Not looking good is it.
With a win and a draw or two required for safety even the most optimistic City fan will this morning be struggling to muster the belief that the Canaries can surivive.
Yesterday was a hammer blow, and not just the result. For the first time City looked like a side who are on the cusp of relegation.
Up until now the horror shows have been saved for the magnificent, travelling Yellow Army but with Carrow Road now having been exposed to the standard fare for away fans it feels a little like a turning point. And not the good kind.
The poisonous air that enveloped Carrow Road upon the final blast of Mark Clattenburg’s whistle was the clear result of frustration that has been bubbling for months and, in truth, was hard to contest.
Those who follow City home and away will have been thinking ‘what’s the fuss about… we see this every other week’, but for 25,000 to witness such a listless, lacklustre and abject performance in a game that just had to be won was hard to take.
Chris Hughton’s decision to entrust the job with those who succeeded with some aplomb against Sunderland – Hooper for van Wolfswinkel being the only change – backfired horribly and was basically undone by a soft goal in the 16th minute.
And that was it. Game over.
On a day of damning statistics, for me, the most telling one was the fact City haven’t equalised in a Premier League game in 2014. Just think about it – the instant we’ve gone behind in any game that has been it. No response. And while there were more than enough wrongs to mull over following the performance, and all that accompanied it, that stat troubled me more than any other.
How on earth can any team face up to a relegation battle when for three and a bit months they have failed to respond to going behind? We know the answer.
The last thing you can afford to do against the ilk of West Brom, who had set themselves up to soak up pressure and hit City on the break, is concede a soft, early one. To do that in the knowledge you rarely pull level from that position must be crushing. And it showed.
Any modicum of belief that was there early on quickly drained away the second Morgan Amalfitano’s low shot eluded John Ruddy’s right hand and, despite Russell Martin’s gallant attempt to convince us otherwise, there looked to be a horrible absence of genuine desire to get back into the game.
To be fair to City’s club captain, at least he was prepared to put his head above the parapet – and there is no doubt he himself was ‘hurting’ – but, rather than hollow words, 25,000 fans would have much preferred to see decisive actions on the pitch.
Instead we watched as the ball was shifted, painfully slowly to and fro as West Brom’s two banks of four – assisted by two front men dropping off to make it a midfield six at times – shifted from side to side to plug any gaps. It didn’t work from minute one and yet for 94 agonising minutes City played in that same way with virtually no variation.
There were no obvious changes in formation, the substitutions were all on a like-for-like basis and it all played out with an underlying sense the players were waiting for something to happen rather than actually making it. As ever, there was no plan B, barely any tinkering with the formation and even the quaint notion of wingers swapping wings wasn’t attempted.
Instead the most rigid 4-4-2 one can possibly imagine was persisted with, and it failed.
It doesn’t help of course when the ‘2’ in that formation is a unit that simply doesn’t function. While I hear the platitudes around lack of service etc, it still seems clear that whichever combination Hughton puts together it doesn’t work. Half-chances came and went yesterday with an all-too familiar inevitability.
The lack of invention is clearly a problem, so too the lack of pace. While I’m an unashamed devotee of the passing game I wouldn’t have been averse to City trying the direct approach in search of the equaliser – but no. Of course Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley would likely win the first ball – as they did all afternoon – but to pick up the second ball would possibly have created a chance or two. Didn’t happen.
To have turned said giant centre-backs towards their own goal may have caused a problem or two; was at least worth a try. Didn’t happen either.
In short I doubt Pepe Mel and his team could believe their luck. Not only were they gifted an early goal but they were then confronted by a side who lacked belief, height, pace and invention. Yes, the woodwork was struck a couple of times – both from distance – and it did improve a little in the second-half but when you’re scratching around for those as positives from a relegation six-pointer you know it’s been a bad day.
And it was. About as bad as it gets.
