The incessant and sometimes tedious debate about whether it is points or performances that matter the most has surely dragged itself towards the most unwanted conclusion of all – that Norwich City are now equally ineffective in both respects.
One point in nine backed by dire consecutive offerings against WBA, Preston, and now Watford have surely taken the wind from the sails of even the most fervent backer of Dean Smith and Craig Shakespeare.
I have tried to sit on the fence throughout the entire proceedings, not so much out of cowardice but more out of a sense of not really knowing the truth. Having my suspicions, yes of course. But proof?
Well, that proof emerged on a wave of maroon-shirted mediocrity from Vicarage Road on Saturday evening and that is for sure.
I shared my “enjoyment” of the entertainment provided with regular MFW posse members Alex A, Alex B and Bernie Owen, frequent emails passing between the four of us as events unfolded in Hertfordshire.
A split-second before Josh Sargent’s goal I mailed the others to say this had been the worst 45 minutes of football I had seen from us in a long time, even including our ill-fated recent outings in the Premier League. I wasn’t met with howls of rebuttal.
For 20 minutes or so in the second half, we gave it a proper go, but without that sense of self-belief, that is oh-so-necessary when it comes to turning a match around. If we believed in ourselves, we had a strange way of showing it and that’s for sure.
Gary’s article yesterday, and some of the excellent comments on it, pointed various fingers in various directions. This overtly critical approach may be considered superfluous by a certain type of supporter but MFW readers know their football, are passionate about the lads in Yellow, and are rarely content to keep their thoughts locked up for very long.
And all our writers wouldn’t have it any other way.
So what problems shall I pick out as I attempt to trawl through the shards of another [which all too soon could become yet another] defeat?
Personnel. There was no excuse to start the Championship season without a certain level of steel as part of the recruitment process. Olly Skipp, Alex Tettey and indeed Bradley Johnson have never been replaced.
While it was good to see Isaac Hayden take to the pitch at last, a quick look at the bottom right-hand corner of my rarely-used backup Acer showed the legend 15/10/22. Another gamble on an injury-prone player that has the hallmarks of Stuart Webber stamped all over it.
I wish Isaac nothing but the best following his belated beginnings with us but obviously he didn’t look fit because he wasn’t.
Resilience. There’s not too much of that in the physical sense in our midfield. We’re not good enough to play possession football for 80 percent of a match and once the ball is lost it remains just that for far too long.
Pick from Marcelino Nunez, Gabriel Sara, Kenny McLean, Kieran Dowell, Danel Sinani, Todd Cantwell, and even Liam Gibbs to an extent and you’ll struggle to find an exponent of the old-school discipline of bark, b0ll0ck, and bite.
Watford took physical control of the game and managed to carry referee Darren England along for the ride with them, indulging in unpunished $hithousing in extremis at every opportunity. Smith knew this would happen – the Hornets have the physicality and they are rarely afraid to use it, which brings me neatly on to:
Preparation. I know Smith can only choose from the players he has at his disposal, but this midfield group is never going to get to grips with the likes of Watford. A simple question would be that we knew this would be the case in the summer, so why didn’t we do something about it in recruitment terms when we had the chance?
My moan of the match followed the second of two poorly taken corners by Nunez when the Sky cameramen decided to spotlight set piece coach Allan Russell on the Norwich bench. I thought Messrs Hinchcliffe and McCarthy were quite gentle in their response to the irony – I was steaming!
Luton tomorrow night has to serve as a statement of intent in which wrongs must be righted and three points gained.
We’re not in Disasterland quite yet but in this instance surely nothing else is acceptable.