Paddy Davitt verdict: Norwich City fluff their lines on the Premier League stage

09:05 18 January 2016

Alex Tettey leads the inquest into Bournemouth's opening goal in Norwich City's 3-0 Premier League defeat. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Tettey leads the inquest into Bournemouth's opening goal in Norwich City's 3-0 Premier League defeat. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

Much has been made about Norwich City’s Premier League quality. This desperate defeat raised questions whether they have the stomach for a fight.

"The team who seemingly went through the motions at the Vitality Stadium bore no resemblance to the combative Neil or his fearless methods."

Paddy Davitt

Neil’s post-match verdict was brutal and honest. Bournemouth, to a man, appeared to want it more. That is a sad indictment when you consider the massive prize on the horizon for retaining the Canaries’ cherished Premier League status.

It is also an affront, you can reasonably surmise, to the professional pride of Neil, his coaching staff and his players. For the first time perhaps since arriving in these parts, the Scot was short-changed in a basic desire and willingness to compete that should be a staple for a club like Norwich operating in deep waters.

The team who seemingly went through the motions at the Vitality Stadium bore no resemblance to the combative Neil or his fearless methods. Norwich visibly wilted and eventually crumbled as Bournemouth raided down the flanks with apparent impunity.

Neil, to his credit, refused to accept ready-made excuses. Norwich had a day less to prepare than the Cherries, given the quirks of the midweek fixture list, and a second consecutive away trip in three days to contend with after playing with 10 men for more than an hour on a windswept night in the Potteries.

But there was undeniably a marked contrast in the energy and intent with which Eddie Howe’s home side savagely set about the visitors in an opening 25 minutes which set the depressing tone.

Individual aberrations and basic errors were the dominant theme of Norwich’s autumnal struggles until a magnificent response over the festive period. Now it is chronic inconsistency that threatens to cast a shadow over what lies ahead.

The same set of players who superbly overcame Manchester United is capable of serving up dross at Watford and now Bournemouth. That elusive search for more measured output is producing the sweetest of highs, such as a first win at Old Trafford since 1989, tinged with a worrying sense of drift and the continued squandering of hard-earned momentum.

Neil knows he is the man responsible for flattening out City’s progress and productivity. That fertile period around the turn of the year underlined he has a group of players who are capable of coping in the Premier League, but whether they can sustain it for any length of time is the key.

The Scot rightly demanded a sense of perspective must be allowed to settle once fresh disappointment recedes. That was in short supply at the final whistle after a defeat made all the more painful given it came against one of their direct rivals and was sealed by a striker who Neil coveted last summer.

The tone of his summer mission statement has never altered. Norwich will have bad days, games when they fail to perform or fail to bridge the divide and afternoons when there are more questions than answers. Those who made the pilgrimage south, and the ones who stayed behind, must deal with the rising self-doubt and that nauseous feeling welling inside. City’s supporters have been here before in recent times, yet it would be wrong to draw the same conclusions.

Norwich, under Neil, have always responded to adversity, right from the day he took over at Bournemouth in January 2015, when Jonny Howson’s red card prompted a telling switch from the directors’ box in a move which has now assumed almost mythical proportions in the life story of the Canaries’ young manager.

A week to forget will not define the destiny of a season still firmly in the grip of Neil and his squad. Norwich failed their big audition at Bournemouth to pull further clear of the bottom three, but Liverpool is a new chapter, a fresh page.

The Norwich chief felt there were more redeeming features to this defeat than a no show at Watford or the second half collapse at Newcastle. But the manner of City’s capitulation, both individually and collectively, was a troubling interlude and further proof even at such an advanced stage this set of players can exhibit alarming frailty.

But they are also capable of resolution and fighting spirit and, it is worth documenting in the midst of fresh navel-gazing, the quality required to prevail in the Premier League.

We know this because for every Watford, Newcastle and now Bournemouth Neil’s squad can throw Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United on the table.

Neil is unlikely to tolerate a repeat of this latest surrender on the south-coast, and neither should his under-performing players. The limited rations they served at Bournemouth were unacceptable. It is not about reactions against the Reds, it is about proving they belong.

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  • GolfCan; spot on ref leadership. There is none. I'd hoped G. O'Neil might provide it, but his brain went AWOL at Stoke. Norwich's performances can be dithery. Incidentally, hockey goalies were encouraged to blanco their pads as it caused strikers to fire at them! That pink goalie outfit puts me in mind of those funny little sweets with a hazelnut on top. Hazelnut pyramids? Can't remember. I think they were a bit upmarket - 8d a quarter.

