So, Friday night was pretty grim wasn’t it?
Speaking for myself, I was desperately disappointed to see such an abject performance from Norwich after they went 1-0 down to Southampton. I think I just expected so much more. I was expecting a do or die response to this nine game mini-league rather than a group that looked like they had just given up.
Maybe that sounds a little harsh? I felt very down after the game, based on the evidence of my own eyes but these are extraordinary times and everything is different, for all of us.
I liked the idea of going for it, of playing two forwards and trying to score goals, which has been our Achilles heel all season, not to mention conceding them as well. It seems as though the game was lost in the middle of the park to me and the midfield pairing of Trybull and McLean just didn’t work. There wasn’t enough steel in that pairing and basically, only Alex Tettey has the ability to be an enforcer in our squad.
Got a problem in midfield? Call Tettey. How many times has that question been asked over the years and Alex Tettey has come up with the answer? He’s not technically brilliant with the ball at his feet and his range of passing does have it’s limitations but we all know what he can do and at 34-years-old he’s still doing it.
If Norwich are not to end this season with a whimper then Alex needs to play against Everton. It could be that Farke was saving Alex’s knees for Everton and Man Utd in the FA Cup next Saturday, or, perhaps he just didn’t fit the 4-4-2 in our Head Coach’s mind.
Who plays alongside Alex though is the big question. Mario Vrancic replaced Trybull with the score at 2-0 and the game already gone and he is a player that has useful qualities for what is needed in the coming games. He has a sweet left foot with an excellent free kick taking capability to boot.
I just wonder though if maybe the man who came in from the cold, one Moritz Leitner could help too? Early on in last season’s Championship winning season, Tettey and Leitner formed an excellent partnership in the favoured 4-2-3-1 formation of Farke. Tettey’s destructive abilities coupled with Leitner’s metronomic passing were a key reason as to how the forward players received the ball in dangerous areas. Having said that, when Leitner got injured in late 2018, he was replaced by Vrancic, who did a similar job whilst arguably carrying more of a goal threat.
Leitner has not featured for City in the Premier League in 2020, with various reports of the player challenging his Head Coach’s authority. I think I’m right in saying that his last appearance was at Preston in the FA Cup third round in January. It does seem though that there has been a thawing of relations and Mo is firmly back in the squad again.
I also feel that we need to do something different and whilst a change to 4-4-2 was welcome, it failed to work. Farke was, in my mind, right to try to force the issue by doing something unexpected but for whatever reason his players didn’t seem capable of carrying it out effectively.
I’ve read various comments on social media from fans along the lines of “They just gave up, they didn’t try” or ‘They didn’t try hard enough” etc etc. Maybe the lads weren’t fit enough but they didn’t lose on purpose. Being that as it may, there still wasn’t enough fight for my liking and the ball was given away far too often, leaving us very obviously open at the back. Nathan Redmond appeared as tormentor-in-chief, as might have been expected but he didn’t have to try too hard, in my opinion.
I’d also like to see us dispense with the use of Cantwell and Buendia as “wingers.” I think at least one of them should be used as a Number 10 behind Teemu Pukki with Onel Hernandez playing one of the wings as an orthodox winger. That would give us direct pace, strength and aggression to try to force the issue of getting goals. Nothing else is going to do now, so whilst we may still go down, let’s at least go down fighting, eh?
Both Cantwell and Buendia are quick witted and with equally fast feet. That could be just what is needed, although I’m sure Daniel Farke knows his men better than I do and must, surely, have a sound reason for not trying it before now.
Before I sign off though, it is worth pointing out that these games are being played in extraordinary times. The lack of crowds, the lack of a “pre-season”, one of their team mates testing positive for COVID-19 in the week running up to this game, there are a large number of anomalies compared to what we all know as normal.
This is also before you take into account the players’ own feelings on returning to playing. Some might be keen, others less so, they are only human after all.
The general feel of the matches that I have watched so far has been one of friendly games. The tempo has been much slower than we are used to seeing and passes are going astray. Players at all clubs are making mistakes that they wouldn’t normally and let’s be honest, match fitness and sharpness isn’t usually attained until a player has made around ten appearances. In this mini-league, that is going to be the end of the season!
So yes, I want a lot more fight from my team but I am speaking from a position on my sofa in my front room. Times like these are extraordinary and we would all do well to remember that when some reach for their phones to sound off at players on social media.
Lest it be forgotten that this is a club that relies on it’s players, each and every one of them in this league, being at least 9/10 in every single game.