Then, to cap it all, we then had the sight players clashing with supporters and those godforsaken clappers raining down on the pitch; an atmosphere akin to that which followed the 4-1 defeat by Burnley that signalled the end of Nigel Worthington.
Yesterday was a dark day – the darkest yet in a long line – but now is not the time for throwing in the towel. In the cold light of day there is still a glimmer and, I may be alone, but remain convinced there are yet a few twists.
Armed with virtually no logic I’m still of the belief that Craven Cottage can yet yield something positive and the final four games a point or two.
But don’t expect me to back it up with facts. After yesterday all I have left is a gut feel… and to date that hasn’t served me particularly well.
Gary, great article and I wholeheartedly agree with what you say. I certainly wouldn’t criticise the players for a lack of passion but a lack of self belief yes – once the goal went in you just couldn’t see that they believed they could get back into the game. But this isn’t new the issues yesterday are the same issues that have plagued us this season.
Much has been made of the atmosphere after the game – not nice but I agree with Russell Martin, now is not the time to turn on individuals but to unite and cheer the team home. I genuinely believe this season has several twists and turns to come despite our run-in.
We did actually go 3 at the back when Guitierrez came on for Olsson in the 81st minute and Redmond did at least get to the byline, unlike Wes, but, alass, poor passing and lack of movement, made these minor variations of little consequence and this “accident waiting to happen” of a season is now skidding hopelessly out of control with little sense of being able to take suitable avoiding action between now and 11 May! OTBC
Good article. Its frustrating watching a team with no creativity just trying to emulate Barcelona by passing the ball across the back 4 all afternoon. It was dire entertainment brought about by Hughtons total lack of managerial capability. It was wrong to play Wes as a winger when his strength lies generating forward motion in the middle of the park, but Hughton had no clue how to change it when it didn’t work. My concern is also with the board and McNally supporting a manager who has only won 17 matches in over 70 outings. Appalling performance which should not be tolerated. He should go NOW and lets put someone in there who can get the team playing against Fulham. Lets face it, It canlt get worse so we have nothing to lose.
Bob Robinson says
Yes a great piece Gary. I too do not blame the players. For most of Hughton’s reign they have appeared not to believe in what he’s trying to do. We must ignore their public utterances, they cannot say how they truly feel.
Primarily it’s the board that has brought us to this position. I don’t understand the total change in their attitude and leadership. We seem to have been dragged back to the dark days of Doomcaster.
Sad, frustrating days I’m afraid.
Richard Pechey says
The biggest single issue remains our inability to score or even simply to create forward moves that lead to on-target attempts from inside the box. Nobody fears us!
Douglas Millar says
City played without belief. It was a shameful performance, lacking as the article says,pace power and invention. Our most creative players – Hoolahan and Howson did not function. Wes could not control the ball for once and Howson was played too deep to have an impact.
The laboured passing across the back has never worked well but yesterday it was agonising to watch as West brom closed off all the avenues for moving forward.
Where was the determination that got City promoted twice and led to last minute goals? The team has few strong characters – Ruddy, Snodgrass and Martin are the only ones who spring to mind.
I am going to Fulham next week – I live only across the river from the ground and would hear the roar as each goal goes in. I do not expect much as I have seen the 6-0 and 5-0 defeats. But the present group have a chance to redeem themselves and they owe it to the fans to do so.
One final point. The negative atmosphere around Carrow Road all season has not helped. Those harking back to happy days under Lambert should not forget his regular desire to disturb his former team – taking Jed Steer, encouraging speculation about Wes hooligan and now stating his admiration for Jamar Loza. Hughton would not behave like that and even if his decency contributes to City’s relegation I am glad he doesn’t.
The problem is, yesterdays performance is not something new, It’s been like that for some time and it’s clear those in the dugout have no idea how to change it. If we want change they need to go, if we think we’ll manage to pickup enough points to make it over the line then stick with what we have. Neil Adams name has been mentioned and some say he has no experience at this level, I’d argue would that at this level and now we need something different and be would be that at least. We also have ex players at the club who know football, time to use them I think, could it be any worse?
