Okay, so we played 120 minutes against Chelsea on Wednesday night and that won`t have helped but I don`t really buy the “they were tired” argument.
Physically, the Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday schedule of the first half of the season must have been tougher. When we had that 120 minute game against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup back in October, the work rate had been much higher.
Daniel Farke said after the game that he thought his players were “tired in the head,” and that may be true but that surely can`t explain the first thirty minutes.
In the first five minutes I thought we were easily the match of Sheffield United but that quickly changed when we conceded a needless corner on 6 minutes and then failed to clear our lines.
After that, and the resulting goal, the traffic was one way towards Angus Gunn`s goal. He had to make three meaningful saves in that half which stopped the visitors being out of sight at the break.
I wouldn`t say that Sheffield United were anything special either. They don`t have individual stars. What they do have is organisation and a work ethic for each other though.
The way that they passed through the Norwich midfield and defence like a hot knife through butter was simple, basic football. Pass and move and using “triangles” is hardly revolutionary.
The second half looked a bit better but then Tettey and Gunn pressed the self destruct button.
A short back pass saw Gunn come and then retreat, allowing Clayton Donaldson to easily slot past him and into the bottom corner.
Ivo Pinto scored a great header from a Vrancic corner as City pushed towards the end but it wasn`t going to happen.
There`s a quote attributed to Stuart Webber that says we are the best team in the league, statistically, in the last fifteen minutes of games – I`d venture that`s because we`re so often behind at that point.
I thought incidentally, that Mario Vrancic and Wes Hoolahan made a real difference when they came on. The full range of Vrancic`s passing was on display as he played short clever balls and also long pin point passes. He looked good.
Nelson Oliveira continues to frustrate. He often doesn`t move enough, waiting for the ball to come to him. If it does then great, he`ll do something with it but he doesn`t move to make things happen. He almost never wins headers, often due to his lack of offensive movement and holding the ball up, Chelsea aside, isn`t happening either.
He was too easily controlled by the Sheffield United defence.
City`s reliance on James Maddison was also evident yesterday and the Blades knew it too.
Every time the ball came near him, he was being closed down instantly, unable to make things happen as he so often has done this season. This isn`t rocket science, just doing your basic homework from the United scouts.
When that sort of thing does happen, you need to have someone else step into Maddison`s boots to do something different. Other than Wes Hoolahan, we don`t have that at the moment.
The squad is light right now, after the cull of high paid players in the last two weeks. There are links to offensive players like Le Havre`s striker, Julan and Eintracht Braunschweig`s Onel Hernandez, so things are clearly happening behind the scenes.
Farke had said all along that the club would need to move players out to bring players in and the first part has been done.
The real shame is that just as Norwich had moved themselves into a position six points behind the top six, they were gunned down by Sheffield United.
This was a chance to make some ground up but it`s one that`s slipped away, for many reasons. The season is far from over in that respect but the run of upcoming games is as tough as it gets.