Norwich City boss Alex Neil's Watford school report makes grim reading
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Alex Neil made it clear it was retakes all round for his lacklustre Norwich City side after a 2-0 Premier League reverse at Watford.
Neil was in no mood for dishing out favourable player ratings after watching Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo seal a merited victory for their fellow promoted rivals.
“I don’t think there are many who can come off that pitch with pass marks,” he said. “We under-performed. To win any game, if you look at the starting line up you pick as a whole and the ones who come off the bench as well, and you need at least seven, eight or even nine playing well. I don’t think we had that.
“It is difficult when you lose but I didn’t think there was a huge amount in the game or that we were totally out-played. I just felt that in the vital bits we didn’t do well enough.
“They didn’t pen us in, but they are compact and they are good at what they do. I said they are a very different side to the one last season, when they tried to play between the lines and make the pitch very big and get the ball down, and if the two strikers play as well as they are capable then they will cause teams problems this season.”
Neil was adamant Ighalo’s growing effectiveness was triggered by Norwich’s penalty concession, when Alex Tettey hauled down the Nigerian striker in a bid to rectify loose control pounced on by Deeney.
“I wouldn’t say he dominated my defenders in the first half,” said Neil. “I don’t think we saw him before the penalty but as the game wore on his sharp movements down the side gave us a problem.
“We knew that was coming and we sat Alex in front of him so we literally had three versus two in that area of the pitch, with the full-back tucked in as well. As the game wore on, Watford looked more dangerous with Ighalo in particular on the break. There was nothing in it until we made an error and cost ourselves a penalty. Basically we didn’t perform well enough.”
Tettey’s error of judgement summed up a sluggish offering from the Canaries.
“From my view it looked like Alex got the ball. I felt it was harsh at the time but to be honest we made our own problems,” said Neil. “If you look at Watford I don’t think they played any square passes in that first half. Everything they got they helped it on and turned it forward and basically played the conditions. That is the game-management at this level you need to get the results.
“I think if you look at the build-up to the first goal we risk the ball in areas of the pitch we didn’t need to. It is not pretty but you have to fight and scrap and make sure you take something from games like this. I wouldn’t say there was a lack of fight, it was more a lack of game-management; of when to put your foot on the ball and pick a pass or go and win your challenge or header.
“We chose the wrong times to do that and it cost us a penalty and it cost us a goal. I don’t think there was a lack of effort or endeavour, just a lack of decent performances.”