'If Norwich do not improve at the back they will be relegated' - ex-City striker's stark winning to Farke
PUBLISHED: 09:03 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 16 October 2019
Norwich City legend Chris Sutton has warned the Canaries their Premier League campaign is destined to end in relegation unless they improve defensively.
Sutton insists that head coach Daniel Farke is going to have to modify his approach that swept the club to the Championship title last season.
The 46-year-old acknowledges that the club's injury crisis, which left them without nine first team players for the defeat to Aston Villa, but feels the City backline needs more protection in front of it.
"Eight games in, even a quick glance at their defensive statistics makes for alarming reading, and should show Canaries boss Daniel Farke that something has to change," Sutton told BBC Sport.
"Three straight defeats have left them second-bottom of the table, but it was the way they lost 5-1 at home to Aston Villa just before the international break that is the real cause for concern.
"What happens next? Well, I am not saying they should suddenly just abandon their identity as an attacking team, which is what propelled them to promotion last season.
"But even then they were giving opposition teams a lot of chances, and the thought process seemed to be 'we will outscore you'.
"It is OK to be open when you can do that but, when you go up a level, it becomes a much more dangerous approach.
"Clearly, you have to ask whether Norwich's backline is getting enough protection now they are in the Premier League, and also whether their defenders are good enough to cope by winning their individual battles when they are left exposed?
"So far, it appears the answer to both questions is 'no', and I think it is slightly misleading to just put that down to the injury problems Farke has faced."
Sutton believes that despite the key absences of the likes of Tim Krul, Christoph Zimmermann, Timm Klose and Grant Hanley can't be used as an excuse.
With Farke struggling for defensive options Sutton feels the City chief should have set his team up to protect his back line more.
The ex-City frontman added: "You cannot blame bad results on not having the personnel available if you still just go out and play in your usual attacking style, because surely sticking with it in those circumstances is not a sensible thing to do?
"If you have a weakened team, then give them more protection.
"I am a huge fan of expansive football but sometimes you need to try to keep your back four intact - so, tell your full-backs to sit in and play a little more pragmatically.
"It was scary to see how open Norwich were."
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With the likes Teemu Pukki, Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell and the returning Onel Hernandez Sutton believes City have enough in their armoury to hurt teams in the top flight. However, he is worried their work will continually be undermined by problems at the back.
"There needs to be some more balance between attack and defence from Farke's point of view, because his side are leaving their attack too much to do," he said.
"I think the Canaries have enough creativity in their team to compete in the top flight, but you can't ask them to score three goals to win a game - which essentially is what is happening at the moment.
"It is pretty clear what is going to happen if Norwich do not improve at the back - they will be relegated."
Sutton insists there shouldn't be a huge sense of alarm yet but believes that Farke may need to think about bringing in reinforcements in the January transfer window if things don't improve.
"The big positive about all of this is that it is still so early, there is no need to panic yet," he said.
"If I was a player in the Norwich dressing room now, I would be thinking about how we do need to tighten up, but I would also be confident we have players who can hurt Premier League sides.
"Yes, Norwich are in the bottom three but they are well in touch with all the teams above them and of course Farke will be well aware of the stats I have been talking about and all the issues they are facing.
"I always expected them to have some tough times as a promoted side this season, so it is not a surprise to see them near the bottom of the table.
"Staying up is their target and they are giving it a go by playing entertaining football, having not spent much money in the summer.
"Unlike Villa, who spent heavily and bought a new team over the summer, Norwich decided to stick with the players who got them promoted.
"I understand why they have done that but Farke might have to think again about what he needs in January if the players he has got are not good enough to play the way he wants to in the Premier League."