After the dispiriting loss to Everton in the week City are on the road again this weekend to face Norwich in the FA Cup third round. City have something of a love hate relationship with the FA Cup but hopefully the players can put their miserable away form behind them and play something resembling good football.
Hi Dan! Norwich have had a sort of strange season this year, neither in the depths of a true relegation struggle but nor are you really pulling out of the gravity well at the bottom of the league. Since we last spoke you’ve had some great results, most notably a win at Old Trafford – Is that your recent highlight? Is your season on the up?
Hi Alex. It’s nice to think there are neutrals who don’t think we’re the depth of a relegation fight. I guess being six points from safety would suggest that, but my natural pessimism is telling me we’re still very much in that fight. Villa and Sunderland are gone, I reckon (even Sam Allardyce’s slightly creepy charms won’t save Sunderland), and the remaining spot wil be taken up by Swansea, Newcastle, Bournemouth us or West Brom, I reckon. A decent striker and centre-back this January and we’ll be OK.
The win at Old Trafford was definitely a highlight. Although our home record against them has been weirdly good over the last 30 years, we hadn’t won at their place since 1989. United have been pretty poor this season but they hadn’t lost – or conceded – at home until we turned the over. That definitely gave the players a huge confidence boost, and helped Alex Neil settle on a system that allowed his team to play attacking football while staying more solid at the back than we were earlier in the season. So we seem to have turned a corner recently.
Do you personally want Norwich to go hell for leather in the FA Cup? And on a related note, will Norwich be fielding a weakened team?
I have to admit, I’m feeling very little excitement about this game. Which is odd, as I’d love a Cup run – but I’d like to have it without bothering with the boring early rounds. Norwich’s record is so bad in the Cup that we haven’t been past the fifth round since 1992. We’re just allergic to it, so this sort of match is the kind that we’ve learned to hide away from. Having said that, the trip to Wembley for the Play-off final was unforgettable, so to get to Wembley again would be wonderful.
I imagine a few players will be rested for the Cup, although our squad isn’t quite big enough for wholesale changes. Plus we’re on a good little run, so I’d be surprised if Neil would want to interrupt that too much with sweeping changes. I’d be very surprised if Wes Hoolahan or Alex Tettey played, while we’ll probable see Cameron Jerome up front. Youssouf Mulumbu, who everyone expected to play a big part this season but who has struggled to get into the side after recovering from a pres-season injury, will no doubt come in to defensive midfield too. Robbie Brady, who’s been our best player this season, will probably be rested too.
How have Norwich been at home recently? Our away record is… we’ll be kind and say ‘poor’. Can Norwich capitalise on this?
Our home record’s been good. Five unbeaten, with two successive clean sheets. We’ve won three of those, and picked up draws against Arsenal and Everton, and our home form is the best in the league outside the top six. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been able to say this – not even in the Championship last year – but Carrow Road is turning into a bit of a fortress.
So you’ll inevitably put six past us.
Unfortunately you might be the first on the receiving end of a full Sergio Aguero-ing since his return from injury. He also historically enjoys playing against Norwich. How is your defence looking?
He didn’t look too sharp against Everton, which probably means he’s saving it all up for us. As I mentioned, we’ve kept two clean sheets in our last two games and the back four is looking far more solid now. Ryan Bennett, a tall, quick centre-back who’s been at the club for several years but has been plagued with injury, has come in to partner Seb Bassong recently and they work well together. The full-backs keep changing (still getting over Brady playing at right wing-back against Man City earlier in the season) but whoever it is won’t be pushing as high as they would have earlier in the season.
We’ve also lost a y and changed goalkeeper since last time we played you – John Ruddy’s form was really poor, and local lad Declan Rudd has replaced him. He’s been brilliant so far, making great saves, looking agile and really commanding his area. I’d guess that Ruddy might be in for the Cup game though.
Score prediction? Line up?
I’m going 2-2. Both teams going for it – should be entertaining. Always a wild stab guessing FA Cup line-ups but I’ll go for: Ruddy; Olsson, Redmond, Bennett, Wisdom; Mulumbu, Dorrans; Redmond, Howson, Grabban; Jerome
Typical City is funded by the readers via our Patreon page. Please consider funding us with $1 a month so we can continue to operate as we are now. Thank you in advance.
Interview by Alex Timperley