Norwich City vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned from Scoreless Draw
Arsenal began the day two points clear of Manchester City and Chelsea. But the Gunners featured in the day's first match against Liverpool, starting 135 minutes before the kickoffs for those pursuing blue teams.
Apparently the alarm clock for Arsene Wenger's side sounded late or not at all. Arsenal trailed by two goals inside 10 minutes and lost 5-1.
Manchester City spurned this gift and are now trailing both Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League table. Since Manchester City lost their two matches with Chelsea in the league, that position is merited.
Here are six things we learned from Norwich City 0-0 Manchester City.
Norwich City Were Not Going out Like That Again
When last we saw Norwich City, they were conceding goals by the minute on their way to a 7-0 defeat that was as comprehensive as the score suggested.
Understandably, Norwich City were plainly motivated not to let Manchester City run roughshod over them again.
The Canaries also knew that this Manchester City side was nothing like the one they took on at the Etihad. City have an average record away from home to begin with, and for this match they would be without Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Fernandinho.
So while this match appeared a mismatch based on the names in the XIs, the recent history between the clubs and the absence of some of Manchester City's biggest stars shrunk that gap perceptibly.
Norwich City allowed Manchester City the majority of time on the ball. But it took Manchester City 32 minutes just to register a shot. The Canaries were resolute in the defense and ready to counter when the moment came.
There are no easy matches away from home in the Premier League. Ever.
Jack Rodwell Should Press for a Move Away from Manchester City
The star-crossed tenure of Jack Rodwell at Manchester City has been documented ad nauseam, and we need not plow that ground again here.
If ever there was a moment where Rodwell might get an opportunity, though, Manchester City's trip to Norwich City seemed to be it.
Both Fernandinho and Samir Nasri were lost to injury and James Milner, while fully fit recently, could not possibly offer a fraction of the dynamic skill the absent players normally bring.
But Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini started Milner anyway, presumably feeling that Milner's steady, reliable presence in the midfield was a better proposition than hoping for some magic from Rodwell.
In fairness, Milner put in the shift Manchester City normally get from him. He crossed the ball well and held firm in the midfield defensively.
At this point, then, you wonder whether Rodwell will start another match for Manchester City this season. All of the early-round Capital One Cup and FA Cup matches are gone, and there are no Premier League matches left where Pellegrini can risk anything but his best XI.
Whether by loan or by sale, Rodwell should probably be moved this summer.
Manchester City Underwhelm Offensively Without Sergio Aguero
Manchester City simply do not look as threatening or as confident in the last third of the pitch without Sergio Aguero.
This is hardly Stevan Jovetic's fault; the Montenegrin spent most of the first half of the season injured and is now being pressed into service on relatively short notice. His strike in the 43rd minute was well taken and among his side's best chances in the first half.
Nor can you really blame Alvaro Negredo.
Only Negredo knows whether the shoulder knock he took against West Ham United a few weeks back is fully healed. He is healthy enough to go, and the header he cracked off Norwich City's bar in the first half suggests that he is right.
And if you are waiting for a shot at Edin Dzeko here, forget it. He did not play very well against Chelsea in Manchester City's last match, but he has had enough productive moments this season to prove his value to the club.
None of the other strikers are to blame, because none of the other strikers is as good as Sergio Aguero is.
Against a competent Norwich City side at home, though, when you need an early tally to take the belief out of the Canaries fans, Aguero's absence is acutely felt.
Manchester City Continue to Struggle to Defend Set Pieces
For a club full of veteran defenders and midfielders who by now have spent a lot of time together on the pitch, Manchester City time and again defend corner kicks and set pieces like strangers.
Norwich City threatened to score very rarely. Having the ball less than 35 percent of the time will do that to a club.
Still, the best scoring chance of the first half for either club was the goal Norwich City thought they had scored from a corner kick in the 18th minute only to have the goal wiped out by a fairly careless offside violation by Norwich City man Gary Hooper.
Manchester City's inability to fasten all the windows and padlock all the doors on corner kicks and threatening free kicks is inexcusable. It is the one holdover from the Roberto Mancini era that Manuel Pellegrini has been unable to eliminate from Manchester City's profile.
As such, any and every Premier League side has a better chance to nick a 1-0 result from Manchester City than they should rightly expect.
Because Manchester City are more susceptible to the cheap goal than a side with their aspirations has any right to be.
Manchester City Are Remarkably Impotent from Their Own Set Pieces
Manchester City took 14 corner kicks against Norwich City and scored no goals from them.
Any one corner kick is certainly no guarantee of a goal or even a shot on target. But when you accumulate corner kicks by the half-dozen and nothing notable comes of them, that is inexcusable.
Manchester City can grumble and moan all they like about the absence of Sergio Aguero from the XI. Same with the temporary disabilities of Samir Nasri and Fernandinho.
But none of those players normally factor into what Manchester City do from the corner. All of Manchester City's big targets—Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, Yaya Toure and Stevan Jovetic—were healthy and on the pitch for most or all of the corners Manchester City took.
Yet Manchester City could not manage one of those boring, quick goals off a corner that so many teams get, i.e., the high delivery onto the forehead of a runner rampaging toward goal.
All of Manchester City's pretty, artistic link-up play is well and good. They could really do, though, with some easy goals from the bundles of corner kicks all that link-up play creates.
Some Mistakes You Never Stop Paying for
In the Robert Redford movie The Natural, Redford's Roy Hobbs character admits heavily that "some mistakes you never stop paying for."
Manchester City came away from their trip to Norwich City with a point. Plenty of times in the Premier League, any point won on the road is a good point.
But Manchester City simply do not have the luxury of accepting one point on the road as a decent result anymore.
The Sky Blues lost at Cardiff City, lost at Aston Villa and lost again at Sunderland. Had they taken care of business against any of those lesser sides earlier in the season, perhaps a point at Norwich City would have been all right.
It is not, though.
Manchester City still have to go to Anfield, to the Emirates, to Old Trafford and to Goodison Park to take on very formidable sides in league play. Those are matches where taking one slim point might be useful.
It is not nearly good enough against Norwich City, though. Manchester City frittered away their margin for error in league play months ago.
Although, the question for Manchester City now is not so much when they will win again.
After getting shut out by Chelsea and Norwich City in consecutive matches, the question is: When will they score again?