Having not won for over a decade on opening day, you can forgive me for not being too surprised at what happened on Saturday at Carrow Road.
I’ve had a day or so to calm down and think rationally about what happened and why and I just thought I’d add a few comments to the myriad of opinion out there.
I was disappointed that we only fielded one new signing in Robbie Brady. The lack of new exciting players to improve the side has been frustrating for the manager and more than that for the fans. I don’t doubt that had he been fit, that Youssouf Mulumbu would’ve started the game. Big Youssouf is set to be an integral part of our side but I fear we won’t be seeing much of him until the late autumn. Those metatarsal breaks are always promised as being 4-6 weeks recovery time but in reality, those who suffer them are rarely back up to full speed before twice that length of time 🙁
Talking about Brady, I thought he did pretty well, all things considered. He dealt with Zaha very well, forcing the young winger to switch sides with Puncheon. He mostly coped with Puncheon too but was pulled out of position for the first goal meaning Seb had to cover and that caused all sorts of trouble at the far stick. Brady is a winger who can play full-back and when Martin Olsson is fit, I fully expect Brady to play left wing/midfield. What that means for Bradley Johnson, I’m not sure.
Johnno struggled against Palace and was not able to affect the game as we are used to seeing. He looked a bit chunky and not up to speed but that can be levelled at many players at this time of the year. Having said that, he almost scored with a brave header that was cleared off the line and was on hand to head the ball back in to Jerome for his ‘goal.’
Steven Whittaker struggled badly against Zaha and I wonder if his time as first choice right back is coming to an end. Andre Wisdom is here now and we are led to believe that he’s not quite fully fit yet. When he is, Liverpool will expect him to play and on the evidence of Saturday, that may be sooner rather than later.
Alex Tettey was his usual combative self and did well enough in that holding role, alongside him, Graham Dorrans had a good game (Yes, he did DG). He got stuck in and had a good battle with Cabaye, giving as good as he got and the Frenchman has a nasty side to his cultured game. Dorrans’ range of passing was good and he quickly played the ball out to both wings with good measured passes.
Wes Hoolahan was excellent and played very well, keeping possession and playing incisive forward balls. Johnny Howson also had a good game and was my man of the match. He was always available and played some neat passes that directly led to City’s best chances in the first half and never stopped running.
The decision to not start Nathan Redmond and Cameron Jerome was controversial among supporters although I suspected Grabban would get the nod over Jerome. Neil seems to prefer Grabban’s movement and pace, although Jerome’s goals and physicality suggest most fans I know prefer Jerome.
I can see Neil’s thinking in playing two central midfielders in his front three to add a solidity and narrowness to try to combat the Palace wingers but it didn’t work. The chants of ‘He’s just too good for you’ as Zaha twisted and turned Whittaker underlined the point.
In spite of his misses, particularly the one when he hit the post (I know the first was offside but he didn’t when it came to him), I think Grabban had an okay game. He did plenty of running and also pulled out to the channels, taking defenders with him. Some around me were moaning he wasn’t in the centre but if you watch Diego Costa play alone up front, he plays in a similar way, movement wise anyway.
The fact he got the chances is encouraging but the fact he missed them was disappointing, to say the least. Would Jerome or Hooper have scored? Probably.
Alex Neil doesn’t think we have enough firepower and to be honest, you can never have enough options. Jerome was thought to be not fully fit after missing much of pre-season which made me think Grabban would start. As Neil said a week ago, should he get an injury to one or more of his main three strikers then suddenly he has a big problem.
The player that we (hopefully) get to score the goals we need is going to be crucial to our season and that type of player will cost a lot of money. Rob Butler was talking about Charlie Austin on Canary Call but even if we paid the £15m that QPR want, could we afford the wages? He’d probably want £70-£80k a week and that is surely out of our reach.
In any case, Austin can court bigger suitors than Norwich which means we will need to look elsewhere, possibly abroad. We cannot afford another white elephant in the mould of RvW though.
John Ruddy had a decent enough game and made at least three good saves with the ball sticking to him as you’d hope it would – he had little chance with any of the goals.
Speaking of the goals, the first two in particular were very sloppy, especially the second one, which was nothing short of a shambles. Everyone was watching their own man and no-one was watching Souare as he made this run. Fair play to Palace though, one straight off the training ground.
There were plenty of reasons to feel positive in our forward play but the way we conceded the first two goals is a major concern and a new centre back is essential. There has been so little speculation on that front though that I am seriously worried we may not get one and that would be a big problem. There are three weeks left in the window and we should all keep our fingers crossed.
Next up are Sunderland, who had a defensive horror show of their own at Leicester on Saturday, it could end up being a ‘we’ll score one more than you’ type of game if Alex Neil and Dick Advocaat can’t erase the defensive errors quickly enough.
Let’s see what this week brings us.