How good is Declan Rudd? Are Norwich going to stay up? Who do they need to buy in January? Can anyone predict what’s going to happen in 2016? Dan Brigham and Jon Rogers on what they learned from the win over Southampton
We might stay up
This Christmas was the most successful for Norwich since Jesus was born.
Nine points out of 12 against teams at the top, just above us and below us is ENORMOUS at this stage of the season. It’s given us a cushion that few thought we’d have since we dropped in the relegation zone.
How!? Well, it’s the personnel – long-forgotten players are taking their chances.
There is a picture of Declan Rudd under Revelation in the dictionary. It looks like pushing some Arsenal player in a hole gave Ryan Bennett super powers, and as for Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and Gary O’Neil… they weren’t in my top 18, let alone being mightily influential in important games.
I predicted we’d drop back down at the beginning of the season. This is the first time since I said it, but I think I may well be proved to be wrong. JR
John Ruddy feels a long time ago already. A figure from yesteryear, a keeper from a different era. So good has Declan Rudd been that where once a new goalkeeper seemed like the No.1 priority in January, it’s now become unnecessary. We’ve seen his excellent shot-stopping abilities, his anticipation is outstanding and his agility makes Ruddy look like he plays in full-body armour.
The only thing that had been missing was the ability to really command his area. On Saturday we got that – he claimed his catches, barged others out of the way to punch balls away and marshalled his defence in front of him. We don’t know how he’ll respond to a clanger – all keepers have them – but, at the moment, Norwich have a Premier League-quality goalkeeper for the first time since Ruddy’s brilliant start to the 2012-13 season. And good goalkeepers bring clean sheets. DB
Sludgier the better
Southampton and Villa games were real slogs. Running-through-thick-mud-with-stones-in-your-pockets type of game. Stop start, scraping for each ball. Quite poor football at times, with constant battles needed to be won, 50/50s, a lot of aerial fights.
I have seen Norwich play better and lose.
And I’ve loved every second. Bring on the sludge. JR
January buys needed
We should probably talk about January, shouldn’t we. The transfery bit. What do Norwich need? Well, it’s been made a little more complicated after the upturn in fortunes. We’ve already covered the keeper, and Seb Bassong and Bennett suddenly look like a decent centre-back pairing, so do we need anyone new there? Well, yes. As good as they’ve been recently, both are capable of too many moments of mind-diarrhea at times. They also badly need competition in that position – an injury to either would seriously harm Norwich’s push for safety.
Full-backs? I might be in the minority here, but I think Martin Olsson has been decent since his return from injury and Robbie Brady adds depth there (although I’d like to see him regularly playing further forward, where he’s more of a threat). So no need for new bodies there. Right-back, though. Well, right-back might be Norwich’s weakest link. Andre Wisdom, Steven Whittaker and Russell Martin are all much of a muchness; identikit Championship full-backs capable of a few good games in the Premier League but not the sort of consistency that’s needed. Right-back is a must – especially with full-backs crucial to how Neil sets his team up.
Defensive midfield is well stocked (and, despite the occasional poor performance, Alex Tettey has probably become the first name on Alex Neil’s teamsheet now). On the wings Matt Jarvis and Brady means the left side is well stocked, but Nathan Redmond could do with a little bit of competition to keep him on his toes (and to stop Neil prodding Jonny Howson out there). With Neil’s pursuit of Steven Naismith no secret, it seems he’s keen to add another attacking midfielder, but with Wes Hoolahan, Howson and, now, Odjidja-Ofoe able to fill that role, is Naismith really needed? He’ll bring goals, but the current three are more technically proficient.
And up-front? Yes. Definitely. Everyone knows we need a striker. Neil knows we need a striker. The strikers know we need a striker. They all have their attributes – Cameron Jerome's pace, Dieumerci Mbokani's link-up play, Lewis Grabban's movement, Kyle Lafferty's magical ability to make people think he's the missing link despite being a bit shit – but none of them have the one rather crucial element for a goalscorer: goalscoring.
Right-back. Centre-back. Striker. It’s almost as if nothing’s changed from the start of the season. DB
It’s all so unpredictable
Once again, what is happening to football? I have absolutely no idea what the hell is going to happen next.
This is the year for the crazy gambler. There are hundreds of slightly mad punters in betting shops, walking out multimillionaires as they put accumulators on results that, in 2012, would have been like throwing 10 pound coins at the ducks on the Wensum.
So, fuck all of this shit.
No point commenting. Shut The Little Yellow Bird Project down. Might as well give my thoughts on the lottery balls. Wow – that’s the 56th time Number 5 has come out on a Saturday. Happy New Year – Mystic fucking Meg. JR
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