Mike Taylor: We need to improve
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That was quite a game against Rotherham. A win is always a win. The lads kept going, well done. But they were disjointed and second best tactically, most of the game.
The gulf in resources between the clubs is huge, excuses are going to be thin. Did we play 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3? Tellingly, I have no idea. I never saw any shape in the 95 minutes.
Rotherham setup as expected, pressing us and doing the basics well. They scored through our charity, a stupid concession, it was no fault of Aarons. A slow, lofted ball towards him was intercepted with a running leap and header; Aarons didn’t even get to jump from a standing start. It was the easiest of aerial interceptions, headed forward, poor central defending, goal, 1-0.
Tactically, City looked good (only) when Stiepermann advanced beyond Buendia. Once, he dribbled forward and released Idah on his left. Sadly the Irishman had his body open the whole time and couldn’t have made his intentions any clearer, trying to bend the ball around the advancing keeper. It was a bad miss but a good save.
Idah hasn’t yet convinced me, but then he’s a central striker and isn’t being played as such. Left attacking slot? Placheta please, round pegs, round holes. Then we had two terrible attempts after two cutbacks from Aarons but that doesn’t tell the story, Rotherham missed a penalty then missed an open goal with a header from four yards. Norwich didn’t have a midfield. Was it 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. I don’t know.....
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In the second half, I remember nothing until I noticed the media slating Buendia. Watching the match with my dad, I said “This formation is rubbish for Emi, Idah and Hugill are too narrow and aren’t moving off the ball, and because we are playing with fullbacks (rather than wingbacks) there is rarely any IMMEDIATE width. Emi has no angles to exploit”. Two mins later we scored, and you know how that goal was created.
Then there was a shocking red card, and Rotherham lost it. Plan X came into effect, three strikers, Emi and Vrancic as well, we looked all at sea. Then we got a penalty. Three points. Job done, move on.
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Let’s have this straight, Norwich were poor, Rotherham were better. Rotherham were organised with inferior individual players, plain and simple. They were quicker to the ball, they were snappier, moved it quicker, tested our exposed backline repeatedly. And that is the crux of the matter, DF was tactically undone again.
Like I said, I’ve no idea if we were playing 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, such was the way our midfield were bypassed. Rotherham had a clear purpose and no, it wasn’t to disrupt our game. Their pass and move was simple, direct, and their players had a basic athleticism that left us wanting.
Their lone striker Ladapo was more dangerous than our front three combined. Their midfielder Barlaser did more than our three man midfield. Or two man central midfield, I’m not sure if it was 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Sorry.... You get the picture.
A reminder of my recurring theory; “DF tries to impose 4-2-3-1 on to his players rather than have the natural abilities of his players dictate the formation”. Still stands.
It isn’t lost on me that two years ago, in the early autumn, I was ready to call for DF’s head.
I am also quite aware of the grit displayed by several of the players, so I remain hopeful that DF gets it right; I desperately want the guy to succeed.
But I’m afraid to my eyes, Rotherham played a more conventional game, and they did it better, and for that there can be few excuses.
We’ve only lost two first team regulars and have otherwise improved our squad, and tactically it’s been 4-2-3-1 for the last 9 months, so for me there aren’t that many justifications left.
We need to improve because we are bang-on mid table performers at the moment, but we got the win and we need a catalyst. Well done to keep pushing in the 95th minute, that determination is mostly all I care about as a fan.
“Midfield Mike” Taylor