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    Mad Brewer

    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • What AN needs is leadership on the pitch. When the team starts to fold, as has happened now on three or four occasions this season, Alex needs a Mackay, Dublin or a Holt on the pitch to get the team pulling together. I see this as more pressing than a striker, after all we would have needed one who could score 5 at Newcastle and 4 at Bournemouth given the team collapse. And please Alex, get rid of that 'striker friendly' pink outfit.

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    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • Complacency is the view that is running around me head, plenty of room in there. The majority of these players have been together for 3 or more seasons with some playing week in, week out regardless of performance level. The options for replacing like for like is limited so no pressure to fight for their places? I think the whole place needs fresh faces to join the likes of Brady and Jarvis, hopefully the new signings will give them the jolt many of them require. Lets hope we get the new ones over the line soon and they make the difference.

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    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • Why is it that NC look so disorganised, that many players look lethargic, that they can't seem to pass to their own players etc.??? . . . If the reports after stated that they had played well and given their all, but lost to a better side a side playing better, I'm sure it would encourage more positivity, but seeing them turn out and be turned over by sides who at the end of the day don't have loads of skilful players, but ones who run and run and play for each other is not something to pin hope on. . . There has been the usual bit about 2 games in a week and tiredness . . . really?? - sorry it doesn't wash - these are supposedly well paid professional sportsmen who should be at their peak in terms of fitness - other games watched and the players didn't seem to show this - lots of movement and involvement and skill shown oh and the playing together as a team . . . there is a reason why NC have been shown live the least amount on TV this season perhaps it is because they just aren't good enough . . . still at least those who watch won't have to worry about goal less draws - what is it now only 3 games where they haven't conceded - the worst in all 4 divisions

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    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • No fault of ANs he has several players who are not Prem standard and a few lazy sods who are not fit to wear the shirt, let's hope the list of targets he delivered to the Board is completed this week.

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    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • It's that full pink keepers kit - Rudd probably struggled to keep a straight face every time he remembered what he was wearing and Bournemouth had the strongest visual guide possible of where not to aim!

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    Thomas Lubbock

    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • One of Neil's mistakes is refusing to play Kyle Lafferty. His recent record with Northern Ireland and City shows he is natural goal-scorer. It's about time he was brought out of the shadows. No-one else is working.

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    Steve Gordon

    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • This game was lost within the first few minutes. Bournemouth had an energy and hunger about them that we didn't match. We looked disorganised, void of ideas and creativity, ponderous on the very few occasions we ventured forward, and disinterested. Hoolihan was man-marked out of the game, cutting off any supply to Mbokani. Russell Martin had rings run around him which appeared to unsettle Bennett and Bassong, and as for Redmond he added very little - other than to allow Bournemouth an open channel to attack down their left hand side. An appalling performance.

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    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • I am fed up with reading about freak results the Manchester United result was a freak we played well against Arsenal the Everton game they could of been six nil up by half time these are just bonus points that we normally don't get when you lose to teams like Watford and Bournemouth and they absolutely hammy you this is the concerning factor thank god we picked up the freak points

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    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • Lincs Canary - your comment is spot on and I well remember when we played Sunderland under Lambert the team pretty much 'failed to turn up' as seems to have happened at the Vitality. I don't accept the excuse that the team was tired - they're professional sportsmen after all. Apparently we're very close to the signing of Klose and hopefully Pinto will be fit to at least play a part in the game against Liverpool and then should be fully fit by the time Spurs turn up. I would also like to see Naismith sign, as I feel Wes is either not playing as well as he used to, or teams have worked out how to nullify him. Apparently Declan kept the score reasonable, but Martin had a bit of a nightmare again, so maybe time for another big call for AN and Martin to be relegated to the bench. A good display against Liverpool and we can move on and put the disappointment of Saturday behind us.

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    Mr Ed

    Monday, January 18, 2016

  • Neil inherited a squad of players with an inherent tendency to inconsistency and although he nursed them to promotion that flaw in their collective mindset remains. We have to hope that new arrivals will not only enhance the quality available but also bring a tough no nonsense attitude to the dressing room.

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    Lincs Canary

    Monday, January 18, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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