Robin Sainty: We’re all desperate for City to give us hope that the corner can be turned
PUBLISHED: 08:48 17 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:48 17 November 2019
The last few weeks have felt like an accelerating downward spiral, but the game against Watford was particularly soul destroying.
I can't imagine a more inept start to such a vital game as Emi Buendia's ill-considered attempted drag back with both Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis already ahead of him that gifted Watford a 70-second lead.
At his best Buendia plays in the uninhibited style of a kid in a playground, but this is the Premier League, and after a similar error against Aston Villa he really has to grow up fast in footballing terms, because while there is no doubting his creative ability, he simply cannot continue to take liberties around his own penalty area.
Much of the debate among fans beforehand was about the continued use of Alex Tettey as a centre back, but in fact the Norwegian looked considerably more solid than his partner Ben Godfrey, who produced an uncharacteristically frenetic performance.
It's impossible to overestimate the impact of such an early goal on a side so low on confidence, but while City did pick themselves up they still produced little in the way of clear-cut chances, even after Watford were reduced to 10 men.
While the continued absence of experienced centre backs is still clearly a major factor, not least because of its knock-on effect to the structure of the midfield, there are other issues that are increasingly giving cause for concern.
The first of these is the speed of build-up. Farke's City at their best develop fast, flowing moves with lots of one-touch passing, yet on Friday they were laboured and lacking in ideas.
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This is partly due to confidence and personnel, but also to the fact that opposing managers have clearly worked out the importance of City's full-backs as an attacking weapon and set out to neutralise them.
Game by game we have seen less and less byline runs from Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons and City's creativity has suffered as a result, with the added problem on Friday that Watford's early lead allowed them to switch to a compact 5-4-1 formation which, allied to their superior ball retention, created problems for City's midfield and forced their full-backs into having to concentrate more on defence than attack.
Lewis was clearly apprehensive about over-committing forward as he regularly turned back to play a safe ball, to the increasing chagrin of sections of the crowd, some of whom seem to forget how young and inexperienced several of City's players are.
What's more, with Gerard Deulofeu targeting Lewis in the first half and dragging him inside with intelligent movement off the ball it meant that Daryl Janmaat was frequently afforded the freedom of Norwich on Watford's right as Onel Hernandez offered little defensive support to his full-back.
The second problem that City have is that when they do get into decent attacking positions the quality of their final ball is invariably lacking.
However, it's worth looking at Watford's second goal and comparing the time allowed to Deulofeu to pick out Andre Gray with the way in which Hernandez was invariably double teamed and made to work hard for every crossing opportunity.
At present City have lost their attacking flair while retaining their propensity for defensive vulnerability. The international break will provide more time to get injured players back, but what's even more important is for Farke to find a method that stays true to his basic philosophy but eradicates the naivety shown so far this season.
The fans will continue to back Farke and the players, but we are all desperate for something to give us hope that the corner can be turned. There is so much of the season to go that anything is possible so no one should be throwing in the towel but everyone at the club will be acutely aware that results need to come sooner rather than later.