For much of this season, it’s been hard not to praise Norwich City’s style but on Saturday it was all about the substance for Alex Neil’s men as the grounded out a victory against Swansea.
It was interesting to see Neil abandon his principles, setting City up in a way we’ve been accustom to seeing teams play against us with men behind the ball making them difficult to break down.
Perhaps a more interesting stat is that City have lost every home game this season in which they’ve had more possession but remain unbeaten in the three (Stoke, Bournemouth and Swansea) in which the opposition have had more of the ball.
What this shows is a change in the ethos of Premier League football this season, and perhaps suggests why the likes of Swansea and Bournemouth are struggling and Leicester and Crystal Palace, who have both beaten City at Carrow Road, are doing so well.
While it wasn’t pretty, it shows that Neil is developing tactically as a manager, learning from previous mistakes.
It’s easy to criticise when things are going wrong but in the last two games, including at Man City despite the defeat, the City manager has got things spot on.
And with Chelsea and Arsenal coming up this gritty style is something – if not temporarily – that we’re going to have to get used to.
The basis of any team looking to play this way, West Brom a prime example, is a solid defence, and Saturday brought about our first clean sheet of the season – restricting Swansea to no shots on target.
The partnership of Sebastien Bassong and Ryan Bennett is encouraging, and has only conceded four goals in four games, a solid foundation to build on.
Winning is the best way to enter an international break, and let’s hope that City’s stars in play-off action, Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Brady, Alex Tettey and Martin Olsson, all progress so we can sit back in the summer and watch them shine on a world stage.