Norwich City must pick locks to ensure the Big Wheel keeps on turning

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Mark Rivers (right) celebrates scoring Norwich City's second goal with Damien Fran

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Mark Rivers (right) celebrates scoring Norwich City's second goal with Damien Francis during a 2-0 win against Rotherham at Carrow Road in August 2003. Picture: Adrian Judd

It's certainly been a week of ups and downs for me, all the way from the Big Wheel on Blackpool's Central Pier to the slough of despond that I was plunged into by Tuesday's result.

While the post-match feelings were very different the fact is that both games were part of a pattern that has been emerging in recent weeks. We have all been swept along by the euphoria of the regular get out of jail cards that have been played, but it was inevitable that at some point City's luck would run out.

It could easily have happened at Bloomfield Road, hardly the most inspiring of surroundings in a town which can best be described as a post apocalyptic Great Yarmouth. In a half-full stadium, Blackpool's ragbag of free transfers and journeymen did a pretty good job of holding City for an hour as the visitors huffed and puffed without much penetration.

While Blackpool had little to offer going forward they were able to see off City's forays pretty effectively and probably couldn't believe their luck to find themselves in the lead when David Perkins exploited City's high defensive line to set up a rare chance.

Fortunately, an own goal and a huge deflection turned the game around, but it could have been a very different story had the Seasiders held the lead for longer than nine minutes. However, none of us was too concerned as we celebrated City's return to the top of the table long after the home support had melted away.


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Saturday required a lot of effort from City so it was surprising to see only one change on Tuesday night given the much-vaunted size of the squad, but once again the side started well. However, once Charlton had got organised, a familiar pattern started to emerge with City's build-up becoming increasingly predictable.

While I applaud Neil Adams' decision to go with two strikers, the 4-4-2 formation that has been used in recent games with Wes Hoolahan nominally wide on the left results in much of the responsibility for launching attacks resting with the two defensive midfield players.

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While both Alex Tettey and Bradley Johnson have many admirable qualities, neither possesses the range of passing to unlock packed defences or a natural inclination to run with the ball.

Consequently, there is a tendency to move laterally, which allows ample time for opponents to regroup. What's more, with Hoolahan frequently moving into central positions there is often a lack of width in the system.

Very few teams will come to Carrow Road this season with the intention of playing expansively, particularly as it's becoming clear that City are struggling to break down sides that are able to be compact and well-organised. Two points out of the last nine at home is a worrying trend and were it not for City's impressive form on the road there would be much more to be concerned about.

Away from home City are generally playing sides who attack them and are well equipped to deal with that. However, at Carrow Road they have to unpick packed defences. It's difficult, but the outcome of this season depends upon Adams and his team finding a way to do so on a regular basis.

Tuesday's result hardly constitutes a crisis, but it would be dangerous to simply dismiss it as a blip. The expectations for this season have always been high, but after such a good start they've become higher still. Adams is learning on the job, but the speed with which he ditched the diamond after the defeat at Wolves shows his ability to quickly identify and rectify problems.

I have every faith that he will do so again to get City's home form back on track today.

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