Loyalty towards defenders may be costing Norwich City vital points
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Newcastle away is not a fixture for the faint-hearted Norwich City fan, especially when it's being shown live on television on a Sunday afternoon.
Not so bad though when one of your friends lives in Gateshead and you can tie in a weekend visit. I even persuaded her to accompany me to St James' Park to see her first ever Premier League match, a last-minute purchase that meant our tickets would be arriving at the box office via the Norwich supporters' coaches. I'm just glad I didn't have to make that journey back.
Within 34 minutes she'd witnessed the very best and very worst of this Norwich side. A period which summed up our season so far.
Anyone who's made the trip to St James' will know the away fans are seated up in the clouds in the stadium's third tier. A view which allows you to appreciate the whole pitch which in Sunday's case made it somewhat easier to pre-empt what was to follow when Newcastle surged forward time after time.
Conceding so early shouldn't have been too much of a concern given Newcastle's propensity to throw away leads this season (they did so against Southampton, Chelsea and last week at Manchester City).
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Norwich's response six minutes later was perfect though. As much as City struggled to deal with every Newcastle attack, the home team looked just as weak defending in wide areas where City twice found space to provide two assists.
Norwich's defensive record had been poor leading into this fixture. Sunday's display makes it the worst in the Premier League. Not entirely surprising perhaps given our route in getting there – but it's the lack of investment in what was our weak link in the Championship which makes it hard to accept.
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Quite why a back four that too often conceded sloppy goals in the league below wasn't improved upon in the summer remains a mystery. City needed to bring in better defenders than we already had.
Watford and Bournemouth didn't take that risk of keeping loyal to the defence that got them promoted. Three of the former's back four on Saturday were new signings. They've conceded half the number of goals City have. Bournemouth broke their record transfer fee to sign Tyrone Mings for £8m before he was ruled out with a serious injury.
There are times in this league when we'll have to collectively hold our hands up and pay credit to the opposition. A performance akin to Arsenal's 5-2 win at Leicester a few weeks ago is an example. Sunday though wasn't one of those times. This was a team that had scored only six goals in eight prior games yet managed to double their tally in 90 minutes against the Canaries.
The number of times City have been exposed this season has also been a factor. Neil admitted we lost our 'toughness' in midfield replacing Alex Tettey but that a goal had to come from somewhere. Youssouf Mulumbu will surely be tasked with sitting in front of the defence as soon as he's fit.
I asked my friend for her assessment as we mingled with jubilant Newcastle fans on the walk to the Metro station. 'They weren't even that good, you were just rubbish at defending,' was her verdict. It was hard to disagree.
With no opportunities to bring in defensive reinforcements until January, Neil has to find a quick solution with what he has at his disposal.
The next away fixture is at the Etihad against a Manchester City side scoring on average more than two goals per game. Although I'm one Norwich fan who would accept conceding six goals against a team of that calibre if it meant three points against West Brom at Carrow Road on Saturday.