On Saturday, it was another frustrating afternoon for Norwich City as they failed to find their goalscoring touch in front of their home fans. There were certainly some decent chances created on the day, but the ruthless instinct seemed to be missing.
This was something that did not change in the game despite the introductions of Grant Holt and Elliott Bennett as it finished 0-0. The Canaries are quickly realizing that bad runs of form are just as likely to continue as good ones are.
We have seen both sides of that now, but the cushion afforded by the 10-match unbeaten run means that there is no need to panic just yet. In fact, the point earned from the Newcastle game could well be the start of an amazing recovery.
So, join me for a review of Norwich City’s latest game as we consider what some of the talking points were, and where the club goes forward ahead of tricky league games against Liverpool and Spurs.
I’m sure a lot of fans were looking toward this game as an opportunity to get back to winning ways after four consecutive league defeats. However, there are no givens in the Premier League, and every single win is hard-fought, irrespective of the opposition.
There seems to be the perception that Newcastle United are a poor side; anyone that suggests such a thing has a very short memory because last season they were very much the team to watch.
But we all know that it can be very difficult to repeat such a trick, and although Newcastle are far from poor, they do they have the riches to compete for a Champions League place.
This was a fact that they were reminded of when Demba Ba snatched the opportunity to move to Chelsea in this transfer window. This is clearly something that benefitted Norwich on the day as they failed to find their own goalscoring touch.
Nevertheless, it was a useful point for the Canaries on a day that they clearly didn’t reach the levels that they would have hoped for. A fifth consecutive defeat would have been an uncomfortable run of form, so it was important to start what we all hope will be another unbeaten run.
Chris Hughton alluded to the fact that he was disappointed with the final ball in the match. This might not always be that important, but I think we know that Norwich like to play through the wings and create chances from set pieces, so it’s something we want to try to get right.
I lost count the number of times we went to put a ball in, but found it was easily headed clear by the first defender. Although, it probably wasn’t helped by the fact that Simeon Jackson was not going to win many headers in the area anyway.
However, we must strive to get the ball in the parts of the pitch that really hurt the opposition as often as possible.
That being said; fans must maintain some level of realism. Clearly, the best talent from the Championship will not get the ball right every time, especially when coming up against some of the best defenders in the world.
I also don’t think the issue comes from a lack of effort or training as some fans have suggested. It’s just sometimes things on a football pitch don’t work out as well as you would like. It is most likely that it was caused by over-thinking the situation due to having Simeon Jackson playing as the lone striker, rather than the more physical Grant Holt.
In addition, I do feel that a lot of the time our players are trying to put a ball in from too far away, which is much more likely to be cleared.
Elliott Bennett is by far the best player we have at beating his defender and putting the ball in the box where it can actually hurt the opposition. Our players are also sometimes guilty of too much passing/thinking and not enough crossing or shooting.
The most pleasing thing about the game from my point of view was the clean sheet. It has been quite a while since we have had one, and it was one of the things that was so important during our unbeaten run.
We are certainly been doing a decent job on the defensive side in recent games, but have conceded a few more goals than I would have ideally liked. I think clean sheets are important for a team to achieve on a fairly regular basis to build confidence. It was also important psychologically for Mark Bunn to achieve his first clean sheet in Norwich City colours.
Hopefully, we can put a few more together in the games that follow. Of course, the team also managed one in the 3-0 cup win against Peterborough United. Chris Hughton will want to get back to that solid defence and nicking the odd goal here and there, a formula that has served his team rather well this season.
It’s remarkable to think that the same team that scored a goal consisting of 28 passes earlier on in the season were hardly able to string two or three passes together against Newcastle United. But that is football, and it will be one of those questions that we will never be able to answer.
We know that Norwich won’t win major awards for their passing ability due to the illusion that they can’t do it. But if memory serves, we kept the ball pretty well during our unbeaten run and must strive to get back to that form.
It’s common sense really because a team needs to pass the ball to create good chances and also to prevent pressure from the opposition.
There were fans that were calling for David Fox to start the game following his impressive performance against Peterborough United. And there is certainly an argument that he could be the key to get Norwich’s passing game going again. So, it will be interesting to see if Chris Hughton calls on him for the start of a Premier League match in the near future.
On an unrelated note, I also thought that Elliott Bennett was extremely unlucky to be omitted from the starting side, especially after Wesley Hoolahan’s below-par show in the game.
However, it’s a difficult decision to know where it is best to use Bennett at the moment. But he is another player that could prove to be important in order to get the Canaries back to winning ways.
I don’t think many people were expecting Simeon Jackson to start the game against Newcastle. And to be fair to the Canadian international, I thought he put in, well, hell of a shift despite having patchy service to work off all game.
In contrast, the introduction of Grant Holt came as less of a surprise. But it was a little disappointing that Hughton decided that Holt had to replace the lively Jackson. I was personally of the opinion that there were players who had worse games, and perhaps it was Hoolahan that should have come off instead.
The partnership between Holt and Jackson could well have proved to be the key to unlocking the Newcastle defence. It was obvious that the decision frustrated the player and maybe he had every reason to feel aggrieved on this occasion.
I understand that Hughton is fairly settled on the formation and doesn’t want to disrupt the flow of his team, but I think it is sometimes necessary to have a gamble to try to get the win. Nevertheless, it seemed at the end of the match that both sides were reasonably happy to have secured another Premier League point.