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It’s a case of gritting your teeth until the bitter end

PUBLISHED: 07:16 08 April 2017

Norwich City's defence has been an accident waiting to happen at times this season. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City's defence has been an accident waiting to happen at times this season. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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I suspect that I’m not alone in experiencing a feeling of numbness on matchdays at the moment.

As this underperforming squad lurches from one totally underwhelming display to another while churning out the same tired platitudes in press conferences, I just can’t wait for the season’s end to come along and release me from this purgatory.

The performance at Villa was typical of City’s season away from home. Periods of passing with no real cutting edge, missed chances and the inevitable defensive lapses with a sixth red card of the campaign to cap things off.

In fairness to Ivo Pinto, I thought he was a little unfortunate to be the victim of a dreadfully weak referee as it’s clear from replays that the second yellow card was an afterthought following the intervention of several Villa players, ironically including Mile Jedinak who had spent much of the game committing a series of fouls without punishment.

However, the second goal, which, even in a season littered with embarrassing defensive errors, plumbed new depths of incompetence, encapsulating everything that has been wrong with City’s defending. Indecision, lack of awareness and a total eschewal of responsibility all came together to produce a goal of comical proportions, at least for fans of other clubs.

The fact that the same two players, Michael McGovern, who is currently making Michael Theoklitos look relatively competent, and Ryan Bennett conspired to produce a virtual carbon copy to gift Huddersfield the lead on Wednesday night also highlighted another key failing; the inability to learn from mistakes, while the quick concession of two more poor goals emphasised the total lack of fighting spirit in this squad.

It’s difficult to see how anything other than a complete summer rebuilding of the defence will be sufficient, with all four centre backs (I’ve excluded Michael Turner who has disappeared without trace since his injury) culpable at various stages over the last two seasons and now virtually interchangeable in terms of reliability (or lack of it), while City are also paying for the absence of cover at left back within the squad.

Sadly, all these things have been highlighted by fans and the media, yet haven’t been addressed by those in charge of recruitment and that is now hurting the club badly.

Midfield is less of an issue, with so many different options available when everyone is fit, but clearly there is a need for more firepower, and the goalkeeping department must also come under scrutiny, with John Ruddy operating well below his peak (although some allowance should be made for time spent behind such an error-prone back four) while McGovern, like Declan Rudd, is a decent shot stopper, but has deficiencies elsewhere. Perhaps the time has come for Remi Matthews to step forward.

Clearly Stuart Webber will have his work cut out and must hit the ground running, with his arrival hopefully soon followed by that of a new head coach. It would also be good to see some of the younger players, like James Maddison and Ben Godfrey, get some game time, although there is a balancing act here, in the sense that throwing young players into a struggling, unmotivated squad could be harmful to their development. However, it would at least give the long-suffering fans a lift.

At the moment we’re all angry and frustrated, but the combination of a temporary manager with no aspirations to the permanent job and a group of players who can’t motivate themselves for vital games, let alone meaningless ones, was never going to offer much progress.

The key, as it has always been, is what the Webber effect will be, and until I’ve seen how that is going to manifest itself I’ll be venting my frustrations at events on the pitch rather than off it. Unfortunately, I suspect that there will be lots more to be frustrated about there before this awful season ends.

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