A good article. But a month or two ago, weren’t you prominent among those urging City fans to keep the faith, and criticising those who saw ths coming and argued for change?
I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer that they were right and you were wrong. And using fora like this to support the current management contributed to the club’s resolve to stick with him. Responsibility shared for the current mess.
Those hoping for further twists and turns are heading for further disappointment. We have been heading in this direction for a long time now.
I do not blame the Board for sticking with Hughton earlier this season. I believe they, like many supporters, felt that he and his team would keep us in this league. What I do blame the Board for now is not recognising the genuine concerns of fans, particularly in recent weeks, with the abysmal away results and performances. Instead of messing about with clapper boards and refunds to supporters they should have been preparing to take real action when it became necessary to stop this happening. Instead we have a club again in disarray, supporters arguing with players, a weak manager out of his depth, players with no belief in what they are being asked to do and a team that cannot score. We are a laughing stock and this could have been avoided.
How often have
we see such teams in disarray at this stage of the season slip into the bottom 3 and vanish? All the evidence points to this happening to us.
Gary Gowers says
8. TH – You’re right. I was indeed preaching patience a few months back. At the time I genuinely believed it; events since suggest I was wrong.
We all make errors of judgement. It was my flawed opinion based on events as I saw them.
Seems a little harsh to blame me for the current situation! Not sure McNally bases his decision making on the utterings of a blog.
But well done on being right. You should be proud.
Morris C. says
Like Gary, I’ve been a ‘back the boys (inc. Hughton)’ stickler and we’ve been let down over the past 2 months (in particular) but we’re not down yet. Emotions are rightly raw after bottling it against the Baggies and the April-May fixture list has been dangling before us like the Sword of Doom all season.
Now is not the time for the ‘told you so’ stuff and childish clapper-throwing tantrums..how is that supposed to help the players to galvanise for the coming battles.
(9) I’m sure Suffolk folk are enjoying our plight but otherwise, to say we are a laughing stock is ridiculous – if anything, the clapper chucking has done more than anything to make us look like a load of dumb, country bumpkins or draw the inevitable Alan Partridge gags.
The manager and players need to take a long hard look at themselves before Fulham..but that goes for a number of supporters too.
Unfortunately the only remaining twists and turns for us this season will be the death throws of Hughton’s dreadful tenure.
The current situation has been on the cards for a long long time and no one has taken any proactive steps to prevent it.
“Give him time”, “don’t make knee jerk decisions”, “don’t have unrealistic expectations”.
Well sticking your head in the sand and trusting to luck may have worked last season (just) but, barring a miracle, it looks like that luck has run out.
I wonder how much thought “Nice Guy” Hughton gives to a Championship NCFC from the comfortable position of his next well paid job.
We will reap what the board has sown …
“for the first time City looked like a side on the cusp of relegation”
Really? Not been to many games this season? You must watch the games the Board watch.
With the occasional notable exception (about 6 in total and a few 45 minutes) we have looked like relegation material all season. Virtually every away game we are appalling. At home against Hull and Crystal Place we were appalling, despite winning.
We deserve to go down and will go down.
As for no change in formation from the Sunderland game, again perhaps this passed you by. We stated as a 4-2-4 yesterday with Snodgrass moving central and Hoolahan on the left wing – hence Martin had no out ball and Olsson had no protection.
Tactically, our management team has been out thought by almost every opposition management team for 18 months. How many times have we spent almost entire matches passing aimless balls along the back four while no-one moves in front?
When the people who were previously Hughton apologists apparently can’t see what is playing out in front of them, and particularly those who have this as a public forum to influence others, it’s no real surprise that he’s still in the job!
I assume your response in 10. to TH was meant to be ironic but I’m not sure it is – perhaps you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Ever thought that might be a possibility?
