Six things we learned from Norwich City’s defeat at fellow Premier League new boys Watford
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After the Canaries slumped to a damaging Premier League loss at a side they were promoted alongside last term, Michael Bailey draws some wide-ranging conclusions on the fall-out…
1 – For those who remember the hard-luck stories – remember this one too
Cameron Jerome's glorious, acrobatic effort on the opening day of the season was ridiculously ruled out. Jamie Vardy was rather fortunate to get that penalty at Carrow Road. Most Norwich City fans will be able to tell you when things just haven't gone the Canaries' way this season.
The problem following that is when luck or decisions do go City's way, it can be all too quickly forgotten by the very same group of supporters.
Now of course, Saturday was a shocker. If you make your own luck, Norwich deserved to concede a handful of debatable penalties – and for the record, only Norwich fans would not have penalised Alex Tettey for that uncontrolled and rather desperate 30th minute lunge on Odion Ighalo. However as we now know, Ighalo's lovely first-half finish was not offside and should have stood.
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In fact, the striker probably should have had a penalty off his former Hornets team-mate too – more on that later.
So ultimately, City on Saturday got a bit of luck. The biggest problem was their performance level was so far away from being able to take advantage of it. Remember that next time City have a goal wrongly ruled out.
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2 – City's keeper situation now needs a light touch
Regardless of the exact circumstances around the decision or the conversations that took place before and after, it was always going to be a big call to give Declan Rudd his fresh league chance and leave John Ruddy on the bench.
In the words of Alex Neil, Rudd did OK. He made some very good saves – but also looked static as Ighalo beat him in the first half, if not the errant offside flag, and in difficult conditions Rudd's usually reliable kicking took a while to get going.
What happens next is now arguably more important than making the decision to bring change.
City need both first-team keepers feeling confident, able to step up when called upon. They need what has happened to Ruddy to make him angry to prove himself again when he returns to the fold.
And they need Declan to show he can settle into a real first-team force.
Of course, those may well be mutually exclusive – but what City have to avoid is a benched Ruddy losing his way, Rudd showing he isn't ready for the challenge of the Premier League, and fans calling for a glovesman to be added to January's shopping list.
3 – Even the 'Old Reliables' can have an off-day
I like to think of myself as a reliable driver when it comes to the thousands of miles Paddy Davitt and I have to cover.
Yet for some reason – and I'm still to figure out why – our trip home from Watford on Saturday somehow saw me realise that approaching 8pm, we were also approaching Northampton on the M1.
It's not the quickest way back home to Norwich, I can assure you. A longer journey home was the last thing needed and it was a pretty angry experience…
Which made me think of Robbie Brady.
In some ways this is a compliment rather than singling someone out, but the fact was the Irishman just couldn't catch a break at Vicarage Road. Too many free-kicks were hitting the first man – and with one second-half delivery, when it hit that first man and came back to Brady, he then gave away the rebound rather than making a straightforward 15-yard pass.
Come full-time, he looked as angry as I did trying to get us back on track with our journey home from Watford a few hours later.
As was widely written before this weekend, Brady has been a standout so far this season – but even the most reliable players will have an off-day. It's just a shame the others couldn't step up in his place.
4 – Seb would have been better off not knowing who Odion was
Every Norwich player had a glint in their eye following City's excellent draw with Arsenal the previous weekend – but especially Sebastien Bassong, when I asked him about coming up against his former striker team-mates at Watford.
It's worth remembering Bassong kept Odion Ighalo, Troy Deeney and company quiet when he made his initial Vicarage Road return with Norwich last February – but this time was a completely different tale and definitely more of a struggle.
Ighalo admitted he had a plan for how to take on Bassong – by avoiding the tussles. Yet it was Ighalo's strength that effectively earned him his late goal.
As for Bassong, he seemed to go too tight too often – as if he really wanted to get up close and personal with a player he clearly got on well with.
In the mixed zone after the game as Ighalo was talking through his day's work, Seb wandered past and removed the hat from Odion's head – it was the biggest disruption Bassong made to Ighalo's trail of thought all afternoon.
5 – Maybe conditions were not the same for everyone
It's always something of a joke when conditions get blamed for a result – be it that really strong wind, a bobbly pitch or the rain that's driving into people's eyes. You get the picture.
Yet watching Saturday's game, it was stark how Norwich seemed unable to read the flight of the ball, take a touch of it with confidence or simply go about their business as you'd expect them too.
At the same time, there was no such worry for Watford – with Etienne Capoue in particular, flexing with the wind like a contender for the Volvo Ocean Race.
City should have been able to cope with the situation far better than they managed, and ultimately it was their performance level that caused all the issues – not the swirling gales or stodgy pitch.
Had City been staunchly reliant on their tiki-taka football, maybe the conditions could have been given a thin glaze of mitigation.
Instead, City played 23pc more long balls than at Chelsea and 58pc more than at West Ham in order to beat the conditions. Sadly, Norwich never looked good enough to make it stick.
6 – The Hornets are buzzing their way to top-flight security
It maybe wasn't so clear from the stand occupied by the visiting fans at Vicarage Road, but there is something afoot at the resurgent Hornets.
Having mocked their new Elton John Stand for being a horrible grey monolith back in February, Watford have now added an array of Premier League-quality fixtures, fittings and facilities.
It was all rather impressive and, added to the clear feel-good factor bubbling through the ground from the home support, Watford have not lost any of their promotion momentum – in fact if anything, you got the feeling it could keep them in the top flight for a prolonged spell.
Quique Flores is not only a man who smells very nice – it was hard to ignore as he shook everyone's hand while meandering through the mixed zone usually reserved for player interviews – he is a very good football manager, and is cultivating a Watford side that on Saturday's evidence will stay well clear of a relegation scrap for the remainder of the season.
A lot of that will rely on them keeping their key players fit of course, but isn't that the case for everyone? And when I say everyone, the reality is it may well be three from the bottom six to go down. Already.
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey