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Robin Sainty: Loss provided a reminder of the huge task facing City

Emi Buendia endured a frustrating afternoon at the London Stadium. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Emi Buendia endured a frustrating afternoon at the London Stadium. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Last Saturday was something of a reality check both for the fans and players of Norwich City.

Despite a promising start the Canaries were ultimately well beaten and had an outstanding series of saves from Tim Krul to thank for keeping the score to 2-0.

In the soulless bowl of the London Stadium for the first time this season City looked bereft of ideas and seemed unable to cope with the physicality of West Ham as the home team consistently forced them into mistakes.

West Ham's captain Mark Noble had written in his programme notes that his team intended to teach the visitors what the Premier League was all about and they succeeded in that as they extinguished City's attacking threat, constantly pressurised their midfield and exploited the wide-open spaces behind their attacking fullbacks.

It was a thoroughly professional performance from a team who have a good balance of power and inventiveness and some of their first-time passing was exceptional.

They are a very good side and will certainly threaten the top six this season.

That said Norwich were well below par and, for the first time since that first half at Anfield they found themselves being overrun after half time.

City's midfielders were regularly brushed aside and on occasions seemed to be struggling to track back when the ball was lost. Emi Buendia in particular needs to learn quickly that standing and waving his arms over a perceived injustice when the ball is lost and the opposition are pouring forward isn't an option at this level.

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The Argentinian has yet to fully get to grips with the Premier League, and he isn't alone, but it's important to set that against the fact that like several of his colleagues he is a young man who has never played at this level before.

However much we may want to criticise it the reality is that the top division is a huge jump from the Championship and even the "lesser" teams (and I certainly wouldn't put West Ham in that category) are on a par with the top Championship sides.

MORE: 'Horrible' week for City, admits Krul

That's not to excuse City's lacklustre performance last week but merely to recognise the size of the task in hand, something made considerably harder by the rapidly growing injury crisis.

However, it was always clear that the opening fixtures were going to be challenging to say the least and if I'm honest City's points total is pretty much where I expected it to be at this stage while their performances against Liverpool and Chelsea probably exceeded my expectations, which is why the way that they played against the Hammers was so disappointing.

There was none of the verve that we have seen in recent weeks and their passing looked laboured whereas previously it had appeared instinctive, but the real worry is how easily they were sometimes knocked off the ball.

To draw too many conclusions after just four league games of a 38-game season would be foolish in the extreme but it's interesting that the most physically robust of the three promoted teams, Sheffield United, have started better than City or Villa.

The dilemma for Daniel Farke is that City's approach is based upon dominating possession, but as we saw in certain games last season when they don't control the ball they can be extremely vulnerable to sides able to exploit the space on their flanks.

While I admire and understand Farke's desire to field as many creative players as possible I do wonder, as I did at Anfield, whether in this sort of tough away fixture there might be an argument for fielding two defensive midfielders.

While that might reduce City's creativity it would also make them tougher defensively and perhaps secure more possession for their flair players. For now though, I suspect that the biggest issue on Farke's mind will be getting through the international break with no more injuries.

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