Things we sort of learned

Is it time to give Rudd a go? Why are Norwich conceding late goals? Is the Swansea game massive or just quite big? Dan Brigham and Jon Rogers on what they learned from Norwich’s agonising defeat against Manchester City

Late goals costing Norwich
Norwich have conceded in the last 10 minutes in six of their 11 league matches this season. While it’s only directly cost them points in two of those games – against West Ham and Manchester City – it's becoming an unwelcome pattern.

Like falling asleep at the end of films, switching off when you reach the 80th minute in football can leave you bamboozled. Bruce Willis eats dead people? Norman Bates is sleeping with his mum? John Ruddy is missing a punch, and rushing out of the box and… ah, crap.

Apart from Saturday, Norwich have dominated possession in most matches, so it’s not as if the opposition have been so relentless that a late goal is often inevitable. Instead, it has to be poor concentration that stems from Norwich’s backline simply not being good enough to produce a 90-minute performance without a silly error.

Can someone buy Alex Neil a wig, just so he can tear some hair out? Because whoever he picks from the current options in goal and at centre-back, they just might not be quite good enough. DB

Time to give Ruddy a break
Ruddy is a formidable presence in the team; he is built like the man who builds the brick shit-houses. I’m sure he’s a popular member of the team, one who has been number one for a long time now. He is forthright with his opinion, and a well-rounded, fair guy – which makes him likeable in my book.

All of that is important, but what he is currently lacking is form. His handling has been a little suspect, he hasn’t been commanding his six-yard box as well as he could, and his average saves compared to shots is in the bottom three of Premier League goalkeepers.

No-one is undroppable, and I think Declan Rudd’s performance at Everton, his highly-rated season at Preston, and his overall patience is enough to give him a chance against Swansea. A few games away to remove John Ruddy from the firing line may be the beginning of the resurgence of John, or maybe even the beginning of the insurgence of Declan. JR

The Swansea game is quite big
No wins for seven matches and Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Man United and Spurs to come in the next six games: it’s fair to say Norwich’s next match, against Swansea, is belly-flopping towards ‘must-win’ territory.

Let’s not over-egg it though. It’s not even the biggest game of Neil’s Norwich career. That was Wembley, of course. Nor is it bigger than the second leg of the Play-off semi-final. You could even argue the home match against Middlesbrough was bigger. Unlike those games, a failure to win against Swansea wouldn’t mean there’s no way back for Norwich.

A win would, however, mean something perhaps even more than three points: relief. As well as Norwich played against Everton and Manchester City – and it was encouraging to see the team playing excellently in two very different set-ups – the psychological shifts of losing a penalty shoot-out and then throwing it away at the Etihad must weigh heavily on the players. A penalty shoot-out win or a battling, excellent point against City would have been an enormous psychological boost. 

The performances in those two matches show that there’s no reason why Norwich can’t beat an under-pressure Swansea side. Let’s just hope the players believe that themselves. DB

Keep it tight away from home
Who would have thought that in the 88th minute the Etihad crowd would be screaming for the ball to get pumped forward? Who would have thought they’d have been desperate for Man City to rescue more than a point verses that team who have regularly fallen apart at Manchester?

It proved that Alex Neil can produce tactics that can open up, or nullify any team. Now I wish we’d have used those shut-the-shop tactics at Southampton and especially at Newcastle. Those Geordies would have been on the players’ backs if the score was 0-0 after 60 mins, and they were prime for a scalping. Any point, no matter how it comes, is good away from home; leaving the gambling for a win to home matches. JR

Redmond gets defensive
Nathan Redmond has improved immeasurably under Neil. He is more direct, gets in better scoring positions and must have a genuine chance of earning an England call-up. Norwich are lucky to have such a young, talented player (although he is seriously bad at corners, kicking the ball like someone poking a lifeless cat to see if it’s still alive).

On Saturday he took his game up another level, but not in the way we usually expect. When he came on at half-time he was immediately combative and disciplined – two aspects of his game which can sometimes be missing. But against Manchester City he showed that not only is he Norwich’s most direct attacking threat, but he can also fulfil the James Milner role of hassling and tracking back when the game calls for it. Norwich will need of that from him throughout the season. DB

You can follow Jon Rogers on Twitter at @BigGrantHolt
You can follow Dan Brigham on Twitter at @dan_brigham

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