Melissa Rudd: West Ham winger showed Canaries what we’re missing
West Ham winger Felipe Anderson’s man of the match performance at the London Stadium on Saturday served as a painful reminder of what this Norwich squad lacks.
It's hard to recall many wingers in the Championship beating Max Aarons in a foot race, but the pacy 26-year-old had the run of City's right-back all afternoon.
Onel Hernandez is arguably Norwich's only natural winger, and while not comparing his ability to that of the Brazilian international, he is the closest Daniel Farke has to a player of Anderson's ilk.
The game was crying out for a Hernandez-like figure to come on and try and beat a man at pace, giving the West Ham defence something else to think about as they made light work of intercepting sloppy passes and all too obvious one-twos that failed to create barely any openings.
Hernandez's injury has deprived Farke of that option which he exercised in the 70th minute at Anfield, and given the Cuban started 34 of 46 league games last season he wouldn't have been limited to coming off the bench to make an impact.
City were dispossessed 21 times in Stratford, almost double the number they were against Chelsea. They collectively struggled to find gaps against a compact West Ham central midfield that defended well then used their wide men to great effect.
In the absence of midfielders which hug the touchline, the emphasis is always on both full-backs to get forward and help in attack, which leaves City so vulnerable when they lose possession. While Aarons and Jamal Lewis have excelled in bombing forward down the channels and offering an outlet out wide, it's a huge ask to expect them to fulfil that duty to the same effect at this level when City have their backs to the wall far more often against teams who can keep the ball better.
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A string of fine Tim Krul saves prevented the scoreline from ending up a fairer reflection of the home side's complete dominance. The head coach may attribute the West Ham onslaught to his side going all out in attack and chasing the game but even then City only mustered five shots in the second half, with Teemu Pukki cutting an isolated figure.
There will be more afternoons like this one to come this season, even in a title winning campaign there were games where City just didn't click. The difference this time is they are facing teams with a lot more talent and an abundance of resources to inflict damage.
Sebastien Haller did that in more ways than one when his late tackle caused Christoph Zimmermann to limp off. The extent of that foot ligament injury is still unknown and news of Tom Trybull being ruled out for six weeks gives Farke a further headache given Ibrahim Amadou would have been the automatic pick to replace him in that defensive midfield role.
West Ham were more than deserving of their comfortable victory, and given the money invested in their squad in recent seasons there was never going to be any shame in an away defeat. It just feels worse when Norwich were so under par.
The Canaries' underwhelming performance mirrored the matchday experience at the London Stadium that was befitting of the same description. West Ham's shiny new ground may be perfectly practical in terms of its facilities, but it's a completely soulless stadium to watch football in that's at least a 25 minute walk from any of the atmospheric pubs you'd associate with an east London away day.
With injuries mounting up the enforced break has at least come at a good time for City, though it won't feel that way should any more players pick up knocks on international duty before daunting task of trying to restrict the Premier League champions at Carrow Road.
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