A Tough Nut To Crack
Chelsea`s eight nil drubbing over hapless Aston Villa last Saturday suggested that the current European Champions may have turned a corner.
The Blues have struggled of late and suffered huge internal turmoil much to the chagrin of their supporters. But after the Villa match, this would be a stern test for Chris Hughton`s players.
Right from the off though, it was clear that Chelsea would be facing a different prospect to Villa, in the Canaries.
Yes, Chelsea had the Lion`s share of possession and moved the ball very comfortably around the pitch but Norwich were tenacious and a tough nut to crack.
Chelsea had the best chances but it was a testament to City`s determination that saw Fernando Torres reduced to a rather blunt attacking threat - even by his hit and miss standards.
Although comfortable in defence, Norwich were not able to summon much in the way of an attacking threat, particularly in the first half.
Mata and Moses had plenty of the ball, as did David Luiz, who was preferred to Lampard in midfield. Luiz buzzed around the centre of the park and burst forward with regularity and had the space to take several shots - none of which troubled the fans in the lower tier behind either goal, never mind Mark Bunn.
But Luiz`s influence grew and he fed Mata after mugging Wes Hoolahan for the best chance up to that prior to the opening of the scoring, the Spaniard hitting the side netting.
It was the little Spaniard who broke the deadlock though on 38 minutes. Oscar twisted and turned before sending a short pass to Mata 25 yards from goal. He took a touch and then another before sending a cracking left foot shot into Mark Bunn`s goal, clipping a post as it went in.
It was a moment of class in an otherwise drab first half, Bunn got his fingertips to it but the effort was unstoppable - that`s not to say that Mata should`ve been closed down better though.
In the second half, Norwich were more of a threat and committed more numbers to attack. Chelsea though were still a big threat.
Moses and Oscar were dangerous on both flanks and occasionally switched to give the City full backs something different to think about.
Garrido and Martin did pretty well though and Martin in particular made several sliding challenges to deny Moses the chance to send crosses into the City box.
On the odd occasion Moses did get the ball in, Turner and Bassong were on hand to deal with it. The two City centre backs dealt with most things and Bassong only made one real mess when he tried to play a ball out of defence rather than just clear it.
Frank Lampard, on for Mikel, chased him down and set up a chance for Moses only to see the winger fire it wide. Bassong moaned like hell at his team mates as though it was their fault - but when you`re embarrassed, I guess that`s what you need to do.
Hoolahan was always dangerous when he got the ball and after one surging run sent Holt away. He dragged a left foot shot just wide of Cech`s far post but it wouldn`t have counted, the City captain was just off side.
Holt was full of running and showed no ill signs of his recent hamstring strain - a big relief, but he didn`t have any clear cut chances.
Indeed, it wasn`t until the last ten minutes or so that City were really able to threaten. Ashley Cole was running the clock down at every opportunity much to the fans` annoyance and Hazard was booked for a cynical trip on Russell Martin as he burst through. It earned the Belgian a booking and the resulting free kick into the Chelsea box was smashed just over the bar by Cole with Holt lurking.
That resulted in a late corner and City`s best chance of the game. Snodgrass took the corner and put it to the far post where Sebba Bassong met the ball with his head. His powerful downward header bouncing up and over the bar, landing on the roof of the net.
And that was how it finished - other than Mata`s piece of brilliance, this game had nil nil written all over it.
I think our endeavour might`ve deserved a point but you have to accept that with the players that a club like Chelsea have they are always capable - that`s what you pay your £24m (Mata`s fee) for.
Indeed, when you have a £35m man on the bench it sums up the financial gulf between these two sides. But on the day, City worked very hard and made themselves a very tough nut to crack for Chelsea. There`s no disgrace in losing here by just one goal and after losing two in a row, the value of the recent 10 game unbeaten run is there for all to see.
Two of the bottom three lost and Reading could only draw - no damage done. I know we`re eleventh and comfortable but the need to stay in the League again this season is all important.
There was much talk on "Canary Call" as I drove home about the January transfer window and need for a striker.
Steve Morison has been linked with a move to Aston Villa, albeit this was reported in the Daily Mirror. If there is a replacement available then I would be happy to let him go. He came on as a sub with 12 minutes to go and was pretty ineffective. Why not let Jackson have a run at them, instead?
The biggest problem is who do you buy? This was a question continually asked by Rob Butler and Adrian Forbes to various callers who were calling for Holt to be replaced.
Strewth, Holt to be replaced? What are these people on? He is still the heart beat of our team and a born winner. You can`t just buy a talisman you know!
Adrian Forbes made a good point though, when he suggested that not many strikers would fancy a move to a club where such a dominant player (Holt) was the main man in a one striker system.
A couple of the names mentioned were Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent. Jones isn`t exactly prolific and in my opinion would offer nothing different to what we already have in Holt - but for a large cash outlay, although I`d have him as a replacement for Morison. And as for Darren Bent, his wages alone would be massively prohibitive, and that`s before you factor in his transfer fee and Ipswich connections.
So who to buy? I think January is a tough time to get a player in and a striker is the most difficult type of player to buy. If they are scoring goals they are worth an absolute fortune and their club will be reluctant to let them leave - if they aren`t, why not? Not good enough? Lack of form? It`s a tricky business buying players, let alone strikers in January.
That makes me wonder if a loan might be a better shout, maybe with a view to a purchase of that player next summer. I`ve mentioned John Guidetti before here and still think he`d be a decent acquisition to see us through to the summer. Assuming we stay up then there would be even more cash available to buy the marquee player required.
Or there is the option of looking abroad. It`s not something we`ve done too much of (with any major success) before Chris Hughton`s arrival. But who`d heard of Alex Tettey? Javier Garrido was also an inspired move and show that the scouting team know their onions.
With the opening of the window less than a week away, one thing is for sure, Ewan Chester and Chris Hughton are about to make some very big decisions.