Six things we learned from Norwich City’s narrow loss to Leicester City
PUBLISHED: 11:29 05 October 2015 | UPDATED: 11:31 05 October 2015
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After seeing the Canaries make too many sloppy mistakes in defeat to the Foxes at Carrow Road David Freezer assesses where Alex Neil’s side need to improve after the international break.
1 – Dieumerci Mbokani is ready to start his first Premier League match
It has been clear that loan signing Dieumerci Mbokani is going to be a handful for opposition defenders ever since the big striker made his Canaries debut.
That is exactly what he was for the Leicester defence after being introduced in the 59th minute and the Democratic Republic of Congo forward is surely now pushing hard for his first league start after scoring his first goal.
Cameron Jerome put in plenty of work and went close with a shot just over the bar in the opening stages but seemed to accept defeat in the aerial battle with giant centre-backs Robert Huth and Wes Morgan early on.
Jerome is not a small man, standing at over six foot and with a muscular frame, but Leicester’s central pair towered over him and he seemed to drop deep to try and get some space to work with.
Mbokani seemed to relish chucking his considerable frame into the mix though, almost breaking the deadlock with a header from a Robbie Brady cross that was kept out by a combination of Kasper Schmeichel and the crossbar in the 67th minute, before steering home a Jonny Howson cross a minute later for his goal.
2 – Even ‘Steady Eddies’ can have an off day
If one player in the City squad was to be described as a reliable ‘Steady Eddie’, Jonny Howson is likely to be the name to spring to mind for most supporters.
Yet it was the midfielder who gave away the ball after dawdling in possession in the opposition half ahead of both Leicester goals.
He was robbed by French rival N’Golo Kante in the 27th minute, leading to a counter attack which eventually saw Seb Bassong bring down Jamie Vardy to give away a penalty, which the striker scored himself.
Howson then did it again two minutes after the break, Foxes striker Shinji Okazaki sprinting back to tackle the Yorkshireman and set Jeffrey Schlupp free on a swift counter he would eventually complete with a nice finish past John Ruddy.
It was unlike Howson and he crossed for Mbokani’s goal which halved the deficit in his efforts to make up for his errors.
He will surely have far too much credit in the bank for it to threaten his starting place but he must quickly eradicate such sloppy play if he is to remain a key player for Alex Neil and especially if he is hoping to reclaim his place in central midfield.
3 – The 4-4-2 formation is still alive and well in football
It is not often that we see the traditional 4-4-2 formation deployed in the Premier League these days but Leicester proved it can still be effective.
The front pairing of Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki proved to be a real handful for the Canaries defence, as much for their attitudes as their abilities.
Both must have covered every blade of grass in their pursuit of victory, Vardy proving just why he has risen from non-league to being an England squad member – scoring a league goal for the fifth successive match with his first-half penalty, won after getting in behind Seb Bassong and tempting a tackle from behind.
Okazaki, with 43 goals in 91 games for Japan, was the man tracking back and robbing Jonny Howson ahead of the Foxes’ second goal.
It was like having two Paul Dickovs on the pitch. The former Manchester City striker always seemed to be a thorn in City’s side in his playing days and Claudio Ranieri’s strikers were similarly annoying.
They pinned Russell Martin and Seb Bassong deep in their half regularly and forced City to play square balls across the defence often – much to the annoyance of Canaries boss Alex Neil on the sidelines.
4 – City’s defensive unit needs Steven Whittaker to strike a better balance
Several of City’s players had an off day against the Foxes – as Alex Neil admitted after the match.
One of those was right-back Steven Whittaker, who was sloppy in possession, not strong enough in the tackle and seemingly caught in between two minds as to whether he should attack or defend.
He was totally out of position for the visitors’ second goal, after getting forward only to see Jonny Howson lose the ball high up the pitch.
Jeffrey Schlupp had the pace on the Scotland international throughout the game, with Russell Martin forced into a good block in the 27th minute after the winger had eased past him.
The 31-year-old was very fortunate to not be booked for a very late tackle on Schlupp in the 53rd minute as well and generally looked off the pace.
He is another with credit in the bank but will need to rediscover his previous high standards if he is to retain his starting spot.
Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom will be hoping for another chance to prove his abilities after some decent signs in the recent win over Bournemouth when the Scot was suspended.
5 – Pulling someone down by the neck is not a penalty
Mark Clattenburg can be a frustrating referee at the best of times but ignoring a clear foul on Cameron Jerome by Robert Huth in the 51st minute seemed rather dismissive.
His dramatic hand signals infuriate many supporters and his usual display of waving his arms around made sure he could be seen centre stage at Carrow Road on Saturday, in a match that he generally kept a decent hold of.
His dismissal of protests for a penalty from the City players in the 51st minute was particularly frustrating though, with Huth dragging Jerome to the floor by his neck as the striker battled to try and get on the end of a cross from Matt Jarvis.
The penalty he awarded to Leicester was, just about, fair enough.
Seb Bassong tried to get the ball after Jamie Vardy had got in behind him but got a little too much of the striker as well and gave Clattenburg a decision to make.
It was the dismissive attitude in which he shook his head after Jerome’s penalty claim which angered the home support though, as if it was a ridiculous appeal.
It certainly was not.
6 – Alex Tettey will be pleased his Foxes encounter is behind him
Alex Tettey must have walked under a ladder on his way to Carrow Road – as Lady Luck certainly didn’t seem to be on his side.
The Norway international was involved regularly in a first half which saw him filling plenty of defensive holes but also struggling to retain possession.
The ball seemed to bounce away from him at the crucial times in an odd performance.
He misjudged cutting out a cross from Marc Albrighton in the seventh minute which Shinji Okazaki headed over the bar and his half was summed up by a spooned pass to Steven Whittaker in the 31st minute which should have been a simple pass but ended up in the Jarrold Stand.
He then managed to handball a wayward Cameron Jerome header at the end of a strange first half, before seemingly calming down after the break.
His amusing half did not take the day’s comedy award though – claimed by Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri when his fans chanted for him to give them a wave.
The Italian’s assistant Craig Shakespeare had to point out what the visiting fans were singing before Ranieri responded in kind, prompting a chant of his own for his translating duty.