To paraphrase Harold Wilson (one for the teenagers), four days is a long time in football.
In the true tradition of football fans, we were cock-a-hoop to have overcome an expensively assembled and “resurgent” Aston Villa on Tuesday night, and a vibrant second-half buoyed by an equally vibrant Carrow Road served to calm some previously troubled waters.
But Villa were awful – even Steve Bruce admitted it – and last night, when faced with a top ten side who were very good, many of the old failings and gripes, from both sides of the white line, were laid bare once again.
Except, for me, this time there was an added twist.
Until now I’d perceived the failings of the players to be around their effort and desire, or lack thereof, but last night they simply weren’t good enough. And Canary Call’s theme of ‘a lack of passion’ was, for me at least, missing the point.
It’s a daft term and one I can never quite get my head round in footballing terms because for me it’s not a pre-requisite of a Norwich City player. We’re passionate about City but we’re bound to be – we’re fans. It’s our job.
We naturally expect effort and commitment from those we support but passion comes from within. I’d play with passion if I were lucky enough to wear the yellow shirt, so would you, so would Rob Butler but for the players I just demand they give everything they have to the cause.
And I actually think the majority gave all their all last night but still weren’t good enough, which presents a whole new set of problems. Against a side who had a plan and played with verve we looked staid and devoid of invention. There was no spark.
Apart from a reasonably bright opening fives minutes, Huddersfield bossed it. They played in a 4-2-3-1 that almost mirrored City’s (when do we ever line up differently) but did it so much better.
Their back four was solid when called upon, decisive, no-messing.
Their two midfield ‘holders’ ran the show and gave us not a second on the ball.
Their three attacking midfielders played with sharpness, decisiveness and creativity.
And Nahki Wells, as well as being a nuisance all night, was well supported by the aforementioned three and rarely isolated.
For City’s part, they huffed and puffed, created a few second half chances but were generally second best right across the pitch and had few answers to the questions posed by the Terriers. And could have no complaints.
At its heart was the duo of Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu who most agreed excelled against Villa. Last night they were second best by a country mile and were the very epitome of Alex Neil’s troubling term ‘leggy’, when describing the first-half performance.
Mulumbu’s mitigation may be his lack of game time but for Dorrans it was just a 4/10 evening. He wasn’t alone however.
The speed and movement of the visitors was generally too much for City to handle and time and time again a quick triangle of passes would open up huge gaps, the upshot being an exposed full-back; Brady and Murphy both guilty of being reactive rather than pro-active when tasked with defensive duties.
When out of possession, with Huddersfield’s manager David Wagner being a disciple of Jurgen Klopp, it came as no surprise that were exponents of the high press – worthy ones at that – but still City had no answer.
The half-time stats revealed a 65/35 possession ratio in favour of the visitors and for a side that tries to play – in Alex’s words – “possession based football” that was always going to present a problem. But no answers were forthcoming – neither on the pitch or from the technical area.
And when the time came to make some changes – no-one could last night accuse Alex of not making them soon enough – the option to hook an in-form striker who’s scored three in three instead of giving him some support was met with derision from the stands.
Almost for the first time, the venom that’s been building up in many for several weeks had a chance to air at Carrow Road. The message was unequivocal.
That City ended up playing with two up top anyway (Seb Bassong was sent forward for one final hurrah), made just a little bit of a nonsense of the decision to not go two up top when in desperate need of a goal.
Of course it would have necessitated a change in shape – a 4-4-2, or a variation thereof – and it may have meant fewer touches across the midfield and a need to get the ball forward earlier, but we were already in the realms of nothing to lose territory.
To stick with a formation that had failed us all game did Alex few favours and merely added fuel to a fire that had already took hold.
So, for me, that feeling of deflation that accompanies every defeat was compounded last night with a realisation that even when there is effort on display we’re actually not a particularly good side – at least when faced with one.
No wins against sides in the top ten is a damning stat and one that should, but probably won’t, give the board serious food for thought.
But at least we can finally lay to rest this ‘second best squad in the Championship’ nonsense. We’re clearly not.
Huddersfield proved that. And it was not pretty.