Positive approach may help Norwich City – as long as they cut out errors
08:25 07 November 2015
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Like most fans, my expectations for City’s trip to the Etihad were pretty low, given their defensive issues and the hosts’ current form.
In the event I ended the day proud of both the team and Alex Neil for a battling performance based on a sound tactical plan which so nearly secured a valuable point – yet frustrated that all that hard work had been undone by one piece of slack marking and an inexplicable moment of madness.
I think that Neil surprised us all with a formation utilising three centre-backs and two screening midfielders, but it had the required effect and repelled Manchester City’s efforts for three quarters of the game.
In fact, it’s well worth comparing City’s composure and organisation to the way in which Sunderland, managed by the hugely experienced Sam Allardyce, were torn apart at Goodison Park and looked like conceding to virtually every Everton attack.
However, at the moment Neil’s game plans are being undermined by the inability of his players to eradicate individual errors and that was in evidence again at the Etihad as first Nicolas Otamendi shook off Ryan Bennett to be left with a free header and then John Ruddy compounded some poor handling by a needless rush from his goal.
There have been increasing rumblings amongst fans about Ruddy’s performances in the light of Declan Rudd’s impressive showings in the Capital One Cup, and whilst it’s always easy to point the finger at the goalkeeper of a team that is leaking goals, I do have some concerns about some of his decision-making.
One thing that is guaranteed to destabilise a defence is being unsure of what your goalkeeper is going to do.
Last week, Ruddy was rooted to his line as a West Brom player had a free header from four yards out, and in the early stages on Saturday, Wilfried Bony came within a whisker of exploiting indecision between Ruddy and one of his defenders.
The lead-up to the penalty also involved an apparent lack of communication, with Ruddy charging after a ball heading away from goal and into the path of Alex Tettey, only for neither to take control of the situation. Exactly who called what, or whether anyone called at all, must remain a matter for conjecture.
To me, a goalkeeper of Ruddy’s stature should always be looking to be dominant, and there is nothing that defenders like better than to know that their keeper will take some of the pressure off them when balls are coming into the box.
In fairness, his shot-stopping has generally been good and there is no real evidence that Rudd would be any more commanding. However, as the goals against continue to rack up, it is inevitable that the goalkeeping issue will continue to come under the spotlight.
One bright spot on Saturday was the return of Youssouf Mulumbu, who impressed with his composure and passing, which was simple but accurate until the inevitable fatigue of missing so many weeks started to set in.
I think he will prove to be a key figure in City’s relegation battle.
Turning to today, Swansea are hardly pulling up any trees this season and don’t have a great record at Carrow Road, so the scene is set for City to end their barren run.
To do so they have to find a balance between defence and attack that keeps one solid without removing potency from the other.
Swansea are likely to be positive and that may help City, who have struggled against teams that have looked to sit in and play on the counter.
However, the defence has to rise to the occasion and if they can eradicate the errors I think City have enough quality going forward to turn things around.