Gary Gowers says
scnfc (13) – I only ever offer my opinion. Occasionally I’m right, usually I’m wrong, but it it’s just that… an opinion.
Unsure of the need for such venom.
And if you really think the uttering of the writers on this site influence opinion I think you’re mistaken.
Again… just *our* opinions.
Sorry, I can’t see any more venom in my comment than there is in yours at 10. Why would you think you are allowed to respond in such a fashion without getting some back?
You are giving an opinion of course but my point was that you are giving one from a privileged position, as a columnist on a forum site dedicated to the one subject. You are an influencer as a result whether you want to be or not.
Opinions are by their nature held personally, but when you share them in this fashion you are inviting comment – that is what the site is for.
If you squeal just because someone disagrees with you, you shouldn’t write the column. That’s my opinion.
As one of the many thousands delighted at Hughton’s appointment, his first PL game, the 5-0 thrashing at Fulham, came as a shock. What had the squad been doing pre-season – bike-riding in the Alps? Even so, these things happen and as games went by, we continued to believe in Hughton’s careful, gradual improvement, strengthening from the back which made us more solid that first season, but the inability to score goals has plagued us from day one! Strikers have come and gone, but still no go and I don’t see any reason to believe it is something Hughton & staff are capable of fixing. I expected player fatigue, both mental & physical, to manifest 12 months ago, the midfield and defence, especially, cannot be kept under the intense pressure and scrutiny which comes of not scoring at the other end. So, our defensive foundations have been crumbling for a while and the whole team is shaky and lacking confidence as a result. No wonder when they know and their opponents know we cannot score. Apologies for the meander down Agony Lane but hindsight is a wonderful thing and like Gary, we have all fallen off the Hughton Love Train at various points, some are just better at hanging on than others, that’s all, but Gary has always open and forthright in his views.
Gary Gowers says
Scnfc (15) – Point taken and fair enough… a point well made. Nowt worse than a grown man squealing.
Cheers for reading.
i have been ridiculed and derided long enough for giving my opinion,a so called “outer”,so i just sat back and waited. It was coming,it was always coming
with this poor team. Rip Van Winkle has been a flop but more than that,as i have said before,despite sleep-walking into relegation criticism wasn’t tolerated. It was turned into a flaw and talked up as a problem with the individual rather than a logical response to the on-field show. This team has been off the pace since the U.S. tour,alarm bells were ringing for me then. Houghton will be ditched even if relegation is avoided,but really,all that is left is hope,which as we all know springs eternal……
Stewart Lewis says
Gary – you aren’t wrong yet, and the outers aren’t right yet either. They also undermine their case with silly comments like ‘At home to Hull we were appalling, despite winning’.
Of course we’re in danger and need to raise the performance level above yesterday’s. To retain our place 5 points clear of the relegation zone (I’ll repeat that – 5 points clear of the relegation zone) we need to get a point at Fulham next week. We’ve seen plenty of evidence that we’re capable of that kind of performance, especially when we ditch the 4-4-2 and revert to the formation that won at Stoke & W Brom.
Let’s not capitulate to those who came on here before Spurs, and again before Sunderland, to tell us we wouldn’t win another game.
Bob in Diss says
13&15 – brave words from someone hiding behind an anonymous tag. To start having a dig at Gary for expressing his opinion and then decry him for somehow stifling yours is a bit rich.
Team implosion is one thing but fan implosion is an ugly thing to behold..I’m genuinely gobsmacked by the comments of “we deserve to go down” and the like with 15 points still up for grabs – with fans like that who needs enemies?
Abject display yesterday as has been pointed out ad infinitum above. No sensible alternatives to Hughton will be found between now (or a few weeks ago) and the end of the season. The choices were sack him in December or at the end of the season – that’s it! Neil Adams? Really??? Couldn’t get worse? Really??? How about. 5-0, 6-0 or 7-0 rather than 1-0?
The only small chance we have to survive is to pull together under Hughton and then make a change in the summer. I’m not sure I can see that happening, and to be honest it’s hard to justify why it should after sitting through that performance yesterday.
