One step forward and two steps back. I’m calling it ‘The Strictly Season’.
I’m not referring to BBC’s primetime Saturday night fodder but the Canaries’ Premier League efforts so far in 2015/16.
After an hour or so of Saturday’s game, most of the travelling army probably felt like screaming; “I’m a Norwich fan, get me out of here!”
After the blustering performance against the Gunners, Saturday’s surrender at Watford with Storm Desmond blowing in was the dampest of squibs.
Continuing the dancing theme, our team gave the appearance of a room full of first-night strangers nervously waiting to be paired up for their turn in the spotlight.
In the meantime, Watford’s front two danced rings around our boys at the back and probably would have got a ‘ten from Len’.
While the loss to a knee injury of play-maker Wes and his twinkling toes may have been a factor, Alex has previously put him on the bench anyway for recent away games.
With the bottom of the table getting tightly squeezed, City now badly need to pinch some points from Everton, Man Utd or Aston Villa going into the New Year to give the faithful some indication of a season’s second-half revival for survival.
Of course, with Fulham out of the way for now, our historical bogey team is Villa. We can’t even bank on that one turning out well.
Newcastle away was a catastrophe and West Brom at home a calamity. Loads of possession but more holes in defence than the one at the bottom of my garden.
It’s fair to say that the vast majority of fans were in agreement a month ago with Neil’s sudden shift from being on the front foot to taking a tactical step back in emphasis.
More solid maybe but still only a small points’ reward has been the result. The goals-for column has withered alarmingly since we swapped a quick step for a slow waltz.
Against a Man City or even a pale imitation of defending champions Chelsea, that’s fine to a point, but for Watford, an almost total lack of attacking intent or effort is clearly unacceptable.
Even with my lack of coaching badges or experience, the one thing that keeps cropping up is that if you start the game defensively-minded and go behind, it’s near impossible to flick a switch and get everyone in attack mode.
By contrast, Bournemouth’s troubles are largely injury-related but they continue to stick to their philosophy of last season. Compare and contrast the shots attempted/on target stats from their win at Chelsea to our defeat there.
In terms of the table, City are now just a goal-difference away from slipping further down, while in terms of fan mood and outlook, the Cherries’ faithful have to be hugely buoyed by their recent performances.
Newcastle had every piece of good fortune going – a vapid Liverpool, lucky deflected goal and wrongly disallowed equaliser.
All in all, it was the perfect storm of a weekend.
The Hornets have found a manager with a plan who has taken them to the next level. Respect to them for that although such success almost guarantees that their Spanish conquistador will become the target for bigger fish next season, such is the often double-edged nature and short-lived benefit of a surprisingly good season – refer to Paul Lambert for a case for the defence on that theory.
Even if he is poached, it looks like Watford will be comfortable in mid-table and crucially in prime position to suck up their share of the big BT/Sky lolly of next season.
Norwich’s fate in that regard hangs more in the balance.
With a poor run of form only slightly better than Swansea, Villa and Newcastle, the “there are definitely three worse teams than us” argument rings increasingly hollow.
Our current boss is still learning the Premier routine and the steps involved for success in front of the harshest of judges – us fans.
Any talk of ditching him for a new model is plain barmy of course.
His skills in a still very young managerial career have been based on good coaching, discipline and effective man-management. Those skills haven’t disappeared overnight.
Maybe the constant chopping and changing of first-team personnel, formation and tactics is the root of the seeming lack of attacking oomph that was so painfully on display at Vicarage Road.
I hope we return to some degree of our more natural inclination of being positive and full of energy as displayed in fine results against Bournemouth and West Ham for example. That vigour and confidence seems to have evaporated for now.
I trust Alex to knock the troops back into shape on the unforgiving fields of Colney. Clearly, that’s the place where he sees through the week who’s most up for the challenge for the coming weekend battles.
After that Watford debacle, there are a number who need to step up to the plate and sparkle on the stage against an in-form Everton.