Well, that was a thoroughly depressing Boxing Day, at least in football terms anyway. I wrote after last weekend’s defeat to Wolves that this game at Villa Park was a must-win game and, as is Norwich City’s way all too often in these type of scenarios, we lost it.
I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to explain what is going on. We play, arguably outplay, these teams for at least an hour and then lose to a sucker punch or two. That’s what happened against Villa as well.
Despite having spent around £130m in the summer, Aston Villa are our neighbours in the bottom three and we now find ourselves bottom of the table and seven points from safety.
Villa looked very beatable and have done every time I’ve seen them play this season. They are basically held together by Jack Grealish, who is like their very own Emi Buendia, except he can last 90 minutes at full throttle.
Grealish is at the heart of everything good that the Villains do. He is very difficult to knock off the ball, much like Buendia, and he makes things happen. It was no surprise to see him at the heart of everything that Villa did well and providing the assist for the goal, although for at least sixty minutes of this game, Norwich City were the better team.
It is, of course, a very familiar story. We create chances and consistently fail to take enough of them and we’ve been doing it all season. Teemu Pukki was unable to take a one-on-one situation with Heaton, being crowded out by Hause and Konsa and he made the wrong decision later on when he just needed to roll Alex Tettey in for a free shot at goal.
I can’t place too much blame at the goat’s feet though because he’s been brilliant throughout the last season and a half and he continues to be our best striker and main chance of scoring goals. He’s scored nine already and if he keeps that ratio up there’s a very real possibility that Norwich could be relegated despite having a striker who scored nigh on 20 goals.
Surely that’s unheard of, isn’t it?!
The shot from Alex Tettey that Douglas Luiz cleared off the line was terrific defending and when you come up against Tom Heaton having a good day then that just adds to the problem.
Heaton made superb saves from Tom Trybull and Onel Hernandez but he had Sam Byram’s finishing and his crossbar to really thank for his clean sheet.
Man Of The Match?
Once again the better team lost and it’s now looking like relegation is a likelihood rather than a possibility. Of course, these things aren’t settled halfway through a season but what has gone on in the first half of this one will go a long way to determining our fate.
The second half of the season needs to see us take our chances on a more regular basis, otherwise, we are going to witness a depressing series of defeats, despite playing good football before we fall through the trap door into the Championship.
We could actually be relegated and not be one of the three worst teams if we can’t convert these opportunities into points. Losing to Watford, Villa (twice), Southampton and West Ham have been crucial to where we are now.
The win over Everton doesn’t look like helping us too much as to my mind, their squad is far too good for a relegation battle and now that they have employed a world-class coach in Carlo Ancelotti, I expect their league position to improve quite quickly.
Trying to put a more positive slant on things, Norwich now face Tottenham on Saturday evening in one of those glamorous games that we all dreamt about last Summer when promotion was still sinking in.
Jose Mourinho returns to the Carrow Road touchline but his squad will be missing at least three key players, all of whom are regular starters.
Son-Heinz-min, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko will all be suspended on Saturday, giving Mourinho a selection headache, although that probably means he’ll start want-a-away Christian Eriksen.
Every silver lining…
Another plus for Norwich is that Max Aarons, Kenny McLean and Sam Byram all managed to avoid their fifth yellow card of the season at Villa Park, meaning they have reached the amnesty point.
It’s tough being a City fan at the moment but one thing that I know will not change is the unwavering support that the team will get from the likes of you and me.
ON THE BALL CITY!!!