Six lessons learned from Norwich City’s chaotic defeat to Liverpool
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As the disappointment from one of the most dramatic Carrow Road defeats begins to ease for Norwich City fans, David Freezer assesses how Alex Neil's team can get their fight for top-flight survival back on track.
1 – Steven Naismith looks set to be Alex Neil's general in the thick of top-flight battle
Some fans are already predicting that Steven Naismith will become Norwich City captain – and it's easy to see why.
The enthusiasm of the Scottish forward was infectious and from very early in his debut the 29-year-old was directing play and encouraging his new team-mates.
He went to take the kick-off at the start of the game, such was his desire to get going in a yellow and green shirt, only to be ushered away by Jonny Howson and Nathan Redmond.
A lack of communication was a key part of City's capitulation, the new signing correctly pointed out after the game, but he looks like a man who can help to improve that weakness.
The Scotland international could well be the embodiment of his manager out on the pitch, Alex Neil's general in the thick of the battle.
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His similar character and passion gives the City boss an added voice on the pitch – much in the way David Beckham had a connection with his England manager Sven Goran Eriksson.
Beyond that, the clinical finish for his goal was exactly what Canaries fans had hoped to see. Once his match fitness is fully topped up, that £8million fee could soon look like great value.
2 – Awful moment will haunt City's long-serving skipper
There's no getting away from it, Russell Martin's name was on the lips of many City fans' after the mayhem had finally come to a halt.
As soon as the home skipper made contact with the awful back-pass which allowed James Milner to make the score 4-3, audible gasps filled Carrow Road as Declan Rudd was left completely exposed.
It was a horror moment and City's long-serving defender, a key part of three promotion campaigns, was clearly devastated by his error.
It was painful to watch. Most Canaries fans know what a top guy Martin is but his time as a centre-back in the top flight is now likely to be very limited.
With big-money signing Timm Klose waiting in the wings and now with 10 days to get up to speed ahead of the visit of Tottenham, that horrible feeling may linger with the Scotland international for a while.
He should not take all of the blame though. Alex Tettey's illness left Jonny Howson and Graham Dorrans in central midfield, two players with plenty of strengths but who did not offer enough protection to the defence.
3 – Every player is needed to defend well in the Premier League
Norwich City already know they are fighting a difficult battle against the wealthy powerhouses of English football in the top flight, which allows very little room for error.
There were plenty of examples of poor defending, on both sides on Saturday but beyond that there was also evidence of defenders being left exposed.
Nathan Redmond's attacking talent is being damaged by his lack of conviction when defending. If he is to make it as a top player then he must start putting his foot in more often.
In the lead-up to Roberto Firmino's opener in the first half Redmond made no more than a courteous effort to jog after Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno, leaving Ivo Pinto outnumbered. The defending, of course, could have been better after that but could he have stopped or disrupted the initial threat?
Matt Jarvis was equally culpable of failing to track Adam Lallana for Liverpool's late winner, watching his defence scramble rather than sensing the danger.
One statistic to emerge after the game was that City have conceded a league-high 21 goals in the last 30 minutes of matches this season. That proves that all 11 players simply must keep working until the final second of every game.
4 – Attacking verve provided salvation among the mayhem for Canaries supporters
It cannot be forgotten that, despite defensive failings, Norwich City looked very much a top-flight team in attack against Liverpool.
The battering ram that is the beefy figure of Dieumerci Mbokani ensured the Reds defenders very much knew they were in a game – to take his tally for the season to four goals.
That brings the on-loan Dynamo Kiev striker level with Nathan Redmond as City's joint top scorer in the league. He also achieved that in style, with a classy touch to keep the ball away from Mamadou Sakho in amongst some penalty area pinball, before a lovely back-heeled finish to make the score 1-1.
The Democratic Republic of Congo international's physical presence gave the Canaries a focal point in attack, with Steven Naismith and Wes Hoolahan working behind him to claim a goal and an assist each.
With the sensational addition of Seb Bassong's late thunderbolt, there is little blame which can be attacked to City's front men in defeat.
The challenge now is to keep scoring – and hope the back door is kept closed in future so that their efforts are not wasted.
5 – Rays of hope shine through on Pinto's tough debut
Welcome to the Premier League, Ivo Pinto.
If City's recent recruit didn't already know what to expect from English football then he certainly does now.
It was a far from faultless debut from the Portuguese full-back but there were certainly reasons to be hopeful that there is more to come from the 26-year-old.
Good pace and touch, an eye for a pass and plenty of pace gave an insight into what Pinto will be capable of once he's settled in.
There was a lucky escape when he was beaten for pace by Liverpool youngster Jordan Ibe in the 12th minute, with his cross coming to nothing.
Pinto endeared himself to the Snake Pit with a strong sliding tackle on James Milner shortly before half-time though and continued his good work soon after the break, robbing Ibe and passing to Dieumerci Mbokani before sprinting into space for the return pass, only to waste his crossing opportunity.
Positionally he will have to learn quickly however, after his bursts forward left City's right side exposed, if he is to become a success.
6 – Mistakes were exploited by an explosive and talented team
Had the Canaries been playing a fellow team from the bottom half of the Premier League, they may well have got away with some of their defensive errors. They were not playing a poor team though.
The expensively assembled group of international players fielded by Liverpool were as explosive as their manager, Jurgen Klopp.
The German's complaints about added time – six substitutions and four goals would seem like at least five minutes to me – soon stopped as he over-stepped the mark with his celebrations.
Defensively they may also have been weak but they took full advantage of the opportunities handed to them and kept fighting until the very last seconds.
The Reds have now scored 22 goals in their last seven visits to Carrow Road, winning six and drawing one of those matches.
Tottenham Hotspur could be an even stronger prospect at Carrow Road a week tomorrow but attack like that against bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa on February 6 then Remi Garde's team will surely fold under the pressure.
Villa, Swansea, Sunderland and Newcastle – those are the games which really matter for City now.