Hands up who still thinks this is the strongest Norwich City squad ever.
The most costly, yes. The most handsomely rewarded, yes. But the best? After witnessing the latest in a very long line of capitulations I’m sure I’m not alone in being unconvinced. I suspect Dave Stringer, Mike Walker and even Paul Lambert would also disagree.
And perhaps for all the perceived failings of Chris Hughton the most damning one is that having spent the best part of £27million, Neil Adams inherited a squad that actually isn’t very good.
There remain one or two gems and in Robert Snodgrass we possess at least one with the heart of a lion, but for said sum surely we should expect more than we’re currently being offered. And to think that last summer we were so brimming full of hope and optimism.
As it turned out, the value of last summer’s signings, while smashing all other records in these parts, was merely par for the Premier League course and, by the time the season began, it became clear that it was necessary to spend that much just to stand still. Except we haven’t stood still. We’ve gone backwards… and we’re now going downwards. And it hurts.
To be put forward as cannon fodder at the canonization of St Ryan was always going to be a challenge but to roll over in such limp fashion when the stakes were at their highest speaks volumes of the current crop.
In the game’s build-up, those gallant enough to acknowledge that United had opponents at yesterday’s celebration were trotting out the usual platitudes about Norwich ‘fighting for their lives’. They didn’t. Or at least it didn’t look like it.
In fairness, Neil Adams had formulated a plan and for forty minutes it worked quite well. But even the best made footballing plans make no allowance for defending that has it’s rightful place on a park pitch on a Sunday morning.
While Russell Martin can, just about, be absolved of any blame, the contributions of Messrs Turner and Fer in the lead up to Steven Whittaker bringing down Danny Welbeck were unacceptable – especially when you’re supposed to be ‘fighting for your lives’.
And anyone hoping to see a Liverpool-style second-half rally were to be disappointed as, bit by bit, the evening disintegrated. The time and space afforded Wayne Rooney before he curled his and United’s second past John Ruddy was again questionable; ditto the ease and comfort with which Juan Mata helped himself to a second half double.
Too easy, far too easy.
Again it was left to the magnificent travelling yellow army to take the honours. Their belief and faith in those in yellow has been constant and unswerving amidst some very dark days, but even the most loyal foot soldier must now be questioning City’s chances of survival.
I’ve spent the last few weeks (months even) clutching at straws and conjuring up scenarios from which City can cobble together enough points for 17th place. I even convinced myself at times, but things are now looking very bleak.
With a record that reads five straight defeats, and seven consecutive defeats on the road, it takes some optimist to predict anything other than relegation. What was once a five point buffer to the drop zone is now down to one and if either Sunderland or Cardiff emerge victorious in this afternoon’s six-pointer we’ll no longer be on the cusp of the brown stuff. We have been marooned on 32 points since 22 March.
All signs lead to the Championship.
It seems a little late in the day to dissect the wrongs of yesterday’s performance and in truth I wouldn’t know where to start, but it almost goes without saying that the quality of the passing was again poor. Of many areas that need addressing in the summer, regardless of our status, the one that needs most attention is the inability to successfully shift the ball from A to B with tempo.
As things stand, the ball is either shifted so slowly it inflicts no damage whatsoever on opposing teams or, in trying to increase the tempo, it’s given away. Very little in between.
In truth it probably boils down to a lack of quality – at least when performing at the very highest level – which brings us back to how wisely, in hindsight, the £27million was spent.
Few of us questioned the acquisitions of last summer at the time; indeed there was a swell of opinion, even in the national media, that Norwich had done ‘good business’. Again, hindsight.
In reality, only Martin Olsson, of the ‘magnificent seven’, has delivered in the way we had hoped. Ricky, him of the £8.5million price tag, is clearly going to be in the mix for Premier League flop of the season, but he’s not alone. Few have covered themselves in glory.
And again we return to Hughton’s legacy being a squad that is not as good as its billing. We are where we are because after 36 games we haven’t been good enough and we now have the aura of a team that’s living on borrowed time.
But what really hurts is that we look to be going down without a whimper. We’re all willing the guns to be blazing but it’s not happening. For all the technical failings we expect to see passion but – Snodgrass aside – there was precious little on show in yesterday’s second half.
If the second Old Trafford debacle of the season is anything to go by, next Sunday’s live Sky date at ‘the Bridge’ is not one to look forward to. And by the time we play Arsenal, even if the guns are blazing it may well be too late.