can Dzeko.

City play well when there is a collective belief and the balance of the team is right, when they play at 80% or get the mix wrong, they don’t look as effective. Sometimes, against the weaker teams, 80% is just about enough. Other types of teams, like Chelsea, find it easier to cope with off days, they don’t play “beautiful football” that relies on skill, fitness and creativity; well only on patches (on another note, the intensity of that type of football might well be why there have been so many muscle strains this season) City have to be brilliant to be good.

At Norwich they played at 60% and Yaya Toure, and the team, were a little fortunate to get a point.

Now we wait to see what happens against Sunderland, will that be the start of a magnificent all conquering run, because it feels like the Blues are stood at the crossroads, as they were in the title season, after the Arsenal defeat. History tells us that the players took control after the defeat at the Emirates and went on that memorable run, to the title. This season there are no issues between the players and the manager, so this time they need to do it for the manager, and hopefully Aguero, Fernandinho and Nasri will be back sooner rather than later.

– Ian Cheeseman

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