Swansea’s Moore not merrier for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
What a difference a goal makes. Had Luke Moore not exploited the dangerous tendency towards ball watching which afflicted City's defenders on Saturday, I wonder how different post game reactions would have been?
Having been woeful for the first 25 minutes the Canaries had just started to get into the game when they went behind, and I think that we all feared the worst at that point. However, the immediate response, followed later by Michael Turner's impressive finish looked to have sealed the points until Moore's intervention.
Ironically given the current focus on the team's attacking deficiencies, for once it was the defensive performance that was the focus of post game analysis. Both goals were poor. For the first Michu was a full stride ahead of his marker, and for the second not one but two Swansea players were free beyond the last defender on a cross. It wasn't a good day at the office for the back four.
Having said that, Michu is a remarkable player and it's not difficult to see why he has made such an impact in the Premier League. Swansea's system allows him the freedom to pop up in front of their back four and in wide positions as well as up front, but his timing of late runs into the box is what makes him such a threat. He reminds me of Martin Peters in his pomp, and that is high praise.
Ironically, had this been a mid-season game we would have left the ground slightly disappointed not to have won, but pleased to have seen a good game of attacking football with plenty of goalmouth incident. Tony Gale on Sky's Football First described it as a cracking game of football, but when survival depends on results, we don't have the luxury of seeing it in those terms.
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I have to say that Swansea are an impressive team, who are currently some way ahead of City in terms of development, as their league position implies. Anyone who had thought they were winding down after winning the League Cup and breaching the 40-point mark would have been surprised by how committed they were on Saturday. Being safe they can play with freedom, and their passing and movement was excellent, while City seemed almost paralysed by the febrile atmosphere around the ground as the early exchanges developed.
For much of the game Swansea played an effective 3-6-1, with Dwight Tiendalli ignoring his defensive duties, and Michu drifting wherever he chose to. Despite the ongoing misconception that not playing 4-4-2 is the equivalent of playing for a draw, playing a four-man midfield against such a system, particularly given the quality of Swansea's passing, would have been suicidal.
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While the visiting players were happy to go laterally or backwards in order to keep possession if nothing was on ahead of them, City's early problems largely stemmed from an over-eagerness to seize control of the game, resulting in passes being forced when they weren't really on. Unfortunately that is partly a by-product of tension, and that tension won't disappear until that elusive victory finally arrives.
Of course, City are far from alone in this situation. Reading and QPR are now pretty much nailed on for two of the relegation spots, with nine teams, including City, fighting to avoid the other.
None of those teams has been able to produce a consistent run of results, which is why things are so tight, and in the case of Sunderland and Stoke their recent form makes City's look positively sparkling.
As the games tick by, however, it becomes an ever-greater test of temperament, both on the pitch and in the stands. Anyone of a nervous disposition would be well advised to look away now, because it could be a bumpy few weeks.