Six things we learned from Norwich City’s Championship defeat at Queens Park Rangers – including Alex Neil’s end game, yo-yos, Jacob Murphy shining and Ian Holloway bouncing
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1 – Colney has become redundant
A week is said to be a long time in football – so you'd think you would be able to get a lot of work done.
So many spoke before and after Saturday's defeat about the amount of defensive graft put in on Colney's exposed fields. And I'm not doubting that is exactly what's been done at City's training ground – probably for weeks on end.
The issue is when you put all that work in, yet every Saturday the same frailties remain, the same panic sets in and the same mistakes are being made.
Despite all that work – and in situations where Martin Olsson's red card is rendered irrelevant – from that opening long throw to the opening goal, it was a sea of confusion, statues, accusatory glances and open arms.
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Apparently the game plan went out of the window following the dismissal – but shouldn't there be contingencies?
The most successful sides I've seen are ones that adapt and react to situations – and City took far too long to do either.
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Alex Neil spent most of his first six months stating how games were going exactly how he thought they would.
Well now they don't – and it's a major issue.
2 – The yo-yo string has been cut
Seven seasons. John Ruddy uttered the words and it felt like it brought a gasp.
That's a lengthy old spell – and one that has steadily bobbed between the Premier League and Championship top six. Only Russell Martin and Wes Hoolahan have been at the club longer.
The rest have joined a club bidding to return to the top flight or remain there – and always achieving one of the other. Alex Pritchard's arrival from Spurs centres solely on getting back to the Premier League as quickly as possible. It no doubt played a big part in why he chose to complete a U-turn on the M25 – hopefully not literally. But we are seeing signs that the cycle could be coming to an end.
We've already had City's heaviest second-tier defeat since a 5-0 loss at Stoke under Peter Grant in October 2006. Now we have this too – the first time City have lost four consecutive Football League games in a season since October 2007. That's not even the season they were relegated to League One.
They are still one point up on the 17-game tallies in their last two second-tier seasons – but now behind the rate to make 75 points and a top-six spot.
3 – Late subs are pointless subs
There were several moments that pointed to Chris Hughton's eventual demise at Carrow Road – and this was just one: 2-0 down at Newcastle three years ago this month, Leroy Fer made it 2-1 with 10 minutes to go.
Hughton's response was a double substitution – in the 89th minute. Its sole product was to effectively waste nine minutes for no logical reason whatsoever.
That wound me up something proper – and sadly Alex Neil achieved the same feat at Loftus Road. City played 87 minutes against QPR with 10 men – and the City boss still didn't use all three subs.
What's more, he brought on Josh Murphy with two minutes to go. A tactical change, with 120 seconds to pay off. That has to be as futile as it gets.
Cameron Jerome's 75th minute introduction was better. He was unlucky to fall foul of the random team selection generator, and then proved he should've started over a struggling Nelson Oliveira.
Alex Neil isn't affecting games in the right way with his changes, and in truth he rarely has.
4 – Jacob's rest has done him good
Positive news regarding the Canaries has been in short supply – but there was definitely some last week. Suggestions Jacob Murphy is about to put pen to paper on a new City contract is welcome – as would be confirmation it's signed, sealed and delivered. That Josh will hopefully follow only ups the positive vibes.
Which brings us on to Saturday, where Jacob returned to the City starting line-up – and looked back to his best.
Sure, there were wrong decisions – one in particular looked like it was going to cause Steven Naismith to self-combust.
But none of it stopped Jacob being City's brightest spark all afternoon. He was unfortunate to see a stirring effort smash the crossbar, before he teed up Naismith's late consolation header.
We really are at the point where City need the energy of both Murphys on the pitch for longer than two minutes.
Naismith deserves some credit here too.
He's scored a goal every five City games now. That's better than his ratio at Everton and not far off his career record. It still feels like there is something he can offer.
5 – Blasé City delivered for Ollie
The questions were obvious ahead of Friday's pre-match press conference at Colney – would City be able to deal with QPR's shot at some new manager bounce under Ian Holloway?
The answers from Alex Neil and Ryan Bennett were fine. They were honest. They were relaxed. They were almost blasé.
There is a bravado that can come with answering our questions and that's perfectly reasonable – because the conversations behind closed doors should then be different. What you don't expect is the team to look equally blasé on the pitch. That is really the unforgivable part.
All day Loftus Road was buzzing. By the time Ollie was being fully re-introduced to the fans, the place was bouncing – and it never really stopped. It almost certainly helped them dig in too.
While City were going through the motions of talking up keeping the crowd quiet, they seemed completely caught out over the reality of it all.
QPR were OK. Their renaissance might not last long – but that was never the worry in these parts.
Instead, we all got what we had expected – and what was supposed to have been guarded against.
6 – We are in the end game
Football fans as a collective are not stupid – especially here. They know what they are watching. They can see the weaknesses. They know when things needs to change. Through so many years of support, they have seen it all – and will see it again.
They've seen this all before too – even at QPR, where Peter Grant's ill-fated City reign ended.
So what of Alex Neil? Well for me, the Brighton hammering was a watershed, the lack of reaction against Leeds confirmed it – the rest is just waiting.
The players continue to be defiant – and having spoken to John Ruddy, there was not even an inkling managerial change would help things. That in itself makes the point: whatever happens next, only the right manager will sort out a host of problems, conflicts and imbalances that seem to run deeper than Alex Neil.
Delia and Michael's interview won't be forgotten. And Saturday's defensive line could have been picked for City any time in the last four seasons.
Neil said he has to work with what he's got. The question is, would Sam Allardyce etc get clean sheets – and more – out of the same line-up?