While Rick was writing his MyFootballWriter match report and comment piece last night I briefly swapped hats and wrote my thrice-weekly fans-eye piece for the Metro. As City’s ‘social reporter’ I’m asked to dispense with neutrality and make the blogs sharp and punchy while always draped in yellow and green.
It turned into a bit of a rant in truth; Mr Waghorn giving me a lesson in taking a step back and assessing the afternoon’s events with a cool head.
So… with the benefit of 16 hours ‘thinking time’ I’ll now try and be a little more objective.
We can mull over the rights and wrongs of City’s tactics all day and all night long… and judging by Twitter have done just that. But when your team fails to fulfil the most basic footballing objective of shifting the ball successfully from A to B you’re in trouble.
City didn’t and they were.
The merits of playing 4-4-2 have taken up column inches and minutes of Canary Call airtime aplenty and so it was a tad ironic that on an away-day when Chris Hughton opted for a 4-4-2 we should get so horribly outplayed.
The lack of numbers in a midfield area where City were already technically inferior made for a painful afternoon and while I may have been (not for the first time) in the minority, for me it was screaming out for a five-man midfield from the word go.
Yes, Johan Elmander dropped deep and, playing just behind Ricky van Wolfswinkel, did his best to help the midfield stem the incessant flow, but it was never going to be as effective as having a Jonny Howson bolted on to the existing four.
With Leroy Fer reminding us that he’s still finding his Premier League feet and Bradley Johnson re-affirming once again that passing isn’t his strong suit, the central midfield area looked exposed from minute one. All a far cry from 12 months ago when Johnson and Howson outplayed Sandro and Livermore in a straight two versus two match up.
With City’s wide men also failing to impose themselves there were gaps galore for Spurs’ cultured midfield to thread passes through, which they clearly did – with far too much ease – for the full 94 minutes.
And it was hard to watch.
Again, I come back to City’s inability to retain possession; something which has been a recurring theme since our arrival back in the Premier League. All too often we go into hot-potato mode and ping the ball around in such a careless fashion opposition teams just have to ‘press’ in the knowledge that eventually we’ll give the ball back to them.
The flip side is, on the odd occasion when we do find ourselves with a decent share of possession, the ball is shifted so slowly and ponderously we make little headway and find ourselves with no choice but to go sideways and backwards – much to the angst of the River End faithful.
There has to be some middle ground where the ball is zipped around, but with precision. When we do that – and it does happen on occasions – we look a much better side for it. The trick of course is to do it consistently regardless of the quality of opposition and whether they ‘get in your faces’ or give you time and space to play.
A little overly simplistic of course – and far easier said than done – but without the ability to do it Premier League wins are going to be desperately hard to come by. It’s fundamental, in fact THE most fundamental aspect of football, even more so than the ability to score.
Without moving the ball around the pitch successfully how can we hope to get the best out of RvW? How can we expect to see Gary Hooper confirm to us that he is indeed a goal-poacher extraordinaire?
Of course it’s easy to pore over every negative aspect of yesterday’s performance and pontificate on where Hughton and the players went wrong – we’re football supporters after all, that’s our raison d’etre – but it goes without saying that none of them set out to play poorly.
Equally Hughton – despite the views of some – doesn’t deliberately seek to bore us to death by setting his team up conservatively; he and his players want desperately to do well for Norwich City FC for obvious reasons.
Also, with a social media savvy chief executive like David McNally as his ‘line manager’ you can bet your life Hughton knows all about it when the comments being aired are less than complimentary.
Having read this week’s Q&A with the CEO on the club’s official website I’m more convinced than ever that – in his desire for continual improvement in every aspect of the club’s operation – he’ll demand answers from his first-team manager when days like yesterday occur.
I’d imagine post-match interviews with the world’s press are a doddle compared to a Monday morning audience with McNally.
My final thought pertains to John Ruddy and his post-match chat with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham. In conversation with the Big Man, Chris questioned why City appear so tentative and cautious on their travels. Ruddy confessed to not knowing the answer to that riddle.
On an afternoon of many negatives, for me that was the biggest. The thought of us not all pulling in the same direction is unpalatable in the extreme, although perhaps I’m reading too much into Ruddy’s reticence.
Either way, the Villa game can’t come soon enough…