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Changes need to be made, but the manager has to stay

09:29 13 February 2016

Alex Neil watches a his plan unravels at Villa Park. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil watches a his plan unravels at Villa Park. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

Alex Neil arrived at Norwich City as a breath of fresh air.

After the negativity of the Chris Hughton era and the selectorial vacillation of Neil Adams, City had a manager who was fearless, knew exactly what he wanted his team to achieve and could convey his plans to his players clearly and concisely.

The result was some of the most exciting football we had seen at Carrow Road since the departure of Paul Lambert and an away record that was the envy of most managers in the Football League.

As the tailspin that grips City increased its (possibly terminal) velocity at Villa Park on Saturday we saw a side bereft of fight and self belief and a manager who appears to have lost sight of what got him to the Premier League in the first place.

A formation that was so narrow it would have been invisible from certain angles allowed both Villa full-backs to set up camp in City’s half and ensured that the home side would always have an outlet ball available. It didn’t help that City’s midfield was anchored by a ball winner, Youssouf Mulumbu, who barely won a ball all afternoon, nor did the fact that their deep lying set-up meant that Dieumerci Mbokani and Steven Naismith were constantly forced to delay attacks until support arrived.

I have no problem with setting a platform away from home and not being too expansive early on, but the amount of respect afforded to the league’s worst side was embarrassing and inevitably fed their fragile confidence.

Much has been made of Neil’s frequent changes, but there is an element of chicken and egg in that players have generally failed to make an unanswerable case for remaining in the side. However, a back four that was changed for the 11th time in 25 games on Saturday is hardly conducive to a run of clean sheets, and may go some way to explaining the form of City’s goalkeepers, with Declan Rudd now looking as indecisive as John Ruddy before he was dropped.

Ultimately, the manager who sees his squad in training all week is better placed to judge who is worth a place than any number of armchair pundits, but the continual use of players in positions that don’t make the best use of their abilities is frustrating.

There seems to be an element of compensating for players’ weaknesses rather then trusting to their strengths.

For example, Wes Hoolahan’s inclusion is usually balanced by using two holding midfielders as he can be wasteful in possession, and Jonny Howson is played wide because Nathan Redmond isn’t as good at tracking back. However, all three are potential match winners when given their head. Perhaps too much attention is now paid to negating the opposition’s strengths rather than accentuating City’s own?

So is it time for Neil to go? Absolutely not. Another good young manager, Sean Dyche, couldn’t keep Burnley up, but they stuck with him and are now in a good position to bounce back. Neil will be a better manager as a result of his current experiences. Why let another club reap the benefit of that?

However, this is a time when the senior players have to stand up and be counted and carry the younger ones with them, but more importantly the team and manager need to get back to a style of football that they all fully believe in, because at the moment that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The side needs more width and a balance between attacking threat and defensive stability so perhaps 4-1-4-1 is the answer?

A more positive style would engage the crowd and while I’m certainly not suggesting a totally gung ho approach I do think City have to be more assertive.

6 comments

  • to answer the headline WHY?

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    wivenhoebudgie

    Sunday, February 14, 2016

  • again disagree,pre match post i opined ,martin in = goals conceded,defining,not for the first time, the Einstein definition of lunacy "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome ". If as Mr Sainty implies Neil judges on training performance ,it is an incredible feat to achieve a situation , wherein Mr Martin is the best of 4 right backs,this includes 2 new players that he has acquired. Mr Sainty should begin by questioning Neil`s judgement ,either of team selection or Transfer acquisitions ?

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    dis dressed

    Saturday, February 13, 2016

  • Totally disagree another completely unbalanced team selection today have a feeling this is not going to end well today, we are going to get hammered. Players playing out. Of their best positions all over the place.

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    Canaryinslovenia

    Saturday, February 13, 2016

  • Yes NC should not get rid of AN, but he shows his inexperience both in the shape and performance of his team selection. Whether this squad is intelligent enough to understand the coaching or instructions is questionable. So far there is no evidence on all scores. The stupid mistakes are often unbelievable, slow witted and totally unaware, particularly on set pieces. This all demands immediate action. Where is it? No evidence of old managers experience coming in to help. No time left now for dithering, we will be down if action is not taken. Is an unable to accept help????????????

    Report this comment

    willb

    Saturday, February 13, 2016

  • I'm shocked! Thank you Barry, I realise who you are now and hope all's well?

    Report this comment

    Robin Sainty

    Saturday, February 13, 2016

  • I've never said this before. Robin Sainty I totally agree. Not just because I used to live in Clench....

    Report this comment

    barrym

    Saturday, February 13, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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