First half: NO. Second half: YES. Dan Brigham and Jon Rogers on Everton, Rudd v Ruddy, Cameron Jerome, trusting Alex Neil, attack vs defence, long-range shots and why Norwich can avoid relegation
Neil knows what he’s doing
You might not agree with Neil’s decisions – dropping Ryan Bennett seemed like a mistake – but there’s always logic behind them. Neil said he wanted Norwich to pass it out quickly from the back, and Russell Martin’s short-passing is the best of the three centre-backs (still not great, but the best). So that made sense, even if you didn't agree with the change.
Many moaned about the more physical Dieumerci Mbokani not starting (especially in hindsight after Cameron Jerome’s miss). But Everton’s centre-backs have dominated in physical battles this season, and struggled against pace. West Ham, Bournemouth and Palace have all exposed Everton’s lack of speed at the back in recent weeks, so it made perfect sense to have Jerome starting down the middle – as he’s by far the quickest option Neil has up front – with Robbie Brady and Nathan Redmond providing more pace out wide. And it was Jerome’s speed that helped to win the corner which led to the equaliser. DB
Rudd has something Ruddy doesn’t
Well, Dec has certainly proved himself, hasn’t he? No clean sheets, but that’s not unusual. He has taken his chance bravely, positively and needs to keep the hard work up.
Rudd has something that Ruddy doesn’t have, and which will make him more suited to the Premier League: rapid pace over 10-15 yards, which makes him more mobile and allowed him to get into the position to make those one-on-one saves – especially the one vs Arouna Koné in the first half. It also helps Norwich to play a higher line.
One thing though: can we PLEASE not applaud him every time he kicks a back pass well. My god, it’s patronising as fuck. It’s up there with clapping a centre-back for heading the ball back to the goalkeeper. JR
Football is bonkers
The first half on Saturday was so one-sided, so relentlessly Everton’s that it was more like piñata than a football match.
So dominant were the away side that, at half-time, I said Norwich would win it. It just seemed inevitable – no team can steamroller the home side to that extent and get away with scoring only once. Football, with its fine margins, always finds a way to bite you on the arse if you don’t make so much dominance count.
So, a minute into the second half, there came the equaliser. The only surprise was that Norwich didn’t go on and win it, with Jerome’s jaw-dropping miss proving that football is entirely bonkers. DB
Attack is better than defence
It was good to see that, as predicted, Alex Neil returned to his attacking instincts against Everton. For the first 15 minutes we were on the front foot and pressing high, until Everton pushed us back. For the rest of the half they were brilliant, we were dreadful – but the gameplan was to attack. We just couldn’t. In the second half Norwich did it much more effectively, much like against Arsenal.
Neil has gone back to what he knows best, and it can only be a good thing. DB
Norwich need to do more goals
We haven’t scored a long-range goal for ages. Or even a good goal. Or even two goals in a game.
Can we do one of those soon please? I like them. JR
Problems in midfield
The chopping and changing has led to accusation that Neil doesn’t know his best team. This may be true, but perhaps there is no best team – there are merely best teams to particular opposition (a tactic that worked for Paul Lambert, who also chopped and changed his strikers in the Premier League until one of them – Grant Holt – started scoring and made himself un-rotatable).
Norwich’s midfield – by far their strongest area at the start of the season – hasn’t been functioning correctly recently. Jonny Howson was left out of the side after a downturn in form, but how much of that is down to him being shunted out wide too often? You can understand why Neil does it – he doesn’t always trust Redmond to track back against the better teams – but is it holding Howson back? He’s much more effective from a central position and Neil appears unsure of who to play in the middle – we’ve had Alex Tettey, Graham Dorrans, Youssouf Mulumbu, Gary O’Neil and Howson sharing those duties this season.
Perhaps it’s time to give Howson a run in the side where he’s at his strongest – in the middle – find a partner for him – either Tettey, O’Neill or Mulumbu – and stick with it. DB
Misses costing us dearly
I did some swears after Jerome’s miss on Saturday. Maybe too many swears. After all, he didn’t miss on purpose. But his misses have directly cost us four vital, precious points this season now – another sitter was missed in the 1-1 draw against Stoke. But he’s not the only one. Wes Hoolahan’s miss against Arsenal – which was harder than it looked, with the ball bouncing awkwardly and at pace – turned a win into a draw. Lewis Grabban should have put us 1-0 up against Palace on the first day of the season, as should have Jerome against Southampton. We need an iceman on the pitch, not on Tombland.
At least, with the emphasis back on attack, we should be creating more chances than we have done in recent weeks. DB
Norwich can stay up
My season preview in early August suggested we were going down, and just as we are a few matches away from playing everyone once, we’ve dropped into the relegation zone for the first time.
It’s regretful, but unlike our last few visits to the top league, I can count on three fingers the number of games where we properly struggled throughout the entire game: Watford, Newcastle and Southampton.
So this is a proper keep-the-faith moment, as I think, as team, we’re most equipped to stay up this season than ever before. We had a strike-force of Holt, Morrison, Jackson and Wilbraham once in the Prem and, if THAT doesn’t make you feel brighter, then nothing will. JR