Apologies for a slightly delayed reaction to the gutting defeat at the hands of Wolves on Saturday afternoon but straight after the game my wife and I were off to Mrs T’s work Christmas party.
This is always a good night out, paid for entirely by her bosses and with a free bar.
Anyway, having watched that horrible loss just a few hours earlier, I find myself sitting down next to… a Wolves fan. You couldn’t make it up.
Getting back to the game though, it’s clear to me that Norwich City do have a team good enough to be able to compete at this level. There’s a huge difference between being competitive though and actually winning games.
Every single team that are currently in the Premier League have players who can hurt you in the blink of an eye, it’s no different to the last time we were here.
In the Championship, you can make the odd mistake and get away with it, you can miss a chance and know that there will be another one along in a few minutes – not in the Premier League though.
This match was a prime example of that. Norwich played very, very well in the first half and contrary to what you might read on social media, they weren’t terrible in the second half either.
The result might mirror that horrible defeat at the hands of Sheffield United a couple of weeks ago but the performance was much better, in fact I’d go so far as to say that City were the better team for two thirds of this match.
If Tettey’s drive in the first half is a centimetre or two more to the right then it goes in off the post. If Teemu Pukki was better in front of goal in the three one-on-one positions he found himself in during the first 45 then we could conceivably have gone in three or even four nil up at the break. Norwich were that good in the first half.
By contrast, Wolves were lethargic and strangely seemed to lack energy. Was that just them having an off day or was it that City just didn’t give them space and time to breathe? I’m not sure but going in only 1-0 up at the break, I again figured, just like against Sheffield United, that surely they couldn’t be that poor again in the second half.
As it turned out they weren’t that bad again but they didn’t get hugely better. Norwich started the second half quite well and until Saiss equalised, they didn’t look much of a threat.
Sam Byram did a great job on Adama Traore, who just wasn’t allowed to get any time or space. On the one occasion that he did, Byram brought him down, taking a tactical yellow card.
Emi Buendia was sensational and he followed up a terrific game against Leicester with another all action display in which he led the visitors a merry dance. His quick feet meant that Wolves could barely get close enough to kick him, let alone win the ball back from him. He showed all the tricks that he has in his locker and looks back to his old self – how he didn’t get the MOTM award I have no idea.
There was a lot of moaning beforehand on social media about the return to the starting line-up of Grant Hanley.
I read an interesting interview with Mikel Arteta the other day in which he said that if a conversation turns to politics, everyone has an opinion and thinks they could do a better job than the Prime Minister and it’s no different with football.
Everybody has an opinion about football and plenty of fans think they could do a better job than their club’s own head coach. If the NCFC timeline on Twitter is anything to go by then there will be no shortage of replacements for Daniel Farke when his tenure at Norwich eventually ends.
As it turned out, Hanley had a decent game when you consider he hasn’t played competitively for several months. He made several last ditch blocks in the second half to thwart Jimenez, Jota and Traore. Nothing to moan about there.
The bottom line here is that Norwich just didn’t take their chances when they were on top. I saw a good boxing analogy to describe Norwich City’s season thus far on Twitter.
Playing Premier League football this season has been akin to fighting Deontay Wilder. It doesn’t matter how good you are in the first 11 rounds, if you switch off in the last few seconds of round #12, you’re getting hurt. #ncfc
— Cory (@iwritethings23) December 22, 2019
It didn’t help that after they got their equaliser, Wolves did step it up a notch and despite it being clear that they were starting to turn the screw, Farke chose not to change anything.
I know I’m sounding like one of those prospective replacement head coaches but why leave your three substitutions until the 86th minute?!
We now sit six points adrift of safety and travel to Villa Park on Boxing Day. That is a game which has now turned into a must win game and with Southampton at Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea, the winner of this match could really help themselves.
Nothing is decided in December but it’s now starting to look like an increasingly tall order to stay in the Premier League. We can’t keep playing like this and not taking our chances without paying the penalty for it. In Teemu Pukki we have a striker who is good enough to play for virtually any team in the top flight. I’m not saying that he’d be keeping Sergio Aguero out of Manchester City’s team if he was in Pep’s squad but if he came on and was playing, with all the chances a team like that creates, he’d score a ton of goals.
The fact that we have a player this good and that he cost us nothing is something of a miracle in this footballing day and age and I hesitate to criticise him for his failure to score against Wolves. It should be noted that the Portuguese number one, Rui Patricio is a very good keeper and he was in excellent form at Carrow Road.
Links to various potential January signings continue although I don’t expect Norwich to spend a lot of money. A new centre back, possibly a loan, seems an option together with the signing of another winger, hopefully with pace.
MOTM vs Wolves?
I don’t know what the answer is but I do not that at the moment, these defeats really sting.