Iwan Roberts: ‘Their fitness levels didn’t look anywhere near their opponents’
PUBLISHED: 09:15 26 June 2020
I said in my column last week that I thought Norwich would just do enough to avoid relegation this season – but after back-to-back defeats it is not looking good, to say the very least.
They need a miracle to get out of trouble based on the evidence of both performances.
The only consolation you can take from the opening week of the restart is that it’s very much all to play for in the bottom five. Apart from Brighton pulling away from the relegation zone after taking four points from their opening two games, the others in and around the Canaries have also suffered some poor results.
The most worrying aspect of the two defeats, against Southampton and Everton, is the lack of energy, desire, pride, passion and fight Norwich showed in the second halves, and without those traits you’ve no chance I’m afraid.
Their fitness levels didn’t look anywhere near their opponents, they looked so off the pace in both second halves and that’s a worrying sign. Everton had played 48 hours after Norwich’s first game and still looked fitter and stronger in the second half.
The second half against Southampton was as bad as the lads have served up all season, and you just knew when Danny Ings scored the visitors’ opening goal soon after the break there was only ever going to be one outcome.
Norwich seem to lack the belief that if they go a goal behind they can get back in the game. Daniel’s team have conceded the first goal in 18 of their 31 Premier League games, and have gone on to lose 17 of those games.
The second 45 minutes against the Saints was not acceptable, and it was missing the elements that led to such success last season. That team work ethic that was quite clearly there at the beginning of the season seems to have waned, and I get the feeling watching these games that a few of the players (not all of them) have accepted relegation and are already looking at pastures new come the start of next season.
If you are going to get relegated, then at least go giving it everything you can. At the end of the day, if you’ve not been quite good enough but have given it everything you can, then no one can hammer you. However, as a player there’s nothing worse than someone saying “you could have done so much more”, and you deep down knowing that you could have done more.
This is a hard column for me to write as I hate criticising this group of players. They are a great bunch of lads who are always very friendly when you bump into them and always willing to have a chat. They were magnificent last season in cruising to the Championship, but with just two wins in this last 17 Premier League games, scoring just one goal in their last six, I just get the feeling that a few can’t wait for the season to be over with.
On Saturday, the lads have to go again against a rejuvenated Manchester United side who go into this FA cup quarter-final full of confidence, having taken four points from the two games they’ve played.
United have already done the double over Norwich this season, scoring seven goals in the process. In fact, United have won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams and it would take a brave man to bet against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men making it eight wins out of nine.
I just urge the lads to go out and play with the freedom that we saw in their opening few games of this season. You are two games from playing in the FA Cup final, something that Norwich City have never done in their history.
A win over United could be just the boost the club needs to kick-start the fight for Premier League survival in these remaining weeks.