Michael Bailey: Wasting words, wasting time and wasting team-mates – Six things learned from City's Cardiff crash
PUBLISHED: 05:58 04 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:20 04 December 2017
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It was another sobering weekend in Norwich City’s world as they slipped to EFL Championship defeat at Cardiff – here are MICHAEL BAILEY’s six things from Wales.
1 – You can’t pick and choose
Let’s get this off our chest from the outset. Friday night was absolutely not a no-show. In fact, it was probably expected: lower midtable side takes surprise lead at team in second before being overpowered – as their positions in the table suggest would happen.
City’s level of performance as a generality, pointed to the fact they shouldn’t be sucked into the kind of desperate survival battle some fans are already fearing.
That is the objective view, away from understandably emotive and desperate immediate responses.
And yet, had Daniel Farke’s side played like they did on Friday against either Preston or Barnsley at Carrow Road, one of those games would have brought three points and arguably a much rosier reception from what has been a dozing home crowd for most of the season.
We know performances are going to fluctuate – but the current pattern is not going to do them any favours over the coming weeks.
2 – It’s taking too long, honest
Not the ‘model’ coming good – although there’s no denying the credit bank is empty. City desperately need to top-up the breathing space with a few points.
This is more the sight of City trying to play Farke’s football – which all too often means a pass that’s too slow, a touch that’s too long, a look that’s too lingering, followed by the next pass that’s too predictable. Even in games when they’re playing well.
Too often City’s play takes too long, in which time their sharper opponents have closed them down.
Cardiff had it down to a tee when they played in a higher gear. The rest of the time, they could keep City at bay.
We have seen what Norwich are trying to do and it has worked in spells. But to be brutally honest, at present they too often look inferior to what’s needed, unable to execute things properly and not pragmatic enough to trouble most of the division with it – leaving a sense only the injured players’ return will change the record.
3 – Best not ask Nelson to call it
Hopefully no one has asked Nelson Oliveira to make any important decisions recently – because he’s almost certain to pick the wrong option.
The Portuguese striker’s decision-making in Cardiff really was a sight to behold – topped off by his chance to play in Wes Hoolahan late in the first half. Wes may still be shaking his head, even now.
And yet like a switch, once the game was effectively dead Oliveira was holding the ball up and pinging in superb crosses as City kept pushing to the final whistle in Cardiff.
It was the epitome of frustrating, from a player we all know can tear up this division – and yet on a night like Friday while the game was in the balance, Oliveira was more of a liability than a clinical weapon.
From here on in with the required rediscovery of some form – whether it’s to secure a move out of Norfolk at the quickest opportunity or to help out his current squad-mates – Nelson needs to remember why he’s playing in a team, and quickly.
4 – Words do real damage
Daniel Farke was asked a question in Wednesday’s AGM similar to the one that brought Glenn Roeder’s ‘England tenure’ quote – the moment his own tenure started to unravel. Farke batted his away with aplomb – the charming answer beyond Roeder‘s mischief.
It’s happened before, where past managers give ill-advised quotes that either come back to haunt them, or linger like a bad smell. Those from Farke following defeat at the City Ground may well come up a lot, I fear.
And now we’ve had penalty arguments that don’t work, given Cardiff scored from the same move. The only two scenarios were concede goal, or concede penalty.
Maybe City aren’t getting much luck at the moment, and their current winless run is exactly the sort to breed such trouble.
But at the same time, you really do make your own luck and currently, Norwich only seem able to make their surrounding environment feel that much worse.
5 – Birthdays can make you cringe
I write this as a Neil Warncok fan: The Cardiff supporters’ rendition of Happy Birthday for their manager was the stuff of cringe-inducing nightmare.
However what can’t be denied is the connection Warnock has with those Cardiff fans – and the remarkable rebuild he has completed in such a short space of time.
Much like last season, I left having watched Cardiff thinking Sean Morrison would make someone a very good signing – but this time also appreciating the astute recruitment conducted to bring in players with something to prove, plus a real knowledge of what the Championship is all about.
They weren’t great on Friday, but when Cardiff stepped it up City couldn’t cope. That was enough.
My best friend and I had a solid theory about 15 years ago: be good enough to beat the Championship fodder, and it’ll be good enough to earn promotion. Cardiff may well prove the rule still holds true today.
6 – Without belief, it’s all over
There’s no secret. City are making decisions aimed at a more productive medium to long-term plan – in other words, they’re trying to secure the future of the club.
Given the financial model City’s boardroom is imposing, supporters are going to have to accept following of the club will be different from here compared to recent years – if they want to continue following it at all.
Visionary words are fine but regardless of the plans, the only real measure of success comes on the pitch in the here and now – something Stuart Webber himself told me in midweek.
Farke’s players never gave up on Friday, but at times some looked seriously lost – and he has to nip that in the bud. If he can’t, then the belief of his players in his abilities could take a catastrophic hit.
It is a serious test from here, where every fixture looks like a banana skin holding a placard saying trip here – and City’s only option is to keep their feet.
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