Premier League Norwich avoided an upset as Gary Hooper scored late in normal and extra-time on his first start to see off Watford in the Capital One Cup. Javier Acuna’s first Watford goal and Marco Faraoni’s 25-yard effort left Norwich teetering. But substitute Josh Murphy rifled home the game’s third superb goal, and Hooper flicked home Nathan Redmond’s cross in the 95th minute. Johan Elmander went close before Hooper poked in to complete Norwich’s escape.
The opening was all anticipation, and the drumrolls were provided by the immediate pressure that Norwich put on us a long way up the pitch. We’ve played City a million times before, this tie had none of the lustre of a Manchester United or a Liverpool… nonetheless, this is a competent top-flight City side, and to see them adopting such an archetypal Championship approach – pressure, pressure, pressure, but with better-than-Championship players – was ominous.
The formation appears designed with containment in mind; containment not just of the opposition, but of our own creativity and imagination, as if getting too carried away might prove dangerous, as if risk and chance are things to be eliminated at all costs. Reinforcement of those ideas comes from the bench, with substitutions so numbingly conservative that they’re announced in the small ads of the Daily Mail rather than over the tannoy. The totality is a crumbling communist edifice, built with the thought that attacking is merely defending with the ball.