Our match at the King Power Stadium in the English League Cup wasn’t in any way ordinary. Both teams were on top form going into the match. The Foxes played very well in their two recent league fixtures to come from 2-0 down in the second half to beat the Villans 3-2 and to draw 2-2 at the Britannia from 2-0 down – that is easier said than done for the Tinkerman. We have added another few pages to the record books beating Arsenal, Liverpool, and City as well as playing more players than any other Premier League team this season. I could speak in prose for the entire duration of the post about the way the two teams have been playing in the league. Six games into the league, we could have expected a few changes from Super Slav like Big Sam did to success getting us to the semi-finals last year.
Unfortunately, he went all out with the quality on show only keeping Reid, Kouyaté and Payet on the bench with Sakho not included. Contrast this with Ranieri who made considerably more changes than us. Bilic said that British teams treat the UEFA Champions League and Europa League as a punishment rather than a reward – the insightful Croat isn’t wrong. Why go all out knowing you have to play in the most competitive league in a matter of days? This is clearly a passionate response to top-flight team mentality. From that, I feel Bilic genuinely believes that almost all fixtures are of vital importance. He played a meagre side in the Europa League funnily enough, though the blatant reasoning behind that is he wanted to keep a fully fit first team to try and beat Arsenal.
The Canaries have made a pretty good start back in the big time with a well-earned draw at Anfield and a 3-0 win against West Brom. Norwich were definitely going to try and make a strong start given our performance against the “lesser teams.” They certainly played well, as this matches was more than just a tale of two keepers. Nonetheless, Adrián and John Ruddy were fantastic. They kept their respective teams in the game throughout with Adrián saving one with his face! The only pertinent error from the two goalkeepers came from Ruddy who should have caught the in-swinging ball in added time from a side that has conceded many goals from set pieces this season. Norwich haven’t won at Upton Park since 1989. Without Kouyaté’s goal, the Canaries would have got their first win in London in 14 league matches, and our first defeat in 4 matches. Noble was to blame for the loss today though he is not the first player to scorn this season. He was definitely to blame for the first goal, but the others should have been marking the Norwich players instead of standing in the box for the second goal.
Furthermore, that defeat would have given food for thought for Dick Advocaat’s Sunderland. Now, I know that Sunderland haven’t won any of their seven league matches but whose to say Sunderland can’t overcome us in a shock result. We have lost to Leicester City and Bournemouth at home this season, so anything is possible. Like the gaffer says, “There is nothing wrong in gaining confidence … but they [the players] should never forget what they need to do out on the pitch.” A single point against the Foxes, Cherries and Canaries suggests that we are not going into the match with the right mentality. We know we are better than these teams though regardless of form, but we need to translate that into points. These bizarre trend will probably go unnoticed by most sports pundits, since they only look at the table, even though they try to reassure us they don’t look at the start of the season. Both Tyne and Wear teams are in the relegation zone with Newcastle almost defeating Chelsea on SNF.
We have much more to learn about Bilic’s long term plans. Sam Allardyce was very vocal just like the incumbent manager. On the contrary, Big Sam divided the season by points targets. It is fair to say that didn’t work out for the latter half last season and the former half of the season before that. Super Slav hasn’t made any mention of his managerial tactics unless he wants to avoid adhering to over-simplistic strategies that have very little impact on the season. The Croat comes off as a tad shy, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good manager.
You don’t have to be a Mourinho to be a superstar manager. For me, Pellegrini and Koeman get good publicity with proper football and the right moves. Koeman’s side defeated Swansea 3-1, but said his side can play better. There is no evidence to suggest that Bilic can’t follow them, as he doesn’t get easily carried away either. We are in 3rd as the highest side to not be from Manchester. I hope that the players keep up their work rates in training preparing for Sunderland. They have been fabulous, although I hope that they don’t get carried away. Kouyaté and Reid have gone just a bit under the radar, which is only good for us. The best players are the ones who stand out, but cannot be stopped, in spite of their noticeable tendencies.