Norwich City can expect Baggies to follow a familiar pattern

Alex Neil has to accept some of the blame for the defeat at Newcastle. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focu

Alex Neil has to accept some of the blame for the defeat at Newcastle. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Two seasons ago Norwich were dismantled by Manchester City at the Etihad and it was tough to watch as every attack looked likely to result in a goal.

Fair enough, Manchester City are a great team, but on Sunday I had exactly the same feeling as Newcastle (or winless Newcastle as they were previously known) exploited the space offered by defenders who appeared to believe that getting tight to their man (assuming that they were actually in the same postcode area to start with) might result in the transmission of some deadly disease.

As a display of defending as a unit it was absolutely shocking and my heart goes out to those hardy souls who sacrificed their Sundays to watch it at first hand.

Each goal seemed to be an even bigger horror show than the last as defenders allowed themselves to be backed into the penalty area, tackles were missed and marking assignments were blown.

The doziness that seemed to permeate the whole defensive unit had been illustrated early on as Sebastien Bassong and John Ruddy dithered to almost allow Alexandar Mitrovic to sneak in and dispossess the goalkeeper, but the lesson wasn't learned.


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It's the oldest cliché in the book, but Newcastle wanted it so much more than City, who hardly won a 50:50 tackle all afternoon and were completely unable to find a way to stop Moussa Sissoko rampaging through their midfield at will.

For once, Alex Neil can't be absolved from criticism because the removal of Alex Tettey for Wes Hoolahan with so much time in the game and a back four that seemed completely unable to cope without some form of protection was hard to understand at the time and soon proved to be a faux pas of spectacular proportions.

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It would be nice to be able to say that we couldn't have seen this coming, but 20 goals conceded in nine games during which long periods of dominance have been enjoyed isn't a random occurrence.

City's defence has looked brittle all season and is currently dragging down an attacking unit that looks perfectly capable of generating enough goals for a decent mid-table finish.

There were plenty of concerns expressed about the failure to significantly strengthen the defence in the summer and, while I accept that it wasn't for the want of trying, it does mean that the options available to Neil for changes in that area are now extremely limited. However, even if they weren't I'm not convinced that wholesale blood-letting is necessarily the answer, although maintaining the status quo clearly doesn't look like a particularly attractive option either.

Whilst I love the attacking intent of Neil's sides, there was a naivety to last Sunday's tactics as City were consistently caught with too many players in advanced positions as Newcastle broke at pace and in numbers. The Toon used very similar tactics to those employed by Leicester, and I suspect we will see more of the same from West Brom today. Why not, when the Canaries have yet to come up with an effective Plan B and continue to offer the most fragile of glass jaws?

However, it would be wrong to overreact. We are only nine games into the season and have a highly-rated young manager. While it would be foolish to paper over the defensive cracks, some of City's attacking football has been superb and there is always the danger that a knee-jerk reaction after such a humiliation could actually make matters worse. Last Sunday will have been a chastening experience for Neil and his players and I have every confidence that we will see a positive reaction today, regardless of who gets the nod to start.

It suddenly feels like a huge game, doesn't it?

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