Michael Bailey: Angst, angry Timm and lonely Nelson - Six things learned from the Blades' City revenge mission
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It was the one Norwich City really didn't want to lose - MICHAEL BAILEY delivers his six things learned as Sheffield United turn the tables on Daniel Farke's side, and almost manage to hide their delight about it.
1 – Maybe we should hope it was tiredness
The question came up as soon as Eden Hazard stroked home Chelsea’s winning penalty on Wednesday night – will Norwich pay their penalty come Saturday?
Unlike following the Arsenal game where Derby’s arrival was met with an open need to dig as deep as possible, this time the noises were positive. It was different, people felt fit and Saturday’s task wouldn’t be an issue.
Maybe in more normal Championship circumstances, City would have got away with that. But against a Blades outfit rested for eight days and positively vibrating at the thought of getting their perceived revenge for some bizarre Bramall Lane injustices back in September, the positivity only masked so much.
And yet one of the day’s worst performers was Alex Tettey who barely played in London, while City got better the longer the game wore on.
Tiredness offered a reason but also an excuse for being short in other areas. The real cause may be weeks away.
2 – Isolation is pretty useless
It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time in a while – and underlined the point that formations don’t always dictate as much as we think.
For almost the entirety of the first half on Saturday, it was hard to watch City attack. Part of the theme continued into the second half too.
There was the sight of yellow shirts congregating around the edge of the box – and only one in it. The sight of Nelson Oliveira standing – not really moving – without a team-mate within 20 yards and an arch of five behind him. It was as if they were afraid of getting too close.
And oh for a midfielder that could possibly run from deep and actually beyond City’s focal point, in formation at least.
Things did improve as the game wore on, and that has been a recent theme at Carrow Road – but for a awful second goal, City may not have lost. There has been some decent recent work but goals remains an issue, and Saturday proved the amount of work still to do be done.
3 – Klose was on a one-man mission
Even now, I can’t work out how good Timm Klose was at the weekend.
Sure, we all saw the wonderful right-footed cross that helped deliver Jamal Lewis’ first professional goal at Chelsea in midweek. It was just a little surreal to see the Switzerland international try to repeat the feat at regular intervals on Saturday.
Some will suggest a back three gives a little extra licence for Klose and Christoph Zimmermann to break forward and offer an offensive impact. It’s just a shame City looked so outnumbered defensively for much of the first half.
Klose didn’t hang around for long after the game either, leaving with a face like thunder that could have come down to any number of issues he had with a day drenched in frustration.
But he did spend a lot of the game taking responsibility, grabbing the ball and driving where he could. He even came as close as anyone scoring. That ownership alone was good to see.
4 – Tony refs to his own rule book
A week of debate was dominated by Video Assistant Referees (VAR). It went round in circles, but at least left a feeling that diving might not be such a good idea once the joys of television help for the officials comes in as a regular fixture – which it will.
To those who worry such technology and obvious need might leave us with nothing to get angry about – Timm Klose included I believe – don’t concern yourselves. We’ll always have referees like Tony Harrington.
There was nothing in Saturday’s’ game any VAR would have been bothered with. And yet, we were treated to a referee intent on showing minimal control of the game he was charged with.
I’m curious to know whether Mr Harrington had any idea of the context of Saturday’s fixture before kick-off.
To be clear, his performance had no bearing on the result. It was simply inconsistent with what’s gone before this season – and that will always frustrate beyond any VAR.
5 – Form is temporary, but class?
At least this time, Chris Wilder’s public speaking came with a degree of sporting conduct that was perhaps missing when he tasted defeat.
That’s not to say pre-match impressions of Sheffield United’s manager were dispelled behind the scenes.
The celebrations on the pitch were a wind-up to behold of course, while even United’s unused substitutes managed to turn a routine post-match warm-down into an argument.
But of course, the reality is that’s how the Blades and Wilder like it. It’s what has brought them such remarkable recent success and in many ways, what every club strives for – a siege mentality to knock all aside. We even had it here for a brief period, albeit Paul Lambert and Grant Holt’s Canaries managed to avoid any classless undertones.
I learned on Saturday Ipswich fans refer to the Blades as ‘Norwich of the North’. City supporters may have a choice to make.
6 – Yep, the boys do need a hand
Speaking of Paul Lambert, busily beaming as he resurrects his career at Premier League relegation-threatened Stoke, it was hard not to think of him following Saturday’s defeat.
Once you’ve had a look at the excellent front page of Saturday’s matchday programme (top work Jim Goreham), take a look at the back. Once injuries, loan exits and Marley Watkins’ current lack of favour are struck out, just 17 players are left for selection.
Todd Cantwell was the man drafted in to make it 18 and give Norwich a full complement of substitutes.
Sure, Kenny McLean will fill one gap left in the summer – be it Reed or Tettey. But the greater need is now. In the words of Lambert, the lads need a hand – and don’t be mistaken that Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber don’t know it.
With several days of the transfer window to go and a hit list of two, it will be interesting to see how things look this time next week.
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