You’ve got to laugh, right? No? Oh. Well, here’s Dan Brigham and Jon Rogers definitely not laughing about Norwich being kicked in the balls by Sunderland: Klose, the ref, spirit, The Bennett & Bassong Show, Naismith, Jarvis and… hope
No Klose, no party
We thought we'd seen the back of it, but there it was in the second half against Palace, and there it was again on Saturday: hilariously bad, Championship defending.
Opposition attacker loses the ball in the penalty area? HELP HIM OUT BY KICKING HIM REALLY HARD IN THE SHINS. Putting the opposition under huge pressure after half-time? HELP THEM OUT BY DAWDLING ON THE BALL IN A DANGEROUS AREA. Just another couple of mishaps to add to the calamitous defending scrapbook (which, by the way, they’ve probably lost somewhere).
Those mistakes are right up there with Russell Martin's pass-back of doom against Liverpool, John Ruddy scampering out of his goal at Manchester City like he'd just spotted a £20 note and Ryan Bennett's failure to move his leg just four inches to cut out the late goal-providing cross against Leicester (although, for real brain-fartyness, nothing will ever get close to Gary O'Neil charging like a sozzled Braveheart to upend Ibrahim Afellay at Stoke).
Without Timm Klose, it doesn't really matter how well our midfield and attackers play, because we all know The Bassong And Bennett Show will keep the opposition happy. Both struggled all game with Jermain Defoe's and Fabio Borini's excellent movement, while Bennett has spent the last two Saturdays hoofing a football (usually inaccurately) towards Dieumerci Mbokani, like a cat trying to impress its owner by sicking up furballs for them.
With the likes of Alexis Sánchez, Marcus Rashford, Odion Ighalo and Romelu Lukaku to come, Klose's injury – and Norwich's failure to bring him or someone of equal quality in in the summer – is likely to define our season. DB
Big Sam’s big Sam
Here is a quote from Alex Neil before the game.
“We've got to enjoy it and show everybody what we can do.”
Well, I guess what we can do is the footballing equivalent of throwing a pack of condoms onto the table on a blind date and saying as your icebreaker: “I’ve got a 20% off voucher for the Travelodge round the corner. I know what you’re thinking, what about buffet breakfast? It’s on me.”
Embarrassing, a complete lack of class, and ultimately we’ll end up left alone in a Travelodge with our socks off eating a Crunchie, thinking ‘I wish I could have another go’.
Well, we can’t have another go. We blew it. Everyone, including the management, blew it.
Not only did we give Sunderland a clean sheet, not ONLY did we give them three goals to fuck the goal difference up, not ONLY did we ruin the feel-good factor in the club and city, we gave Big Sam an erection so horrifically lingering, his granddad slacks will never the same again.
It was THAT bad. JR
The spirit’s still there (just don’t mention the quality)
Whenever Norwich lose, some people trot out the line that the players didn't care. That they weren't committed enough. That they didn't show enough passion, enough desire, enough spirit.
Sometimes, it seems, a few fans can get 'losing' confused with 'not showing spirit'. One does not necessarily equal the other.
On Saturday, like against Palace, Norwich showed plenty of spirit. They battled hard, they forced corners, they desperately tried to find a way through. They just weren't good enough, or canny enough, to do so. So they lost.
If Norwich do get relegated, it won’t be because they players didn't care. It will be because they just weren't quite good enough. DB
The referee wasn’t very good at refereeing
After the game I was called a “poor fan” for commenting on how the referee got two of the three big decisions wrong, rather than blaming the players’ and management’s performance this season.
I find it hard to blame players, referees, and management for whole seasons as each one is a collection of good play, poor mistakes and badly decided moments which bundle together to make a whole.
So when I complain or praise a player or referee, it’s about that moment, that decision rather than their season. For example, taking off Robbie Brady for tactical reasons and leaving Matt Jarvis on makes me doubt the existence of the universe, let alone Neil’s judgement. Also thought it was Jonny Howson’s, O’Neil’s and Bennett’s worst games they’ve had this season. They were full of mistakes and lacked influence.
The referee, however, was full of influence.
Sunderland’s penalty, 100% nailed on. It didn’t look it in real time, but replays showed otherwise. Yet Seb Bassong was fouled before their second, and Dieumerci Mbokani was pulled down in the penalty area just after. Both were missed.
Being critical of a referee is easy (and fun), praising isn’t. JR
Jarvis and Naismith: not very good
Before they played Norwich, between them Sunderland and Crystal Palace had managed just one miserable clean sheet in 25 league matches in 2016. Then they played Norwich, shook their charity tins, and we duly handed over all of our money.
So what's gone wrong? There was plenty of endeavour against Palace and Sunderland, plenty of tenacity. Jarvis and Steven Naismith bring both of those things in abundance (Naismith also brings a world-class collection of tumbles: there’s the stick-your-hands-in-the-air-and-drop-to-your-knees-like-it’s-a-hold-up, there’s the slip-over-like-you’ve-wandered-into-a-basement-of-banana-skins, and there’s the jump-forward-onto-the-ground-like-you’re-trying-to-stop-a-sausage-dog-from-escaping. Naismith, please, just stay on your pissy feet and try and kick the pissy football).
What neither bring is any quality or finesse on the ball. Naismith would be terrific if football didn't involve actually having to touch the ball, while Jarvis would be very good if all was required of him was to diligently track back. But they've left two gaping holes in attack in the last two games (make that three for Jarvis, who also had a shocker against Newcastle). The influence of Brady, meanwhile, has worryingly diminished in recent weeks.
By favouring Jarvis and Naismith over Nathan Redmond and Wes Hoolahan, Neil has chosen brawn over brain, solidity over flair, predictability over invention. It has cost us dearly. DB
Can we have our sweeties back please?
We’ve allowed too many teams around us easy games: not only let them steal our last Rolo, but pinch it and then get an elephant to shit on it.
I’m so annoyed by our lack of fight in some very important games that I refuse to type their full names. B’Mouth, W’tford, S’derland, N’Castle, Ast’n V’la should have been the games where a crappy, wankidoodle of a performance resulted in boring no-score draws that the editor of Match of the Day would have had to added clips of hilarious home videos of people falling over just to get on television.
Too late now.
Or is it!?
Yes, it is. JR
There’s still hope. Honest
We're not relegated yet. We're not even in the bottom three. We weren't outplayed on Saturday – Sunderland came for a draw, and two honking mistakes gave them the win. There is still hope; we still have to be caught.
Klose's injury has made things much bleaker, and far tougher, but if Norwich are brave (and Neil picks Redmond and Hoolahan), then there's still a good chance that the Championship will be welcoming two new teams from the north-east next season.
Ah, who am I kidding? Sunderland are going to win their five remaining games, like that jammy shithead mole in whack-a-mole that you just can't quite bludgeon to death, and Sam Allardyce is going to adorn his smug, ruddy head with a home-made crown and start bleating on about why he should be England manager. Football is just the worst, isn't it. DB
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