Players are struggling to learn their roles at Norwich City

Nathan Redmond is at his best flying forward, but does he do enough defensively?Picture: Focus Image

Nathan Redmond is at his best flying forward, but does he do enough defensively?Picture: Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

As the Canaries sunk to yet another defeat in this increasingly disappointing campaign a comment in the lead up to Swansea sprung to mind.

On this occasion winger Nathan Redmond was struck by the interviewee's curse.

He said: 'The gaffer is telling me not to track back as much. He's giving me the licence to cheat a little bit. He tells me if I feel like I need to track the full-back then I will track him, but if I can cheat, play in the holes and stretch the teams in behind – I did that a lot in the second half against Chelsea – he said he's fine me doing that.'

Perhaps this explains why, as Swansea's deciding goal went in, the 22-year-old was several yards away from both the ball and scorer Gylfi Sigurdsson, generally doing very little at all.

I would certainly rather it was that than a lack of desire to get back and contribute to defensive duties. Possibly only Redmond will know.


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But as the saying goes, 'with power comes responsibility' and if Redmond had been entrusted such freedom, you would still hope he'd have the wisdom to realise there's a time when he needs to get behind the ball and cover. Especially when City's right-back Ivo Pinto is so far forward.

While that wasn't the only reason City returned to Norfolk empty handed, it is another example of City's recent state of mind and muddled thinking, which has led to too much dysfunctional play. Had Swansea's move transpired against Chelsea a few days earlier, the cover might have been available. The formation, with three central defenders, could have meant one of those was free to come across and pick up the man. Three in the centre of midfield, as we've seen at times this season, could have also provided the same support.

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But when there's four at the back as at Swansea, two in the centre of midfield and a host of players already ahead of the ball, who else is free to come across? Gary O'Neil, the nearest midfielder to the ball possibly, but he had more than enough to keep him occupied in the centre of the park.

Not that I want to single out Redmond too much. If that's how he's been told to play, we can't totally blame him.

And in theory I think it's the right tactic to give him more freedom. But finding the right system has been the thing Alex Neil has struggled with for most of the season. In the last few games alone we've witnessed several formations, all of them failing to secure the desired outcome.

During the worst of times Norwich have lacked cohesiveness and structure. The chosen XI have played as individuals, rather than a team. A case in point being the first-half against Chelsea. Did anyone else notice how unnatural Ivo Pinto looked in what is supposed to be his natural position?

Perhaps that was as much to do with the team not knowing how to play to his strengths or to that system, but at times it felt like he was being actively ignored, such was his inability to get into the game.

Granted they get all week to train for each new formation, but it must be hard to settle into a different one time and time again.

I think Neil is also struggling to work out how to fit both Wes Hoolahan and Steven Naismith into the same side, without losing shape and balance. The best 45 minutes I've seen of late came in the second half against Chelsea where, for most of it, City reverted to a conventional 4-4-2. Players like Redmond actually had targets in the box to aim for – and it so very nearly led to a result.

Could it be this simple, but currently out of favour in the sport formation, was effective because each player knew their role? Perhaps going back to basics would be enough to secure the points City so badly need?

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