Boxes of chocolates, rubber dinghies, mind-burps, realistic expectations and relegation candidates: Dan Brigham and Jon Rogers on what Norwich’s defeat to Leicester City sort of taught them
Norwich must turn draws into wins
When Norwich’s midfield is poor, Norwich lose. It’s as simple as that. It is the team’s lifeblood, its heartbeat, and other analogies to basically mean it makes everything tick. Here's another analogy: when the midfield doesn't function, Norwich are like Doctor Who without a Tardis.
It’s happened twice this season: against Southampton and again on Saturday. When Norwich’s midfield is fluid, it looks the easiest thing in the world to keep the ball moving forward crisply and efficiently. But of course it’s not easy at all – it’s one of the toughest things to get right in football, like a chess game on speed where people can kick each other. So it can unravel pretty quickly when one or more cogs in midfield is off their game.
We have to accept that, in some games this season, Norwich’s midfield won’t function at 100%. Which is why, when it does, they need to take advantage. And, arguably, Norwich have wasted our best two attacking performances so far: against Stoke and West Ham, when our midfield utterly dominated.
Both times we came away with only a point, and both times wasteful finishing and mind-burp defending were to blame. It’s like a comedian telling their best material to an empty room and saving their worst jokes for a full house. Coincidence or not, both of the no-shows against Southampton and Leicester came straight after those wasted opportunities.
It would be much easier to accept the poor performances and defeats – it’s an inevitability of life in the Premier League – if we’d have turned our dominant performances into three points. In order to avoid a relegation scrap, Norwich have got to start winning when they’re singing. DB
Norwich were like a box of chocolates
I said it after the game finished, and I still don’t really understand what I mean by it – but our performance looked and felt well… sticky. The players looked all treacle-legged, the ball had toffee on it and the atmosphere felt like people had found out that Cadbury’s secret ingredient was pigeon foot.
We never got going and even during the last 20 minutes when we were in for a point our game never had that quality to capitalise on the noise.
Still, Cadbury’s Chocolate Pigeon Foot – Jonny Howson would. JR
Back where we started
If before the season started we’d been told Norwich would take just one point from home matches against Crystal Palace, Stoke and Leicester, we’d have done plenty of gulping and furrowing.
Now that it’s actually happened, it’s not really so bad. Instead, it is merely a reflection of the batshit crazy nature of this season’s Premier League. Palace are fourth and Leicester are fifth – and rightly so. In some ways they’re quite similar – reliant on pace and power, while happily ceding possession to the opposition. They deserved their wins at Carrow Road, and, in truth, have probably been the two best sides we’ve played this season (I think it’s probably about time I admitted that Leicester’s start has been no fluke). While Stoke should have been battered out of sight, they’re showing predictable signs of improvement – there’s too much talent in that side, and Mark Hughes is too good a manager, for their early struggles to have lasted.
Which leaves Norwich where they started the season: among six or seven sides battling to stay in the division. It seems inevitable that the three relegated teams will come from Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa, West Brom, Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich. At the moment Sunderland, Villa, Newcastle and Bournemouth look the most vulnerable, but with Sam Allardyce lurking for a new managerial role, things may change. Ignore the Tony Pulis affect, as well: that West Brom side is desperately short of class and the fans are apathetic; it’s hard to see them hoofing themselves clear of danger.
Norwich’s next two games against Newcastle and West Brom already look like they’re bordering on crucial. A win in at least one of those games is needed – and I expect them to do it. DB
We could do with some realism
One defeat, and the fans wanted more chops and changes than a cross-dressing pig. Ironically, we were playing the Tinkerman himself, Mr Ranieri – who also looks like a cross-dressing pig in a lovely suit.
One defeat to a very good side, who have taken this year’s Premier League by storm with goals and entertainment, and the old arguments were trotted out (we’re still doing pig jokes, right?).
Steven Whittaker is… TICK, Russell Martin isn’t a… TICK, John Ruddy needs to… TICK. The grumbles I heard made me wonder if we will ever get into a place where we accept that we are an unsteady ship in this league, and that we won’t win every other game.
I still feel people are expecting a five-star cruise with Playboy bunnies, but on a handjob-in-a-dinghy budget. JR
It’s still fun
It really is, though. Lots of fun. That final 30 minutes on Saturday, when Norwich threw everything in search of an equaliser, shows the spirit in the squad – they believe they can win from any position. That might make them a wee bit mad, but it also makes them tough opposition.
You might think that desire should be the least you should expect from Premier League players, but just remember the Chris Hughton days when going behind meant certain defeat.
No more: even if this team goes down, it’s going to go down fighting. The kind of fighting that involves slapstick defending and pratfall tap-ins, but fighting nonetheless. DB