After Sunday’s result, a good January window with a couple of quality defensive reinforcements coming into Carrow Road looks increasingly important.
Perhaps the most peculiar thing about Norwich’s drubbing up at Newcastle was that they weren’t even that bad going forwards. It wasn’t as if Newcastle were playing the game in our half the entire time.
Dieumerci Mbokani was given his first Premier League start and by all accounts, he did very well. He scored again. Never let his head drop. Looked a threat. Nathan Redmond also did well, linking up nicely with Mbokani, whilst scoring himself. City had more shots than their hosts. City had more possession. City hit the woodwork twice. City had one cleared off the line.
I’m well aware match stats don’t tell us all that much, but weirdly, in this case, I think they do. We were let down by our defending. If you spoke to any Norwich fan as the summer transfer window dribbled to a close, they would all have told you – we need a centre-back. That was the consensus all summer long. Yet, all we added at the back was Andre Wisdom on loan, who more often than not hasn’t even been getting in the matchday squad – though, to be fair, he was at St James’ Park.
I’ve seen enough from my team to know we’re fine going forwards and we will score goals. Mbokani is a quality addition. Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond are both on form. But, it really doesn’t matter how many goals we score if we can’t defend. If we don’t sharpen up defensively, we will get relegated. It’s simple. If you’re having to score three goals a game to win, because you’re gifting teams goals as we are, you’re going to really struggle. I genuinely don’t feel we’ve let in a goal this season yet, that I haven’t thought was completely unavoidable. I’ve never held my hands up and said: “Yeah. Fair play. That was a terrific strike.” Instead, my eyeballs have wanted to burst, the veins on my forehead have throbbed and the frustration I’ve felt has become increasingly explosive.
Norwich City are a Premier League team. At times, we defend like a Sunday League one (or me, on world class difficulty on FIFA). All of our back four are internationals. The two players in front of them – Graham Dorrans and Alex Tettey – are internationals. It’s not like these guys don’t have pedigree. Do I think some of them are good enough to be starting week in, week out? No, not really anymore. I had my doubts about them in the summer, and our opening set of games have strengthened that and I’m really not sure how it’ll swing around. In fairness, and Alex Neil said it himself, it’s not just our back four. It’s the team. It’s defending as a unit. The amount of times we’ve been caught on the counter attack is beyond ridiculous.
But it doesn’t really matter all that much. We don’t have the strength in depth defensively to really swing it around. We could make an odd change here or there, but, it’s not like we’d be bringing in someone who I feel is a massive step up on what we’ve got. That’s why it has to be the goal for January. It really does.
For the first time this season, I do feel a little concerned. I think it’s justified too. Unless we sharpen up defensively, unless we get a little more balanced, then this is going to be a long, long season. Saturday’s clash with West Brom at Carrow Road already feels pretty sizeable. It’s going to be a long week leading up to it…