If it is the hope that kills you, then homicide detectives enmasse ought to be descending on Carrow Road. The Canaries have not only given every Scouser in red the belief that this should be the year for a league title, they have emboldened all those—including yours truly—who had thought that third place was all there was to play for. And after a scintillating first half at the New Lane perhaps we’ve finally a got a squad in a mindset to strive for the top.
Let’s start with the real headline of this game. Poch issued a pretty clear ultimatum to all those who seemed, or may yet seem, to be looking for a way out. Put out or be dropped. And he started every damn one of them and all that resulted was the best first half of football in the league since December. This was a totally different team than the one that sleepwalked through the Newcastle game—and a much more clinical group than the one that scraped away draws against City and Arsenal. It’s as if they all sat around in the dressing room and saw how Liverpool attacked the Magpies, and remembered that is how they used to play. Or maybe their manager knows how to manage.
Of course Palace were a willing accomplice—the space Aurier, Kane, Son and others had to work with down the right flank was outrageous. And we got a little fortunate we didn’t concede an early goal from a Sissoko foul and change the entire complexion of the game. But let’s be clear—Aurier was a force from the get-go. Sissoko was domineering in the middle of the pitch. Son was simply on fire—the most dangerous player on the pitch. And Eriksen, Kane, Lamela and Winks did what good teammate are supposed to do—look for their brethren, advance the ball forward, keep the pressure on. Jan and particularly Toby were always looking upfield for decisive passes and not simply playing station-to-station, hoping somehow to break the Eagles down. The first goal was a terrific Alderweireld pass, exploiting some sketchy defending, and then a beautiful turn and left-footed shot by Son. The second was a product of pressure and Aurier being allowed to walk in to close range and then, for once, something good happened when one of our fullbacks launched a cross. The cross success continued and then some with two gorgeous balls for the final two goals—the Cameroonian’s lofted missile that Son just devoured for a terrific volley—again with the left foot, and then our talisman’s equally effective effort that could only find the feet of one player—a sliding Erik Lamela—to complete the destruction. And at halftime, for once, we felt glad all over.
I do wonder about Dele’s absence, though we do have a pretty critical fixture in Athens this Wednesday and Poch could be saving him and Lucas for that game. Or maybe Lamela is simply shining in practice and deserves the placement. Nice to see Ndembele on the pitch; surely Sessegnon’s debut can’t be too far away (cup game v Colchester?). Lo Celso is missed these next two months, but knock on wood of the others stay healthy we have more than enough bodies to do the job. And with Kyle Walker-Peters on the mend, right back doesn’t appear to be such a vexing issue anymore.
That was the Spurs team we saw two or three years ago, and not very often this past season. It is good to see them back. This is always, whatever the circumstances, how Poch’s teams tend to perform. Some slippage early and then they find their grip and the wins start coming in spades. And to all those Etihad frontrunners: Farke Off.
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