Let’s not beat about the bush, City’s performance against West Brom was absolutely dreadful, as acknowledged by Dean Smith and his players.

From a fan perspective it’s easy enough to find excuses for the players that you like and demonise those you don’t, but let’s drill deeper into why it happened.

Clearly, City’s build-up play was ponderous as the ball was passed interminably across the back four before generally ending up at the feet of Tim Krul to launch a high ball which would invariably surrender possession.

That much was obvious to everyone, but why did it happen? The answer lies in three things. The first is the fact that City’s back four are all right-footed, the second is that there was very little connection between City’s midfield and back four, while the third was an excellent tactical gambit on the part of Steve Bruce.

The Pink Un: Norwich head coach Dean Smith and West Brom boss Steve Bruce, who will have been happy enough with the point earned at Carrow RoadNorwich head coach Dean Smith and West Brom boss Steve Bruce, who will have been happy enough with the point earned at Carrow Road (Image: ©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +44 7813 022858)

Bruce was aware that Sam Byram at left back was likely to have to check back to his stronger foot before crossing and that therefore Max Aarons was the key to City breaking West Brom’s high press, and his players ensured that apart from a handful of occasions in the first half Aarons was given little chance to attack the by-line and was increasingly forced inside where he invariably ran into heavy traffic.

Consequently, a lot of possession fell to City’s centre backs, neither of whom can realistically be expected to unpick packed defences. In fact, there were a couple of occasions in the second half when West Brom allowed Andrew Omobamidele to step through the high press and offered an apparent passing channel only to pick the pass off and generate dangerous counter-attacks of their own.

Sometimes you have to credit the opposition and West Brom were the best-organised opponents I’ve seen this season, although their plan was helped significantly by the gifting of an early goal through poor City marking and some leaden-footed goalkeeping from Krul.

However, none of that would have mattered had City’s midfield functioned better. It was a difficult game for Gabriel Sara to make his first start in and he looked rather lost apart from the odd flash, but anyone coming into such a collectively poor performance would have struggled.

I thought that he and Marcelino Nunez were too keen to take up advanced positions and as a result made it easier for West Brom to pick them up, while there were occasions when I felt that there was space in front of Kenny McLean that he could have driven into with the ball.

There was plenty of disquiet in the crowd at the laboured build-up, but far too often there was no significant movement in front of the man on the ball, who invariably becomes the focus of the crowd’s wrath.

What really disappointed me was the fact that City seemed either incapable or unprepared to try to mix things up in order to unsettle West Brom’s defenders. Interestingly, on the few occasions in the second half when a longer ball into the channels was used to turn them, the visitors looked much less comfortable and both Josh Sargent and Teemu Pukki were able to create half chances as a result.

Ultimately it was an incredibly frustrating afternoon, and it is hardly surprising that fan reaction reflected that. It was a poor performance, and no one would deny that, although there are some mitigating circumstances due to players missing.

However, it’s important to keep a balanced view. I fully understand why fans are unhappy and no one would suggest that there are no areas of concern, but some of the criticism following last week’s game strayed into the realm of hyperbole.

City may be underperforming but a team doesn’t go unbeaten for seven games in such a tough division unless they have some pretty significant strengths as well as weaknesses.