Yes, we’ve got our Norwich City back, but we don’t want this one, thanks

PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 October 2014

David Healy celebrates putting City ahead at Hillsborough in February 2003, but the Canaries went on to throw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Wednesday. PA Photo: Steve Parkin.

David Healy celebrates putting City ahead at Hillsborough in February 2003, but the Canaries went on to throw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Wednesday. PA Photo: Steve Parkin.

Autumn is supposed to be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but at Carrow Road it’s rapidly turning into one of frustration and growing disquiet.

City are currently throwing away points faster than an oak tree sheds leaves in a high wind and the heady optimism of August and September has almost totally dissipated. Hardly surprising when just six points out of 18 have been garnered against largely mediocre opposition.

As the Canaries completed a rather unconvincing win at Blackpool last month the travelling fans chanted “We’ve got our Norwich back”. What they meant was the exciting, buccaneering City of the Paul Lambert era where opponents were regularly outscored, but what we have now looks rather more Hughtonesque.

Throughout last season City were guilty of ponderous build-ups, lack of quality supply to the strikers and an apparent inability to come up with viable alternative strategies. Sound familiar?

Currently there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule that the ball must not be delivered into a dangerous area unless the move has first passed through both centre-backs and at least one full-back as well as the full panoply of midfielders.

Contrast that with Fulham’s goal on Saturday. A mislaid pass was intercepted and four players broke towards the City goal at full pelt with the ball moved quickly and decisively. Similarly on Tuesday, laughable defending was speedily punished, yet City seem to eschew such single-mindedness.

To his credit, Neil Adams has made changes to formations and personnel in the last couple of games. However, what’s worrying is the underlying tactical approach doesn’t appear to have changed.

Of course it’s debatable where the main problem lies. There is certainly a case for saying that, on paper at least, this is the strongest overall squad in City’s history, so are the players under-performing or is the manager failing to extract their full potential?

There will be those who will point to possession statistics to back up Adams’ belief that City are merely experiencing an extended run of bad luck, but what value is there in overwhelming control of the ball when there is so little end product? Once again on Tuesday less than a third of City’s shots were on target.

The fundamental problem, an inability to unlock packed defences, remains and still City build laboriously from the back allowing the opposition time to organise and settle into position. As I’ve said before, there is nothing inherently wrong with a controlled build-up as long as it results in a chance, but too often in City’s case it just meanders into blind alleys.

Defenders love the game to be played in front of them, but hate to be turned. However, in the early stages on Tuesday, when Leeds held a higher line, Cameron Jerome was on the shoulder of the last man several times looking for balls into the channel which never came.

While I’m not an advocate of the long ball game I do think it’s vital to keep opponents guessing about where attacks will come from. In City’s case there is no apparent desire to attack the heart of the defence and consequently cover on the wide players is constantly doubled or trebled, making it harder to reach the byline.

At the moment City’s predictability makes it too easy for opposing teams to sit deeper and deeper and so restrict the area they have to defend. In the latter stages of the Leeds match there were often 21 players in a third of the pitch. Try passing through that. What’s certain is that any honeymoon period for Neil Adams is well and truly over. Likeable as he is, the hard truth is that he has to solve his recurring problem and solve it quickly.


  • Strongest overall squad in City's history? Maybe in quantity but not in quality. Remember the squad that had Gunn, Culverhouse, Bowen, Linighan, Butterworth, Crook,Townsend, Phelan, Gordon, Fox, Fleck, or a few years later Sutton, Robins, Phillips . . . hardly any of this currrent bunch would have got a game. Lambert's promotion squad three years ago was better than this, and certainly better managed.

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    Outside The Box

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

  • Well I suppose this filled the columns of the paper even though he,s only been to one game.

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    Saturday, October 25, 2014

  • Absolutely spot on Robin. Your comments echo what I and others have been saying for a while, especially in regards to our ponderous build-up play from the back. I have watched a lot of football elsewhere on tv recently and the one thing that stands out, even among some Div 2 sides, is the speed in which the ball is played forward. If we persist with this casual, slow, predictable, cross-field play our season will not be one of any consequence. Indeed mid-table might be just about all we will achieve. We seem to have the players to do the job but the tactics are wrong. We also need more quality along with pace out wide and for me Ollsen would be a good shoe-in as an attacking wing-back or even an out and out winger. He has the pace but unlike Redmond he can deliver a decent ball into the box. I also feel our front men are being isolated because, Howson apart, our midfield is unable or unwilling to get forward in support of our two front men. We need to feed quality, quick, balls into the box and vary it.

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    malaga flier

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

  • The honeymoon is indeed over for Adams and, whilst I do not honestly believe we're at crisis point yet, as some would have to believe, the fact remains that we're to easy to play against at the moment. Packed defences are for us to deal with, not moan about when things don't go our way.

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    Saturday, October 25, 2014

  • Excellent article right on target slow ponderous build up and poor supply to strikers. There is nothing wrong with quick balls into the box when defenders may be stretched and a few big balls from Ruddy to the front men. Stats show most goals are scored in the box so the more the ball is there the better the odds on scoring

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    Saturday, October 25, 2014

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