Paddy Davitt: Norwich City can forget a Championship walkover
- Credit: Sean Dempsey/Focus Images Ltd
Epic mood swings, elation one moment, abject gloom the next. Gold medal contenders or just flattering to deceive. The Rio Olympics seemingly has nothing on Norwich City's early forays in the Championship.
This opening instalment at Carrow Road was the antidote to the erroneous belief Norwich's vibrant Blackburn display signalled a serene march back to the Premier League. Given Rovers were hammered again at newly-promoted Wigan, that Ewood Park romp was placed firmly in context even before Sheffield Wednesday underlined they were a far more accurate measure of what the second tier has to offer.
Put the result to one side for a second, and the inability to score, which highlights the quest for new reinforcements and sparked palpable frustration inside the stadium. Of far greater concern, since City's mission statement is to pass teams into submission on a tide of creative intent, was the manner such methods were nullified by the Owls.
Far more worrying for the season ahead is the sense Norwich can be so frustrated, so disrupted by that swarming, cohesive, destructive element which most sides in the division can harness; albeit few will do it quite as well as Carlos Carvalhal's squad.
Alex Neil, as so often, was able to tap into this vein immediately after the game in the midst of all the disappointment and disapproval. City must develop alternative avenues to probe and prosper when Wes Hoolahan and Steven Naismith are smothered, when Jonny Howson is a peripheral influence, when Josh Murphy looks like a young man still coming to terms with the challenge ahead of him this season to make a breakthrough.
The absence of Graham Dorrans and Alex Pritchard, allied to his twin Jacob's untimely leg injury, coupled with the departures during the action of Martin Olsson and John Ruddy, drastically impinged on Neil's ability to alter the flow of a confidence-sapping evening.
But these are the tests and problems they can expect on a weekly basis. Newcastle United are rapidly discovering those pre-season predictions they will cruise back to the top flight were wide of the mark. Aston Villa managed to get their show on the road at the third attempt, after defeats to the Owls and an ignominious League Cup exit at Luton Town.
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Those who berated Neil for his decision to introduce Youssouf Mulumbu and withdraw Cameron Jerome in the final quarter must quickly shed any arrogant notions Norwich will routinely roll over league opponents; certainly not ones who only fell at the final hurdle at Wembley last May and who flexed their financial muscle this summer to beat City to the signing of free agent Steven Fletcher.
If you want to package this as a reality check after the euphoria of Blackburn then so be it. But Neil and the bulk of a squad who emerged from the same minefield the season before last hardly needed to suffer an epiphany to convince them how tough this campaign will be.
City failed to function as an effective fighting force with the ball but a clean sheet, woven around the impressive Timm Klose, even with the double disruption of injuries to both Ruddy and Olsson, indicated they have a solid platform to attain further progress. In some respects, Norwich's stirring win in Lancashire brought negative connotations; fuelling the hype and sparking soaring expectations. An air of cautious realism should now settle. The Canaries do not have a squad to cut a swathe through the second tier – not right now and not after the window shuts in a few weeks. Yet that applies equally to all their promotion rivals. It will take graft and cunning, as much as skill and quality, to counter-act teams who seek to frustrate and annoy rather than engage on an unequal footing.