Stewart @19. After the home win against Hull, there was huge debate about the “winning ugly” argument, and whether the result justified the means.
We played very poorly that day, got a goal and held on. We never looked for a second and barely strung a forward pass together.
I defined that as appalling – as entertainment it was completely appalling. If it had been on TV I’d have turned it off, winning or not.
Why does that undermine my case? I want to watch something which excites me; where the team plays with some passion and desire. Hughton’s team doesn’t do that.
I actually don’t mind us going down if we go fighting, snarling and busting our guts. If we’re still not good enough, so be it. But that’s not the case – we don’t actually know if we’re good enough because the players aren’t allowed to show us.
In my book, that really is appalling rather than silly.
And Bob in Diss – My name is Stuart and I drive a round trip of 400 miles to every home game and go to 8 or 9 away games every season.
I questioned Gary because his article is factually incorrect – we DID change formation yesterday, but he apparently didn’t notice. What is that to do with “fan implosion”? I detest Hughton for what he has done with the options he had since he took over – I think he is a well meaning, but nevertheless incompetent and I have backed that up with evidence, rather than just come up with a senseless platitude.
Stewart Lewis says
Stuart (22): good to know who you are.
The press consensus after the Hull game was that we’d played well and dominated tough opponents. The main discussion was our difficulty in converting dominance to goals.
If I were a prospective Norwich manager, looked at that performance and heard it fell way short of the home fans’ expectations, I’d seriously hesitate about taking the job.
Unrealistic expectations? You’ve just illustrated them.
Bob in Diss says
22 – You can drive to the moon and back every season – it doesn’t validate your opinion any further.
I’m sure you ‘dislike’ Chris Hughton – to say you “detest” him is detestable.
If you’re going to Fulham – have a good trip there..and back.
Dick van Dogsdick says
sgncfc, you’re right to point out Snodgrass was playing down the middle in the 1st half. This seemed VERY strange to me. It was a game crying out for width, but the right half of the field was all too often empty of yellow shirts when Martin had ball at feet. It played right into Brom’s hands.
Yobo was trying to spray long balls out to the left as a consequence. He’s no Gerrard. I think his success rate was 0 from 3.
I can’t defend this manager any more, but I think this focus on Hughton (for what, the last 18 months?) is largely misplaced. The club has under-invested in the playing staff ever since we went up. The lack of genuine Premier League quality has been painfully obvious for a long time. We’ve spent like we don’t truly belong in this league, and its showing. Its a small club mentality, which may cost us dearly. Organisation and motivation only gets you so far. The task is too great for many a manager.
On the plus side, strange things happen in football, and we’re not down yet. I think this team has one more big performance in them. They owe us one, that’s for sure.
One thing everyone into sport can agree on – the ultimate sin is to go down without a fight!
Dick van Dogsdick says
Well, he’s just been sacked! So I doubt anyone will read this. Everything’s gonna go mental!
But I think this move also reaks of the same ‘small club mentality’ I mentioned above.
Rival fans must be laughing at us: “Who? The under 18s coach? With THOSE fixtures coming up?”
Good luck Neil!
Daryl Burt says
People seem to be forgetting that this is the Premier League we’re talking about. Yes many of the performances have been abysmal and the sacking of Hughton is a correct one in my opinion (little too late but I was always on the more pro-Hughton wagon for a long while) but let’s not forget that the likes of Fulham and Sunderland are fighting for their lives amongst others. This is a hard hard league to be in and we are never going to breeze through it. Some perspective is necessary. I hope for the life of me that we don’t get relegated, I live in Australia and the tv coverage I receive of Norwich is unbelievable and I’ve watched games in the from India to the Himalayan mountains. If we get relegated then mine and many others ability to watch them will be gone barring the odd Championship game. Lets pray we can get a result next week and keep the faith for a hard run-in. OTBC!