Michael Bailey: Emotionally out, buying time, thanks Leistner – Six things learned from City’s Blades cut
PUBLISHED: 06:05 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 22:09 20 August 2018
A sucker punch in every way – PinkUn Show host and Norwich City correspondent MICHAEL BAILEY hits out with his six of the best as the Canaries come unstick against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
1 – Football laughs in the face of logic
It’s been long enough now to appreciate how Daniel Farke believes football should be played – and what he wants.
If City have the ball, the opposition can’t score. If you shoot more, statistics say you’ll score more. A series of logical statements that in essence, can’t be argued with.
But then, when Sheffield United start creating equal chances with about a 10th of the possession and in a quarter of the time, you know football is never as simplistic as some would like. But it has struck me that when City delve so deep and are reliant on such logic, you’re almost playing down another element: emotion.
Defeat hurt. City wanted victory. Farke wanted victory. Everyone who made the trip from Norwich, wanted to return with something good.
But for a lot of 2018, I’d argue others have dug deeper for more; a point, a clean sheet or a winner – maybe by only 1pc, but even that’s enough. It’s a question now being posed of City – and one that now needs an answer.
2 – Someone is always worse off
At least City have stayed in every game so far this term. The sight of one-time target Toni Leistner and QPR’s defending at West Brom in their 7-1 Hawthorns thrashing should have Rangers’ fans more worried than where we all are.
Sadly, that QPR smashing is the only reason City’s defensive record is not the worst in the Championship during the initial exchanges – which is a worry, given the ‘defence being sorted’ was sealed at the end of 2017.
That’s glib to a degree, and of course City’s volume of individual mistakes urgently needs a cull. Likewise, opponents’ targeting Ben Marshall at right-back is starting to ring alarm bells.
But then, Saturday’s defeat saw several individual mistakes crammed into about 30 seconds of criminal injury-time game management – a far harder issue to sort out.
Players will always have weaknesses, but City have to make sure they’re so weak they undo their strengths.
3 – Jam’in does suit the Canaries
There’s been no avoiding the hype around Jamal Lewis. Since bursting on to the City scene, the academy product became an international footballer with Northern Ireland and was heralded as the club’s next major asset.
And yet while being impressed at how the 20-year-old took to professional football in his debut months, the reality still seemed to be a player with loads to learn.
In 22 appearances last term, there was a lack of attacking threat and a few too many defensive errors – not in anyway writing Lewis off from being the top player he may reach, but as the reality of his current progress and where that now leaves him.
And in truth, where it left him was an excellent return to first-team action in Sheffield – with comfortable use of the ball, doing the majority of his defensive work well and looking the lead left-back he will want to become. And all without any pre-season of note.
It was a major positive for Farke to take away.
4 – City’s counter proposal does have legs
It’s one of football’s real frustrations – when a good, well-worked goal is rendered pointless.
City were desperately looking for a grip in Saturday’s game when they broke from deep in their own half – with each of Jordan Rhodes, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki contributing to a wonderful counter-attack.
Indeed, it was a long way from the goals City were scoring last season – and an example of the quality they do possess in attack.
City have more positive moments on the break in the second half too, albeit as a result of United grabbing more of the play with a tweak to their own shape. But in terms of away from home, there does seem to be a fluidity that City can really exploit – once they regain some composure in front of one goal, and solidity in front of the other.
Sadly, the best counter – the butt of several jokes – should have been disallowed for offside. Trust Norwich to fluff a gift from the officials.
5 – There’s plenty still left for Wilder to wind up
First things first, fair play Sheffield United. They clearly hold a lot against City, and they got to get it all off their chest with a late winner. It must have felt like heaven to them.
Likewise, we got through a game at Bramall Lane without bottles being thrown on the pitch or any Norwich fans being assaulted.
I’m not raking over old ground. Credit where it’s due – no football fans should feel fear when simply travelling to follow their team, and the fact Saturday was a smoother event means the Blades must have done some work to calm everyone down a bit.
And I’d never criticise Chris Wilder for going loopy at a last-minute winner either. Go for it; you earned it.
It says it all about the job Wilder has done with United that they’ve always looked reasonably average – and yet, they seem to be regularly effective with it. They just need to be careful that such long spells without their customary intensity could stifle further development.
6 – It’s time for City to buy some (again)
We’ve been here before, of course. Only 12 months ago, in fact – so arguably a game earlier but it served the same purpose then too.
After a late equaliser away from home and a Carrow Road defeat to a relegated Premier League side, a welcome midweek visit from QPR bought a 2-0 win and three points. Given what happened in the two following games, that victory really was crucial to the early exchanges last term.
This time, it’s Alex Neil’s Preston – no doubt desperate to put a spanner in the works of his former club, however much it’s played down.
As the social media temperature approaches a low fever, it’s always the mood inside Carrow Road that dictates so much – and with North End then leaders Leeds arriving before the week is over, the thermometers will be out.
In terms of the equivalent fixtures last season, City actually won six of these eight. The only option now is to make up some ground.
• For the latest Norwich City news and opinion follow Michael Bailey on the following channels…