To tinker or not to tinker? That is the question for Norwich City boss Alex Neil
06:30 10 December 2015
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If a week is a long time in politics, then 48 hours were certainly a long time for Norwich City and the club’s fans.
Of the week...
Declan was ray of light on dark day
HERO OF THE WEEK: It was a day to forget for the Canaries at Vicarage Road. Most players were well short of their best. The one bright spot was Declan Rudd, who gave a very good account of himself and rewarded Alex Neil’s faith in him. He rose to the challenge and will now be hard to drop.
Come on, Arsene, get a sense of perspective
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK: I have always had a lot of time for Arsene Wenger. But I think the Gunners’ boss was well over the top in claiming Alexis Sanchez could have been killed when he fell in a camera pit at Carrow Road. His language was unnecessarily inflammatory.
Getting a home draw was a rare highlight
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: This is a clutching straws kind of week when it comes to positives. I guess getting a home tie in the FA Cup is something to be pleased about. I cheered when our ball came out first and as I explain more at the bottom of the column, I think Man City is a good challenge.
Hucks is always such good value on Twitter
FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE WEEK: Laughs were as rare as highlights for City fans this week. So thanks to Mr Huckerby for cheering us up with his humour on Twitter. The family Christmas tree, his festive song and Jamie Cureton were among his amusing subjects.
Rom to score and City to get share of spoils
PREDICTION OF THE WEEK: Romelu Lukaku will arrive at Carrow Road as one of the hottest properties in the top flight. He can’t stop scoring and I tip him to net to make it seven goals in eight games. But he won’t be a winner and I think City will get a point.
Before kick-off at Watford, things were looking pretty positive.
The Canaries had performed very well, especially in the second half, against Arsenal and should have won.
We beat Watford 6-0 on aggregate last year and most of us were confident of a decent result down there.
Our rivals had tough games – Bournemouth at Chelsea, Villa at Southampton, Newcastle against in-form Liverpool, and Sunderland at the Emirates.
Inexplicably City didn’t turn up and we know how those other games went.
Then came the sudden departure of chairman Alan Bowkett.
The mood of the fans suddenly shifted. A lot of the doubts which had been muttered were being voiced much more audibly.
Half full quickly became half empty.
Of course it is still early days – but with trips to Old Trafford and White Hart Lane looming, we need points fast.
We need positive signs – and need them quickly.
One issue which has been picked on by many supporters is Alex Neil’s increasing tendency to tinker with the team.
In the first five games of the season, there were 15 starters, with only one enforced change in the back line.
In the subsequent 10 games, Neil has used 20 different starters. What has been even more noticeable than the pure numbers has been the different formations and players slotting in to different positions.
Guessing the starting XI has become a key part of match day lately.
There is, of course, an argument for “horses for courses” and picking the right team to tackle each opposition.
But what about stability? Players must feel more comfortable when they are spending more match time with the same team-mates.
I was gobsmacked to hear some fans calling for Neil’s head after Saturday. He has worked wonders here and I’m confident he can keep us up.
However, I would like to see more cohesion as the tough winter kicks in.
Concentrate on league but cup run too please
After we lost to Everton in the League Cup, I wrote that we should see the positive of being able to concentrate on the league.
I know why I had that view and there’s no doubt that the pot of gold which goes with Premier League survival has to be the number one priority this term.
However, seeing all those snippets of action from the FA Cup ties at the weekend gave me a fresh hunger for success in the greatest domestic knockout tournament in the world.
I’ve been thinking back to 1989 and 1992 and reading again about 1959. What amazing years they were for the Canaries in the cup.
A snap survey of City fans’ verdicts after Monday’s third round draw concluded that Neil’s men will again fall at the first hurdle (and some would be pleased that a “distraction” would be removed).
The more I think about it, the more I believe it is a chance to create a real confidence boost.
Success breeds success and a win over the big boys could be just what we need.
I’d like to see fringe players such as Jamar Loza and Kyle Lafferty given a chance. They should be desperate to impress and hopefully Man City’s minds will be elsewhere.
Also, I’ll make a plea to the club to drop ticket prices (say a tenner for adults and five for kids) to ensure the ground is packed.