West Ham opener – a familiar story I’m afraid

09:16 20 February 2016

City fans look on as Dimitri Payet scores West Ham's first goal. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

City fans look on as Dimitri Payet scores West Ham's first goal. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

If I had to select one incident from this season to epitomise Norwich City’s unerring ability to shoot themselves in the foot when apparently in control of a game it would be West Ham’s game changing first goal last Saturday.

Not only did it involve a string of individual errors, but it also emphasised just how poor City’s defending as a unit can be.

If you watch the replays you will see that the move starts with a West Ham defender penned in his own corner by Cameron Jerome and forced to simply boot a clearance up the line. Andy Carroll wins an unchallenged header, then Sebastien Bassong isn’t quick enough to his man, who has the freedom to lay the ball off into the path of Victor Moses and the winger, having seen the potential of the situation quicker than his marker, Russell Martin, is in full stride with the defender trailing hopelessly five yards in his wake.

Timm Klose is never going to outpace Moses, but Robbie Brady does well to get across from the left to half stop the West Ham player. At this point Klose has the chance to clean up, but instead of committing fully to the challenge as Moses does, he goes theatrically to ground, apparently expecting the free-kick that might have been forthcoming in the Bundesliga.

Despite John Ruddy’s excellent save to keep out Moses’ shot, only Johnny Howson is anywhere near the loose ball and Dimitri Payet has no problem in converting, which raises the question of the whereabouts of City’s other centre back. Checks of the TV replay show Sebastien Bassong jogging into the penalty box only after Moses has checked back, broken through two challenges and forced the save, which hardly suggests a burning desire to rescue the situation.

However, there are other issues. Firstly, why was City’s back four square on the halfway line when West Ham had explosive pace available in the form of Moses? Also, why were three of them within five yards of one another on the right touchline so that one ball effectively took all of them out of the game?

Inevitably, people will reasonably ask why the coaching staff haven’t eliminated such mental aberrations but as Dean Ashton pointed out on radio, coaches and managers can’t think for players in a game situation. Having said that, it does raise the question of whether a specialist defensive coach might improve matters.

Certainly something needs to be done to improve City’s concentration levels, which are still not consistently high enough, as evidenced again by the equaliser when Mark Noble ran 20 yards completely unmarked before picking his spot.

Like many people I watched Leicester’s ultimately futile attempt to hold on against Arsenal with 10 men on Sunday and was struck by how disciplined they were. I genuinely don’t believe that Leicester’s defenders are significantly better individually than City’s, but as a unit they are currently light years ahead and are supported by a midfield that is not only tireless but also rarely gives the ball away cheaply.

While Alex Neil was right to emphasise how much better last week’s general performance had been, it can’t obscure the fact City’s defensive frailty and apparent lack of mental toughness when it comes to closing out games is pushing them ever closer to the relegation cliff edge.

I’d just like to finish with a quick reminder for anyone interested in what the Canaries Trust is all about.

On Thursday, February 25 we are holding our AGM in the Top of the Terrace at Carrow Road at 7.15pm followed by a question and answer session at 8pm with Iwan Roberts.

Admission is free to all so please come along and meet us!


  • A very good analysis of what went wrong once again. By comparison, look at how well Hull defended yesterday against AFC, how much better would we be with their centre backs in our team. Like many fans, I have been saying for a couple of seasons now, we need a proper captain who can lead by example and organise a defensive wall. I actually think the article above does not fully describe where our defenders were positioned when the ball was lost as at least two were many yards forward of the halfway line chasing the ball rather than marking their attack minded players. As soon as we conceded one, the defenders looked like rabbits caught in the headlights for the second and then I feared the worst. It seems as though our manager and his coaching staff simply do not prepared the team on how to hang on to a two goal lead let alone a single one. You can still attack when leading a game, but there is never a reason to send all the defenders forward at such times.

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    Sunday, February 21, 2016

  • Careful Rob, you'll end up with Custard all over you if you dare to point out the failings so glaringly obvious in the current Carra Rud set-up. We seem to be split down the middle re the West Ham game. Some I've spoken to point to the improvement in overall performance, the fact that we scored 2 goals and gained a point against a decent team. Others see it was 2 points dropped and highlight yet more Sunday-league-standard defensive failings. As a glass half-full type of bloke, I'll go along with the former. But every silver-lining has a cloud and as long as AN keeps selecting players that have been failing us all season, (we all know who they are ), we'll keep shooting ourselves in the foot and sliding inexorably toward that trapdoor. Phew! You'll have to excuse me, I think I'm suffering from metaphor fatigue.

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    Saturday, February 20, 2016

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