City midfielder Darel Russell today struggled to explain why the Canaries are where they are in that Championship table.
Ten games in and City are only two points better off than this time last year – a point in autumn time that has now accounted for two managers. Nigel Worthington in October 2006 and Peter Grant in October 2007.
And while current chief Glenn Roeder is under little or no immediate pressure to follow his immediate predecessors down the plank, something has yet to click this season.
For the Canaries, on paper, are clearly better than their current league position suggests; individually, man for man and player for player, there are head and shoulders a more competitive outfit than the team that stumbled to a truly wretched 1-0 defeat away at Queen's Park Rangers this time last year.
And yet defeat away at Bristol City in ten days time could see the Norfolk club slump back into the bottom three. This being the Championship, the flip-side is far more appealing – that success at Ashton Gate would, in every likelihood, leave the Canaries just a win and a bit away from the top six.
With early league leaders Wolves booked in for a game at Carrow Road on the following Tuesday night, the mood of the faithful could yet turn quite swiftly.
For now, however, an anxious puzzlement would be the polite way of describing Norwich's sluggish start to the new campaign.
“As I said after the game on Saturday, I can't put my finger on it to be honest with you,” said this weekend's City skipper, after the Canaries managed to lose a home game against ten men for the second time this season.
“It's gutting the result we had at the weekend,” added Russell, who celebrates his 28th birthday later this month. “And the way we lost it as well – and after working so hard to get ourselves back in it.”
The obvious Achilles heel is the all-too traditional one – City's chronic lack of goals. They have mustered just eight thus far this season. Only Doncaster Roers have scored fewer.
But there is an argument for suggesting that even that it just symptom rather than cause – that until a settled and a consistent side emerges from the revolution that Roeder has enacted at Colney this summer, then consistent performances are going to be hard to find. It takes time for any new team to gel.
Irrespective of the nine loan arrivals, the Canary boss has also added five permanent new signings to his playing staff – Dejan Stefanovic, Sammy Clingan, Wes Hoolahan, David Bell and Stuart Nelson. Getting 14 players to bed in together with the surviving rump of Grant's playing squad is a big, big ask. Particularly as injuries keep chipping away at what ought to be the manager's first-choice starting XI.
“When you've had a lot of new players [come in], it takes time to get that continuity – to get things clicking just right,” said Russell, speaking at yesterday's Norwich City Golf Day at Dunston Hall.
“Hopefully, once it does happen we will be firing on all cylinders. It seems that we're laying good stuff; that little something just needs to click and trigger and, hopefully, we'll get flying.”
And when they are dominating games; in charge of proceedings and penning people back in their own, final third they have to score. All too easily teams wriggle off the hook. Witness the 15 minutes against the Rams on Saturday once Clingan had swept that penalty home.
“You say 15 minutes, but we need to sustain that for the rest of the game,” said Russell. “If we'd ave done that then we would most definitely have gone on and put the ball in the back of the net. But for whatever reason, we didn't continue that and it slowed our progress down and it didn't enable us to get the result we needed.”
If City were in need of any inspiration, it comes in the shape of the Pilgrims' progress. From looking an utter shambles at Home Park as City helped themselves to their easiest three points of the season, Plymouth are now bobbing along in fifth.
Last Saturday's 4-0 cruise against Sheffield Wednesday made it 13 points from the last 15; defeat at home to Norwich was then followed by back-to-back away wins at first Watford and then Crystal Palace.
All of which has been noted in the Norwich dressing room.
“To be honest, after the game that was one of the first teams that we all saw that was in that position,” said Russell, doing his best to hide a note of disbelief. Argyle were wretched that afternoon. And now look at them…
“And everyone in the changing room was absolutely shocked. But testament to them that they have picked themselves up and done what they need to to get the results going right.
“And it just goes to show that if we can play against a team like that – and be that superior – that we should be in those positions ourselves. Above them.
“We've just got to get the formula right with ourselves to get ourselves up there.”
With a fair wind, hopefully, Roeder's latest loan signing – Leroy Lita – can be part of that winning formula.
“He's Premiership quality – he's played there in the Premiership and he's something different again to all the forwards that we have. A bit of pace, a bit of strength, a bit of aggression.
“And as midfielders we've just got to provide him and Sibi [Sibierski] with the chances and without doubt, I'm sure he's going to score goals.”
Score goals, you win games. Football is never quite as simple as that. But as that big game away at Bristol City looms ever nearer on the horizon, it would be a big, big step in the right direction if Lita could start to bang them in against his old employers.
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