After the disappointment of defeat at the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day, City now travel to East Anglia to play Norwich, which will be no easy game. They beat United a few weeks ago and look a well organised side under Chris Hughton. Ahead of the match I spoke to Matt from Holtamania, the finest Norwich writer on the blogosphere.
How’s your season going so far?
Started bad, got better. A nice long unbeaten run and some pretty big wins over big clubs saw us climb the table after those early season shockers, but there’s a long way to go.
Chris Hughton is really well liked in the game. Do you like him? And is he an able replacement for Paul Lambert?
I do, and he is – sort of. It’s a different sort of football we play now, there’s less all out attacking and scoring more than the opposition. Now we are based on a solid defence and the chances going forward are limited. Every game we’ve won this season has been by one goal, the margin is now very thin. I like Hughton a lot, and I feel secure long-term with him, but he doesn’t have the tactical flexibility of Lambert. While Lambert would change the lineup based on the opponent, or scheme directly for a match, or make a triple sub if he saw things going wrong, Hughton is more cautious. It’s the same side that goes out pretty much every week, his subs are predictable and usually late – he doesn’t seem to have the nous to change a game just yet.
Bassong is a player I’ve always liked and he seems to be doing well for you. What’s your opinion of him?
Probably our player of the season so far. Been an absolute rock at the back, arguably the best centre back I’ve seen at the club in the 20 years I’ve been supporting. Calm on the ball, he reads the game well, he’s a talker and organises the back four brilliantly. Everyone who plays alongside him seems to get better, not least Michael Turner who was shocking in his first few games but has been immense since partnering Seb.
Thanks for beating United in November, by the way. Was that your best performance of the season?
Best 90 minutes, yes. Our first half vs Swansea was better but we couldn’t maintain it, and were fortunate to get the win in the end. But the United match was brilliant, a demonstration on how to be compact, tough to beat and how to take your chances. Ruddy was more or less comfortable all game, United struggled to create chances and we defended excellently. A cracking result.
Grant Holt is another player I like a lot. Where does he rank in the all-time Norwich legends list?
He’s high up there. A couple more years playing at this level and he’ll be one of the all-time greats, but right now he’s not far off. He didn’t help himself with the transfer stuff in the summer but most fans were behind him on that, feeling he deserved the new contract. This season he’s playing a bit of a different role so the goals are harder to come by, but he’s still putting in a huge shift for the team and we’re better with him in the side. The man is also a top wind-up merchant.
Which City player would you sign if I gave you the chance?
Carlos Tevez, if he could have an attitude lobotomy. I don’t quite understand why he doesn’t start every match but I guess you’re in a better position to judge whether he deserves to. Whenever I see him play he’s a complete pest, a menace in front of goal, someone who runs into the ground and causes problems. He’s got the technique and goalscoring ability to match the graft. A superb player. Shame about that little holiday last year.
Does City’s financial situation annoy you like it does many other fans?
Not really, because I like the ambition your owners have in developing a proper infrastructure up there. The plans for the academy, for wanting to use the money you have to develop a proper English setup and nurture players is something I can get behind. Money is in football now, there’s no fighting it. It’s what clubs decide to do with it that matters. Chelsea are a shambles and will crumble when Roman gets bored. City have a long-term plan in mind. I respect that.
We do not play well vs tricky, skilful players, so I fear this match. The optimist in me thinks we can get a draw or perhaps better, if we played like we did vs Man Utd, but the realist senses a defeat on the cards. I’ll go 2-1 to you guys with one of your Argentinians getting them both.