Bloody hell, Norwich won! Jon Rogers and Dan Brigham get gushy about Gary O’Neil, Alex ‘Hughton’ Neil and Dieumerci Mbokani and furrow their brows at some curious fans and Swansea City
We were in some parallel universe
We scored from a corner.
Kept a clean sheet.
Referee didn’t cost us the game.
No stupid errors.
And Gary O’Neil started.
In the end, he looked like a missing piece of the midfield jigsaw. He was so professional and calm, it was intimidating. He kept it simple – by clearing his lines, whispering in Mark Twattendburg’s ear throughout, bombing forward in the 94th minute, wasting time by twatting about with it a bit and then producing the most professional yellow card I have ever seen when he Cantona-ed Ki Sung-yeung in the knee. Not easy to say!
O’Neil was my man of the match. Can his little ‘warm-up on his own’ legs take another 95 minutes next game? Not sure, but he’s a vital and calming member of our squad. JR
Alex Neil isn’t stubborn
No pressing. Happy for Jonjo Shelvey to have the ball. Sitting deep. Letting Swansea play in front of them. It may have been like watching Chris Hughton’s Norwich out there, but it was an important performance for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it shows that Neil can adapt to the demands of the Premier League. And not only can he adapt but he can successfully drill his players to play a way that’s been foreign to them for over a year. It means, vitally, Norwich have a Plan B that has brought them a very good performance at Manchester City and three points against Swansea. It’s also worth noting that Neil said Nathan Redmond would have started if fit, as Norwich will need his pace on the counter for these tactics to work against better sides.
Secondly, opposition sides will no longer be sure how Norwich are going to play. So rather than spending a week in training setting up expecting to play a team that plays high up the pitch and likes to keep possession, they’ll also have to worry about breaking down a deep-lying defence. It gives teams more to scratch their heads about.
Let's not pretend it was all great – the passing was as incisive as Martin Keown's punditry in the first half – but with that one performance, Norwich have become a better Premier League side. DB
New people are annoying
I had the pleasure of having two new people behind me against Swansea. When I say pleasure, I mean the sort of pleasure one would get from listening to Joey Essex’s autobiography audiobook. Read by Fearne Cotton. Foreword by Tim Lovejoy.
Each time we ventured over the halfway line, it was greeted with a cocky OOP, HERE WE GO, OH YES! like he was chugging upwards on the worst best rollercoaster. And each time we had to defend, it was highlighted by OH NO, THIS IS IT, THIS IS IT, like he was facing certain death by a tsunami.
It was fucking annoying. Generic comments do my nut in. “Oh come on Norwich. We need to score here.” Oh do we? I wonder if anyone has told the players. Can we use the PA system to get this vital message across!?
I like a bit of wit in my shout. Sure, my cry of TWAT at Mark Crappenberg was hardly Pinteresque, but I heard one bloke sing four or five times all alone: “THERE’S ONLY ONE HARRY POTTER”, full pelt at each Shelvey corner. That took guts and dedication. I salute you Sir, whoever you were. JR
Mbokani the difference
Dieumerci Mbokani makes you glad you’re in the stands rather than on the pitch. He would be terrifying to play against, all strength, studs and elbows but layered with a real touch of class.
He made an immediate difference when he came on (and, really, well done everyone who booed the substitution), clattering through two Swansea players to win the ball and link up play. He didn’t relent until the final whistle.
Mbokani turned what looked like a thankless task as the lone striker when the tireless Cameron Jerome was on the pitch into a vital cog in the gameplan, opening the game up for Norwich by allowing Wes Hoolahan, Jonny Howson and Robbie Brady to push higher up the pitch safe in the knowledge that the ball was going to stick under Mbokani’s feet.
I’m already looking forward to seeing him do a Grant Holt on John Terry in a couple of weeks. Get those elbows ready, Dieumerci. DB
Boring, boring Swansea
Garry Monk is a good manager. He’s arguably done a better job than his two more illustrious predecessors Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, adding a steel to the back line that was often missing under those two.
But without Wilfried Bony upfront they look insipid. Their possession football went nowhere, and their patience became a failing rather than a virtue – it was like watching 90 minutes of elevator music and never arriving at your destination.
They’re probably too good to be sucked into a relegation battle just yet, but unless their passing gets braver and Bafétimbi Gomis’s confidence returns, it could quickly become a long season for Swansea. DB
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