Paddy Davitt: Blaming Nelson Oliveira misses the point
PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:19 05 December 2017
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Nothing sums up the frustration around Norwich City's Championship season better than the baffling case of Nelson Oliveira.
A striker good enough to be called into the Portugal squad earlier this campaign; sharing a dressing room alongside an icon like Cristiano Ronaldo and players who lifted the European Championships last year.
Yet now more likely to trouble the corner flag than get anything on target during his club’s alarming downturn.
A player heavily linked with Premier League Swansea City in the closing hours of the summer transfer window for many millions.
Yet capable of a petulant over-reaction to Daniel Farke’s decision to keep him on the bench at Fulham in the same month.
Oliveira is an enigma. Unlocking the code could transform the Canaries’ fortunes.
Shoe-horned between that bare-chested protest at Craven Cottage on the opening weekend and fresh angst at Cardiff was a prolonged lay-off.
A suspected groin injury morphed into a lower back problem and then potentially an issue with his teeth, as City’s sports science and medical staff tried to pinpoint the source of the ailments limiting his minutes.
A period of rehab during the last international break back in Portugal would appear to have succeeded in at least getting Oliveira on the pitch, but his sparse return since is in sharp contrast to the five goals in nine appearances for club and country prior to those fitness concerns.
Given City had failed miserably to embellish their possession football in his absence it was inevitable so much hope was being pinned on the forward’s return. It has failed to materialise thus far, but the fault does not solely lie with Oliveira.
Look at every goal the 26-year-old had scored in a stop, start season and there is a common denominator.
Not one of his five City strikes have come outside the penalty box; which is frankly a remarkable statistic given his current penchant for shooting on sight.
Much to the chagrin of team mate Wes Hoolahan on Friday, who berated him for a speculative effort from distance as the Irishman begged to be rolled in prior to half-time at the Cardiff City stadium.
Oliveira will know the expectation is immense for him to step up.
That anger at Fulham also underlined he possesses the selfish streak which marks out most in his trade.
Why else are strikers the most highly-prized commodities in the market? But his increasing desperation is also a signal Farke’s midfield mix is failing at both ends of the pitch.
It is not enough simply to lament the absence of Alex Tettey and focus on the shortcomings without the ball that routinely leave a backline exposed.
The dire lack of productivity is also an indictment of the creative output.
Every goal Oliveira has scored to date this season was served up from either wide or central areas; service in most cases delivered from deep in the final third. Now Oliveira roams in similar fashion to Cameron Jerome in search of the ball.
Largely receiving it with his back to goal and plenty of bodies between him and the opposition keeper. Jerome may well relish the selfless workload and willingness to run the channels.
But Oliveira is wasted cast in the same mould.
Look at the trigger move inside the six yard box for that stirring stoppage time equaliser against Hull City.
Jerome’s near post burst was the perfect distraction to meet Marco Stiepermann’s long throw but the finish owed everything to Oliveira’s sense of anticipation and his faultless execution.
We saw that goal-poaching instinct to bundle home Timm Klose’s far post effort practically on the line the last time Norwich won at Carrow Road.
Contrast that with the hand dealt Oliveira since his return to the line up.
The increasingly outlandish solo efforts from long range are doing nothing for his confidence or the patience of City fans.
He needs to help himself. Granted.
But without a quality supply line his isolation is set to continue. That is in no-one’s interests.
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