Ouch… that one hurt. Big time.
We knew there would be days like that. We just expected them to be against Man City and Liverpool. Not against those teams we deem rivals. Not against teams who were promoted alongside us. Not against Aston bloody Villa.
But, such was their dominance in crucial areas of the pitch, 5-1 was, I’m loathed to say, a fair reflection of those 94 agonising, excruciating minutes.
It’s been a while since we’ve had one of those death by a thousand cuts afternoons at Carrow Road. I’d even forgotten how painful they can be and now we actually have a group who are eminently likeable they become even harder to watch.
No-one shirked, no-one hid up, but the XI at Daniel Farke’s disposal were not good enough on the day.
Not because individually they’re lacking the wherewithal to operate at this level – I believe they do – but because the permutations available to Farke don’t permit him the opportunity to play two, bona fide Premier League-quality centre-backs, or a defensive midfield combo that marries some muscle with a quarter-back.
Farke isn’t able to do that. The injury crisis is forcing him to squeeze square pegs into round holes and after a couple of lukewarm performances, following the heroics of Man City, reality is starting to bite.
To put it into context…
The world we inhabit now is brutal, unforgiving and when, for whatever reason, the level dips below 100 per cent, you get found out.
Since Man City, the water has been lapping near the edge. Yesterday it burst its banks.
We mocked when Nigel Worthington played Simon Charlton at centre-back but while Ibrahim Amadou may look more the part than the five-foot-nothing Charlton, he’s equally makeshift. He was signed as an Alex Tettey and just because he’d played a few games there in his formative years doesn’t make him a Premier League quality centre-back.
That, of course, is no slight on the player himself who has done plenty of good things beyond the aforementioned heroics but to go ticking along at conceding a goal-a-game from individual errors is not going to work. No-one knows that more than the player himself and his head coach.
Even starker is the need for Amadou to be playing in his desired position, where the Mo Leitner/Kenny McLean combination is proving itself too fragile for anyone’s liking. Both are fine in possession, as is the whole team, but without the ball they get over-run and run-through too easily. Again, no slight intended on the individuals, but as a combination – one that’s forced upon us – it doesn’t work.
There was a reason why Farke played either/or at the back end of last season when he was afforded the choice.
Canary Call again honed in on the summer window and how a centre-back should have been a priority but ignored the fact that Ben Godfrey has been playing with an injury and is therefore restricted in his movement. It may be minor, but a 4-5 per cent restriction at the top level makes a massive difference.
Also, Godfrey, while being unable to operate at full throttle, is having to cajole and hand-hold a rookie centre-back alongside him – a massive ask for anyone, let alone one who one season ago was himself a rookie.
And if all of the above sounds like a list of excuses… it kind of is, although I prefer ‘mitigating circumstances’.
That doesn’t obviously excuse the mistakes that occurred, and which keep occurring, and there really does need to be an awareness that giving the ball away in daft areas and not marking tightly enough will likely end badly in this division. The latitude afforded in the Championship has gone. The room for error is now virtually zero.
And there are players who are currently simply struggling to bridge the gap betwixt Championship and Premier League – Marco Stiepermann being one, Emi Buendia being another. Both hugely influential in last season’s title win but both struggling, not unsurprisingly, to have the same impact at the sharp end of the pitch in the early exchanges of this season.
Both are still good players, both have time to come good this season, but right now they cut frustrated figures as we toil as an attacking force, with Teemu Pukki’s supply line currently as ineffective as it’s been in all his time here.
Alas, the Stiepi ‘get him off!’ brigade around me in the River End have ammunition for almost the first time, and it irks.
So, where from here?
Well, as Farke said post-match, there are now 13 days to get some of the wounded fit, and that includes Godfrey who, while maybe not going under the knife, will be the subject of some keyhole surgery. To a layman, 13 days doesn’t sound enough – but I dare not even contemplate a trip to the Vitality Stadium without him.
And we have to keep believing. The battle to get here was joyful but it was a slog and so hard-earned. To watch it go up in smoke so early on through a combination of things, some of which are beyond our control, would be both a huge shame and a waste.
We’re playing in the Premier League because we earned the right, and just because Danny Murphy, Mark Lawrenson and Charlie Nicholas can barely contain their contempt for little old Norwich, that doesn’t mean we don’t belong. This is when we roll the sleeves and dig in that bit deeper. All of us.
Some more fit bodies and lots of work on defensive shapes on the fields of Colney, and this is still within our grasp. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.