It’s guest blog time again. This weeks it’s Isaac Lister .
An avid Norwich City fan and season ticket holder in the City Stand since 1998, Isaac has been on the NCFC rollercoaster from Bryan Hamilton through League One and the Lambert years to the present day. Hoping to soon unveil a football analysis and tactics blog for the more statistically minded fan, here he takes a more subjective approach to the story of 2016/17 so far. You can find his varied and colourful opinions on all things NCFC on Twitter @hools_gold.
When Cameron Jerome turned with aplomb to slip the ball into the Cardiff net on Saturday, I confess I struggled to celebrate. In spite of every fibre of my being urging me to lose control with joy, I was overcome instead with a strange emotion. I was frustrated.
All we have heard since the Birmingham debacle is the lambasting of our summer transfer window. To an extent, this is understandable – any 3-0 defeat, even away from home, does make that outstretched hand reaching for a pitchfork all the more desperate in its grasp. Even if it’s one defeat in five and you’re really quite good.
The source of my personal frustration is that we have started well and we do have one of the best squads in the league. We were tantalised with Ross McCormack and what might have been- but I back the club in not pushing the boat out to get him.
Tactically, it doesn’t make sense, not when you have the abundance of attacking midfield talent we have, to suddenly find yourselves playing a support striker off a front man. This in theory permits a maximum of two attacking midfielders (and that is with a back three, which we do have the defensive personnel to carry out with Brady and Pinto as wing-backs).
This brings me on to Alex Neil. He definitely has talent as a manager. You do not take a squad of players, no matter how strong, up the table and achieve promotion without talent. Anyone who says it is a function of player quality need only remind themselves that Aston Villa and McCormack currently sit in the bottom half below Ipswich.
Managers need confidence too, though. You always hear it discussed (I think particularly of Ricky van Wolfswinkel) that a player’s failings are due to him losing confidence in himself, but you never hear it with managers and I don’t understand why.
Since we lost 6-2 to Newcastle last season, Alex Neil has appeared devoid of confidence in implementing his attacking game. This was borne out for me in the decision to bring in Graham Dorrans to play as a deep lying playmaker, picking the ball up from the defenders and dictating tempo against Cardiff – only to see the high tempo and wide pressing of the Bluebirds cause us to act as ‘Canaries in headlights’ and blast the ball into the channels for Jerome to chase.
We’re better than that.
It’s as though he knew what he wanted to do but didn’t convince the players they could do it. When the ball dropped cutely for Wes to feed Russell Martin, in turn allowing Jacob Murphy to deliver that killer ball, it did settle us down.
Cardiff had to open up to try and get back into the game, allowing us to play more freely. Until we got that bit of fortune to get Wes on the ball I was not sure where the goal was coming from – and that for me is the worry.
More strikers would spoil the broth. We must give Alex time to strategise and coach Murphy-Murphy-Hoolahan-Pritchard-Canos-Brady-Naismith (with Jarvis still to enter the conundrum) into exactly what is expected of them in each position in the three behind Jerome-Oliveira-Lafferty, bearing in mind the role will differ across the three, as will expectations on and off the ball, with the caveat of accounting for the difference in the playing styles of our three lone front men.
This is why I don’t understand the prevailing opinion that we needed more strikers. The goals contributed by Gary Hooper and Lewis Grabban last time out are moot when you have a fluid attacking midfield three. That’s where the extra goals and the majority of assists will come from, as the Murphys are already proving.
It takes time. Five games in we are never going to look our best, but with three positions and at least six candidates for those positions we definitely have the personnel. Neil simply needs the confidence to instil in those players what we expect and where. Then we will be exciting. We will win games, and we will score goals.
Then, you factor in Nelson Oliveira. Where Jerome can run the channels and hold it up for the likes of Hoolahan and Brady to work infield from wide (best used in situations where we see weakness at full-back) Oliveira has the technical specification of a Giroud- the ability to pass and flick and guide in tight central areas to allow us to get at struggling centre-backs.
I believe Nelson Oliveira to be a clever, shrewd, and measured signing.
So in summary, we have scored nine goals (bettered, without checking the stats, I believe only by Newcastle and an inexplicably potent Barnsley), we’re yet to see the best of the permutations of the attacking six, and Cameron Jerome (A. Striker) has three in six.
Why oh why didn’t we sign a striker?
Cheers to Isaac – nice job. Let us know if you agree.