Alex Neil’s three-point plan to get Norwich City back on track
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's Championship revival is as simple as one, two, three for Alex Neil.
The Scot has had to stew over the fallout from a Brighton hammering that turned a blip into a serious test of his managerial credentials. Neil and his squad need an emphatic statement against Leeds United to begin the healing process after the carnage that unfolded on the south-coast.
'The best word I can use is we probably got too comfortable. We came off the back of seven wins in eight, went top of the league, and it is much harder once you dip to get back to that level,' said Neil. 'I am fully expecting that intensity to be back this weekend. If your intensity levels drop and you don't match the effort then you will come unstuck in this league. We haven't done the fundamentals right. When you have the ball give it to another shirt of the same colour, when you don't have it, get it back as quickly as you can and never give up. If those three components are not right then it doesn't matter about all the other detail like tactics and so on. If they are then they can take you a long, long way. If our intensity is good enough then form comes back.
'If you take a period of 10 games and you bring a player in you can guarantee he will be bang at it for one, two, three games. Once he gets to eight, nine, ten it is about making sure the approach is still the same.'
Neil's dissection of City's recent downturn on Friday appeared to centre around the scourge of complacency.
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'I think that is fair to say,' he said. 'I don't think the players go into a game feeling, 'I don't need to try,' but on a sub-conscious level there is a wanting and a need to do well, and the two are very different. Players want to play well but when they are at it you can always see it and looking at them in training this week they are at it because they are hurting.
'It was hard to criticise them after they have won seven games out of eight and they don't play well for 45 minutes at Fulham. Two games before that they were top of the table. Preston was a game we didn't play well but could quite easily win. At Leeds, I made eight changes, and I thought we should have won the game but lost on penalties. In terms of being complacent I don't think you can come in bawling and shouting at that stage, but to lose in the manner we did at Brighton puts us in this current situation where it becomes a bigger talking point.'
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The Canaries' chief pledged to ring the changes in the immediate aftermath of that crushing Seagulls' loss but Alex Tettey's suspension and a raft of injuries may limit his room for manoeuvre.
'When you speak after a game there is a lot of emotion and you say things in the heat of the moment but in the cold light of day you have to pick who you feel are the best players to win a game,' he said. 'That means who has trained well this week, who is hungry, who hasn't taken their position for granted. We have been really consistent in terms of our line-ups but sometimes that can breed complacency. Shaking it up from time to time can be a good thing, but we have to win crucial matches and this is one.
'We want to start well but if it doesn't happen in the first five minutes, then the most important thing is we have 90 minutes to win a game. We want to start well but if we have an average first-half and play extremely well thereafter and win the game then that is all that matters.
'The fans want a response, we want a response but our task is to win the game. I want them to give the lads that backing.'
Neil is untroubled by facing a resurgent Leeds, who knocked his side out of the EFL Cup.
'It doesn't matter about how confident they are,' he said. 'No disrespect to them but it is how we approach the game that matters. If we play the way we can we are not scared of anybody coming here.'