Paul Lambert looked like a sheep in wolf’s clothing against Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 07:42 28 January 2017
EDP pics © 2007
Regardless of the current situation at Norwich City, last week’s victory over Wolves at least served to debunk the long-running myth of Paul Lambert.
Whilst I will always be grateful to the Scot for one of the most exciting and uplifting periods in my years of following City, the reality is that he has achieved precious little since leaving the club, and this game did nothing to suggest that he has recaptured his old flair and bravado.
Wolves were predictable, uninspired and totally lacking in creativity and never looked like causing City any real problems going forward, whilst at the back they showed the same sort of uncertainty that had been on display at Molineux at the start of October.
City, on the other hand, looked sharp and committed and the central midfield unit produced its most cohesive performance for months.
Key to that was the return in midfield of the peerless Jonny Howson, whose energy and directness caused Wolves problems all afternoon, but Steven Naismith deserves huge credit for what was undoubtedly his best performance since his debut against Liverpool last season.
Naismith’s City career has been infuriating, because it’s quite clear that there is a quality player in there somewhere but for whatever reason we have seen too little of him.
However, his superbly taken goal on Saturday was a fitting reward for a dynamic start to the game and was the springboard for the sort of feisty performance that was routinely expected when he first arrived.
For once Wes Hoolahan didn’t have to be the key man for the Canaries, but he also became increasingly influential after a slow start to the game where his first few passes were misplaced, while Alex Tettey had his most effective game for some time.
Just like the Derby game the atmosphere inside Carrow Road was eerily quiet at times and, sadly, it seems that a small minority of the home support were hoping for a defeat as a trigger for managerial change.
While I have been critical of Neil and the board’s decision to stick with him despite some awful results since early October, I just don’t see how any true fan can actively want to see their team lose, whatever the circumstances.
Having said that, I feel equally uncomfortable about the suggestion from some quarters that Saturday’s victory means that Neil’s problems are suddenly behind him.
One win against frankly mediocre opposition can’t simply sweep away the memories of a run that has produced just four wins, all at home, in the last 14 league games, while City’s away form has been dire since the game at Wolves with just two points gleaned from their last eight games on the road.
However, City now have a run of games against opposition in lower- or mid-table positions in the Championship and the time for a sensible reassessment will be towards the end of February, by which stage we should have a much clearer idea of whether the board’s gamble has paid off, and we will also know exactly what the results of the transfer window have been as Neil looks to add dynamism and grit to a squad that is in desperate need of both.
At least the rumour mill suggests that attempts are being made to at last address long-standing defensive issues if deals can be got over the line.
That, of course, is a perennial problem for Norwich City with Ajax left-back Mitchell Dijks the latest player in recent windows to get as far as coming to speak to the club – before deciding that his future lays elsewhere.
Whatever the reason, City seem to consistently find it harder to nail down new signings than many other clubs, and that’s very worrying at a time when there is such a desperate need for some good news to provide a lift for the many fans who are currently experiencing a very flat feeling as they watch City’s competitors strengthening while the tumbleweed blows around Carrow Road.