Another spell of domination in the north-east is required by Norwich City
08:53 18 October 2015
Glyn Thomas/Sporsbeat Images.
While I hate the way in which international breaks suck momentum out of the season, at least we had Non-League Day to enjoy on Saturday and, like many other City fans, I took the chance to enjoy some grassroots football.
My chosen venue for the afternoon was The Walks to see Lynn Reserves beat Diss 5-2 in an action-packed game and I have to say that it was a cracking afternoon’s entertainment; no self-obsessed referee trying to hog centre stage, no time wasting or play acting, just a lot of attractive passing football played with enthusiasm by two sides containing some talented young players who will hopefully go much further in the game. It was refreshing to see and I look forward to the chance of repeating the experience.
However, tomorrow my full attention returns to City’s Premier League campaign and the first of two games which could well have a major influence on how the season is going to develop for the Canaries.
With Newcastle struggling and West Bromwich Albion visiting Carrow Road next weekend, City will be hoping to build upon what has been a steady start to the season so far, particularly with three of the next four fixtures seeing visits to Manchester City and Chelsea and a home game against Arsenal.
I still believe that it’s a bit early to draw too many firm conclusions about City’s prospects this season, but I genuinely think that the majority of the signs are positive, certainly compared to their last season at this level.
Just one win at Carrow Road is a concern although, as has been well documented elsewhere, City are far from unique in finding home wins hard to come by, but the saving grace is the form shown on the road, the Southampton trip excepted.
What could well prove pivotal is whether City can improve their ability to make decent periods of possession count.
Nine points from eight games is a decent return, but it could so easily have been much better.
Certainly the levels of dominance achieved against Stoke and West Ham should have produced more than a total of two points, whereas surrendering two soft goals left too big a mountain to climb against Crystal Palace and Leicester, despite impressive fightbacks.
In last season’s Championship, City were often able to get away with periods where their levels of concentration and intensity dropped, but the Premier League is much less forgiving and any errors tend to be punished unmercifully. Equally, chances are less frequent and have to be capitalised upon.
It could be argued that City have come up against several goalkeepers in peak form, and in fairness there have been very few occasions where they have missed sitters, but I’m sure that Alex Neil will want to see much more of the sort of clinical finishing displayed against Sunderland and Bournemouth.
The international break hasn’t been kind to tomorrow’s opponents for whom goalkeeper Tim Krul will be a massive loss, although strangely the Magpies have won more games (47pc) without the Dutchman than with him (36pc) since he became the number one choice at St James Park.
Newcastle will inevitably see tomorrow as a chance to kick-start their season, but if City can dominate midfield in the same way that they did at Sunderland then they have every chance of their second win in the North East this season.
I also suspect that much will depend on how much the international break will have taken out of City’s increasingly large travelling contingent with most seeing quite a bit of action over the last week or so, but a strong start by the Canaries could see crowd pressure building on the home side and the increasingly-beleaguered Steve McClaren.