So much anticipation (as usual) but it was the same old story as Norwich City slumped to another opening day defeat, this time by a solitary goal at the hands of Wolves.
Neil Adams has said all the right things since his appointment and talked about scoring plenty of goals. Indeed, pre-season has seen lots of goals in friendly games and the acquisition of two new strikers but yesterday at Molineux, it was the same old story with a lacklustre away performance from Norwich City and yet another loss on the road.
Adams opted to use a midfield diamond, so beloved of Paul Lambert and many fans alike but when I saw that Kenny Jackett would be using a 4-2-3-1, I feared the worst.
Rather surprisingly, Nathan Fedmond started alongside Lewis Grabban up front with Kyle Lafferty on the bench. Wes Hoolahan sat at the tip of the midfield diamond with Surman on the left, Elliot Bennett on the right and Johnson at the base.
The defence was Whittaker and Olsson as full backs with Turner and Captain, Russell Martin in the centre. Ruddy was of course between the sticks.
The opening few minutes showed that we would be in for a tough afternoon as Wolves had the lion’s share of possession and Ewdards went close within 50 seconds of kick off.
City struggled to get the ball from a Wolves midfield that obviously outnumbered ours and they used it well, playing with energy and a verve that Norwich couldn’t seem to muster.
When City did get the ball, they did pass it around amongst themselves nicely but rarely managed to get it to either of the front two, who were often isolated. Wes Hoolahan found himself dropping deep in his efforts to get on the ball but was unable to positively influence things in an offensive manner.
Wolves came forward with menace time and again, with Whittaker being led a merry dance by Sako, who he struggled to contain all afternoon. Sako is strong, powerful and direct and Whittaker wasn’t up to it.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Michael Turner as I think that although he’s good in the air, he often gets turned too easily and is relatively slow. However, here he was required to throw himself in front of the ball to block on several occasions – he did okay.
In the early exchanges, Stearman wiped out Bennett but received just a ticking off from the referee. About ten minutes later after a few tough challenges on both sides Martin Olsson slid into one of his own and was promptly booked. I didn’t think that was really a booking, to be honest but it would be critical later on.
City had a spell after about 25 minutes when they showed that they can be comfortable in possession and pulled the Wolves formation all out of shape for around ten minutes before the home side regained control.
I was glad to see the half time whistle with the scores still level.
City’s build up play was often too ponderous and slow. Too many sideways passes and not enough incision in our play. Grabban and Redmond were short of the ball and didn’t threaten too much in the first half.
The game was crying out for a change and I would’ve brought Lafferty on for the second half but Neil kept things as they were.
City started quite well though and were imposing themselves on the hosts a little better. Andrew Surman had a shot blocked after a nice move and Grabban had a shot well saved from a tight angle after a great Martin long ball.
But then came the game changer. On the hour mark, Martin Olsson was completely done for pace by Rajiv van La Parra and hauled the Wolves winger down just outside the City area.
Referee, Simon Hooper wasn’t letting that one go and showed Olsson a second yellow followed by a red card. It was a clear booking and City were then well up against it.
Hoolahan was sacrificed to get Garrido on at left back but he too struggled with La Parra’s pace.
Just four minutes later, the deadlock was broken as Edwards headed home from La Parra’s cross after he had done Garrido like a kipper.
Tettey then replaced Surman and with 15 minutes to go Lafferty replaced Whittaker as City went three at the back.
Lafferty made an impact almost straight away and twice set up Grabban whose first effort was blocked and the second grabbed by Ikeme in the Wolves goal.
It was too little too late and the game ended with a one nil defeat on the road for Norwich City – again.
My thoughts after the game are that Whittaker is not the best right back at the club, that is Russell Martin. To be honest, I think Elliot Bennett would be better there. He has dynamite pace and likes a tackle.
I would rather see Martin at right back and Ryan Bennett partnering Turner in the centre. Adams also needs to sign another defender as we need more quality there.
In midfield, the diamond was outnumbered from the off and is probably a better formation to play at home rather than away – as Paul Lambert often used to use it in the Championship and occasionally in the Premier League.
Bradley Johnson doesn’t have the passing ability to play the base of the diamond as effectively as it should be played. Johnno is a better passer than Tettey but perhaps the answer is Gary O’Neil. I haven’t seen too much of him but suspect he is a more technically able player in that position. We also have Johnny Howson and Leroy Fer in our squad (for the time being anyway), so we do have options.
Up top, Redmond is not a striker. He can play there at a push but is more effective causing havoc on the wing and then making chances for others, such as Grabban and Lafferty. Incidentally, Laffs looked pretty good and should start alongside Grabban next Saturday.
I was surprised that Adams didn’t change the formation mid-game when he saw what was happening. I could see it and feared what would happen as soon as I saw how Wolves were lining up.
Anyway, Adams was correct when he said that the game turned on the sending off. Olsson’s push on the referee, although minor is being talked up by the media as well, so I won’t be surprised to see that 1 match extended to a 3 match ban – silly stuff.
This game was all too familiar to City fans. We’ve seen this sort of performance time and time again from Chris Hughton’s Norwich side, I thought it would be a lot different with Adams in charge.
The main thing though is not to panic. There have already been grumblings of ‘Adams should go’ etc from the forums and people saying that we are doomed. It’s far too early to base an assessment of the entire season on 90 minutes. Without the sending off it could’ve ended as a draw, or a win if Grabban scored earlier.
Who knows, those people may be right, we may well be doomed but my opinion is that it’s too early to say.
It’s also worth noting that we lost our first game against Watford, last time we were in this division and went on to get promoted.
So let’s not panic yet. I will be hoping for a considerable improvement against Watford and hope Neil will make the changes I have suggested.
Decent enough – saved well from Sako and other than the goal looked confident in his handling – 7
A poor game – outmuscled and out paced by Sako all day long – 4
Another full back that had a bad day at the office. Unlucky with first booking but completely done by La Parra and deserved the second yellow. Push on ref could be costly – 4
The Captain was generally solid enough although beaten by Edwards in the air for the goal. Should’ve done better – 6
Quiet game, couldn’t influence much – 5
Sideways passing and not quick enough. Made this position look hard – 5
Tried to get things going and worked hard. Often had to come into the centre to help out – 6
Tried to make things happen and was tidy in possession, sacrificed for Garrido – 6
Played out of position in my opinion. Didn’t affect the game enough and as usual his decision making was questionable – 5
Lively around the opposition box but didn’t see much of the ball in the danger areas. Had City’s two best chances and was unlucky not to score, a promising debut – 6
Done like a kipper by La Parra for the goal and then tried to outmuscle Sako and failed – 4
Tidy in possession but struggled to influence things – 5
Looked lively and should’ve come on much earlier. Created two chances for Grabban – 6
Neil Adams – 5
Tactically out thought by Kenny Jackett and didn’t change it quickly enough.