I’m not quite sure when a blip officially becomes a dip, and when a dip becomes a wobble but, in my simple mind, City are currently betwixt a dip and a wobble.
Four straight defeats in some quarters have constituted a mini-disaster but, given that the middle two were against the current European and Premier League champions, things are not as bleak as some would have you believe.
The two away games – West Brom and West Ham – were undoubtedly in Chris Hughton’s ‘possible win’ file, but we’ve come up just short on both occasions.
The Hawthorns, whilst being a disappointment, was a result that many could have predicted (and was of course one that Mark Lawrenson did predict). For as long as I can remember, City have been the team that others needed to face if they wished to end a barren run of results; the soft-centres who would happily turn up and allow your team to play themselves back into some form.
Happily, for the duration of the McNally years this is a trend that we have managed to buck, and so to revert to type for just one Midland’s afternoon – with the Baggies struggling for form – was just about forgiveable. With City also coming off the back of a ten game unbeaten run it somehow felt that defeat was in the stars.
As we all know, home defeats against the likes of Chelsea and Man City are typically the norm. Games of such ilk are bonus games, from which anything other than defeat is considered a huge plus – and so to lose both by the odd goal was neither unexpected nor a disgrace.
With home wins against Man Utd and Arsenal already inked in the 2012/13 history books, to have added either of the respective Champions to that list would have been perhaps too much to ask; not to mention downright greedy. We are ‘little’ Norwich after all.
All of this makes the New Year’s Day defeat at Upton Park that little more disappointing – particularly when we’re left with a slight niggle that events were not totally within the control of Hughton and his men.
That City made a horribly slow start to the game is not in doubt and – Mr Clattenberg’s eccentricities aside – we were second best for most of the first half. But for some horrendous finishing from Green Street’s finest, the game would have been out of reach prior to Hughton’s half-time chat with the man in black – and so, all things considered, we can’t have too many complaints.
Despite Sam Allardyce’s typically bullish assertion that the Hammers ‘dominated the whole game’, most present would admit that the second half was a much more even affair; the statistics prove as much. Unfortunately for City, with the goal not arriving until the 90th minute, they barely gave themselves a chance to tap into the nervousness of the home crowd, borne of their own recent barren run.
If there was a positive to come out defeat (and I confess to a touch of straw clutching) it would be that one or two short-comings within the squad have been laid bare over the last few days. If the rumours are to be believed, a striker of the burly order sits high on Hughton’s list as he enters the fray of the January transfer window – with the absence of a Holt or a Morison at Upton Park making this crystal clear.
Simeon Jackson and Harry Kane both have undoubted roles to play within the squad, but neither currently ticks the box of lone striker; both of them look to benefit from having another to play alongside. If McNally and Hughton are able to pull an Alex Tettey-type rabbit from the continental hat then one assumes it will be looking long-term rather than a short-term fix.
The current formation looks to be one that the gaffer and his team have settled on – even allowing for the current dip/wobble – and accommodates just a single out-and-out striker. Put simply, if Grant Holt is fit, Grant Holt plays. Let’s hope any new striker is both good at maths and patient.
Javier Garrido’s omission was an interesting one – with Hughton suggesting that the decision to bring in Ryan Bennett was a tactical one rather than one forced by illness or injury; also confirmed by the tweeting Spaniard. Quite where this leaves the Canary future of the likeable Marc Tierney one begins to wonder.
Saturday’s trip to London Road, Peterborough gives us all a break from the high-octane pressure of the Premier League. Instead, we can look forward to a good old fashioned cup-tie with terraces (yes, standing at a football match!) and bit of needle.
If you’re in any doubt about the ‘needle’, a quick internet search of Durham, Talksport, Norwich will tell you all you need to know.
So… no banana skins please lads.
Come on you Yellows.
The gaffer and his team are fixed, indeed fixated, on one up front.
It is not the way forward for us – it doesn’t play to the strengths of Holt or Wes, both of whom are being asked to do far too much, especially Wes.
One up front is fine if you have really quality, mobile and interchanging players in support. We don’t have that, partly because of player limitations and partly because of the frustrating inflexibility of CH’s formation. Sadly there is no plan B, and substitutions or rather the inability to make effective and timely ones, is a reflection of this.
We need to be playing to the strengths of our players and be able to vary the approach depending on the opposition and within the games as they unfold.
Grant isn’t scoring goals because we are not creating open play chances. If our back four is any good, and I think it is, then we can afford to use only one holding player and have two flexible midfielders, along with Wes in the hole behind the front two. A 4-1-3-2 sort of set-up. That means not two wide men, but more flexible occupation of the whole midfield.
As for a second striker, if any affordable quality is around then lets be ‘avin ‘im.
But just to wind up the usual suspects, did you see the interview with Paulo di Canio singing the praises of a much lighter, fitter and motivated Chris Martin? If not, seek it out in the Swindon Advertiser. He’s got the brain, technique and scoring ability that would be ideal alongside Lord Holt. And no fee required.