Fans Zone: Norwich City should be fine if they can strengthen defence in January
13:46 30 December 2015
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I left Carrow Road on Monday with no clearer idea of how Norwich City might fare in the Premier League relegation battle than I did when I entered.
I am now absolutely sure, though, that Aston Villa will be going down.
City’s opponents were by far the worst team I had seen up close this season. They looked disjointed and as if none of the players had a clue what they were supposed to be doing.
Very early on, Norwich were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the box and there seemed to be a sense of genuine panic amongst the visiting defence. The space afforded to Jonny Howson for the first goal was ludicrous.
So while City have their own problems, they definitely have a clear plan that they are working towards in every game. Alex Neil leaves his players in no doubt about what he expects from them, and they put the effort in to carry it out. A lack of confidence or a lack of ability might sometimes hinder them, and on occasions they will simply be beaten by a better side as they were at Spurs on Boxing Day. But we don’t look like the absolute relegation fodder that Aston Villa do.
Declan Rudd has been excellent since being given a chance in goal – making several vital saves – but he has not yet got the command of his back four that John Ruddy had.
On a couple of occasions he was expecting one thing of his defence and something else happened, with Ryan Bennett in particular involved in mix-ups.
The captain Russell Martin still looks a shadow of the player he has been in the past, making a few mistakes, but his return to the right back position has at least meant that these mistakes are less likely to be fatal.
Sebastien Bassong can look rock solid one moment and all over the place the next, and in such a crucial position as centre half consistency is needed.
With the January transfer window about to open, Alex Neil has the opportunity to address these issues.
We are likely to hear the clamour for such luxuries as the prolific striker Charlie Austin once again, but it is at the back that the Canaries need to focus. A bit tighter and more assured in defence and we should be fine. Happy New Year everyone.