Steven Naismith and Wes Hoolahan are the Norwich City pieces that struggle to fit together
PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 August 2016
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Win, lose or draw, derby days are always draining experiences.
When the contest was as close as the one on Sunday the tension and nerves particularly take their toll. In fact, the game drew so many parallels with the Championship play-off semi-final that at times it was only when catching sight of the thousands of empty seats that I was reminded there wasn’t a second leg to come and a trip to Wembley at stake.
It wasn’t just the scoreline and timing of Ipswich’s goal that bore similarities to our last visit to Portman Road. Daryl Murphy in particular caused City’s defence no end of problems again, this time giving Timm Klose a hard time as opposed to Russell Martin.
Although 15 months apart, both of those Town equalisers were avoidable and both came in time added on at the end of the first half through indefensible lapses in concentration. At the weekend it was switching off while defending a throw-in, that should have posed no threat, that caused the damage when it found its way directly to Murphy in the penalty area. City had a dominant spell after Cameron Jerome’s pinpoint finish put them ahead, but were unable to turn that into sustained pressure. His opener came from great play on the right by Ivo Pinto, yet far too often Norwich played without any width. Without him in the second half City carried far less threat.
Neither Wes Hoolahan, inset, nor Steven Naismith provide natural width and long passes over the top were easily cut out by Ipswich’s towering defenders who were first to the ball time and again. The playmaking duo are better through the middle, but can the team accommodate both effectively? Positionally Naismith looks lost in the system and it’s difficult to see where else he could fit in. He’s not a winger and doesn’t possess the physical attributes to lead the line.
The opening-day rout at Blackburn looks as though it could have been a false dawn in terms of City’s attacking prowess given the results for both clubs since. Rovers have conceded on average three goals per game, while Norwich’s performances against stronger teams have yielded a worrying lack of clear cut chances and a return of just two goals in three games.
While it’s imperative Alex Neil adds at least one new striker before the transfer window closes, equally as paramount will be adopting a system that gets the very best out of our attacking talent.
In contrast to this time last season, City haven’t been guilty of creating a host of chances that are not being taken. While Steven Whittaker was unlucky to hit the post late on, Jerome scored from virtually the only chance he was given.
Movement off the ball in the final third continues to be an issue though, and creativity will have to improve to unlock stubborn defences. When Norwich get it right they are a joy to watch, but doing it in 10 or 15 minute spells won’t be good enough if we are striving for an immediate return to the Premier League.
Much like that away play-off leg, Norwich seemed to almost play within themselves. When you factor in Town had an early goal disallowed you could argue we were lucky to come away with anything. Standing two points off top spot in the table and remaining unbeaten has to be a positive, while the overwhelming feeling is that the best is yet to come. Just how good that will be though could depend heavily on whether Neil can sign that elusive much sought after striker.