Following Norwich City is like a box of chocolates...
09:07 23 January 2016
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Anyone who doesn’t enjoy having their emotions put through the wringer on a regular basis would be well advised not to become a Norwich City fan.
After the encouraging renaissance over Christmas we experienced a spectacular return to earth at Bournemouth as a display that was barely lively enough to be called lethargic resulted in a defeat that could have been much, much worse. Bournemouth were excellent: Eddie Howe had clearly done his homework and exacted full revenge for being out-thought by Alex Neil back in September.
In that he was undoubtedly helped by the Scot’s use of numerous square pegs in round holes, with Robbie Brady once again showing his naivety as a defender by allowing his man to run across him to score the opening goal for the second consecutive game, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, a natural central midfielder, struggling defensively in the wide right position and Jonny Howson, a genuine goal threat and a player with the ability to take the game to the opposition, restricted by being used in a deeper midfield role.
With Wes Hoolahan finding it hard to make much impact in recent games City’s midfield was neither fish nor fowl at Dean Court, lacking in physical presence centrally but also failing to provide any real support or creativity for Dieumerci Mbokani.
While the back four inevitably received plenty of criticism, much of it justified, the game was effectively won and lost in midfield where Bournemouth gave City a lesson in how to maintain possession while moving the ball quickly.
It was a thoroughly abject display, but while it would be easy to accentuate the negatives it’s important to remember that this is the same group of players that won three games out of four over the Christmas period. They haven’t become awful overnight.
While the mood over the weekend was inevitably sombre, the transfer news at the start of this week was the shot in the arm that the Canary faithful desperately needed. Timm Klose is just the sort of seasoned centre back that the squad has been crying out for, with international and Champions League experience behind him.
However, his arrival may have been overshadowed slightly by City finally securing the services of Steven Naismith after a lengthy courtship that started back in the summer. I have always rated Naismith and his aggression and commitment seem to be exactly what’s required to galvanise a squad that seems to find it hard to achieve the necessary intensity for every game.
With plenty of time still to go this is already a very good window, with quality players coming in and something of a clearing of the decks as fringe players are moved on. One hopes that the board, who have taken a fair bit of stick about lack of ambition and a reluctance to spend, will now receive the plaudits that are due to them.
This week’s activity is a very clear statement of intent and the recent boardroom changes also suggest that we are seeing the start of a new era at the club and a tweaking of the self-funding approach that has held sway since the dark days of 2009. While the spending has hardly been profligate, a calculated investment has been made to try to ensure that the club stays in the Premier League and hopefully most fans will applaud that.
Of course, it remains to be seen how quickly the newcomers can get up to speed, but I suspect that all of us feel significantly more optimistic about the club’s prospects than we did at 5pm last Saturday.
With Liverpool in transition and the feelgood factor hopefully getting Carrow Road rocking, the scene is set this afternoon. Now it’s up to the players to deliver the goods.