Paddy Davitt verdict: Take a long, hard look boys
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s brush with the Premier League is turning into a chaotic ride.
If anyone had told you after they shocked the football world in beating Manchester City they expected Daniel Farke's squad to muster only one point from the next five league games then they were lying.
That epic jolt to the football ecosystem appears to have had a corrosive effect.
Now City are seemingly unable to score in the same quantity, bar Bournemouth keep them out at the other end, and look destined to gravitate around the lowest recesses for the rest of the season.
Which might be realistic given the disparity in resources but certainly should not be the extent of anyone's ambition for a club heading firmly in the right direction at all levels.
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Tim Krul's heroics by themselves will not be enough.
They were not enough in a game where he saved two penalties and pulled off a breathtaking point blank stop from Anthony Martial. But he was let down again by those in front of him. The error count rises at an alarming rate.
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Farke did not put names to the labels afterwards but it was abundantly clear who he felt was at fault for the first two goals, leaked in charitable fashion to Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford.
City's young talent has rightly been lauded. But the tone of Farke's post-match comments was less paternal and more the rebuke of a disappointed parent. The Premier League is an unforgiving environment to learn your trade, but those are the cards that have been dealt.
With the praise and the England Under-21 calls come increased scrutiny and an expectancy poor displays are the exception. The chronic injuries, particularly defensively, and the lack of genuine top flight outfield experience are doing nothing to smooth the transition from the Football League.
But Christoph Zimmermann, Grant Hanley or Timm Klose are not returning anytime soon. These coming days will again be dominated by an anxious wait for positive fitness news on the likes of Krul and Ibrahim Amadou or Jamal Lewis.
City seem fated to endure debilitating injuries to a squad that was not designed or equipped to handle such adversity. That is essentially out of Norwich's control. In the interim the answers lie within Farke's current ranks.
United, like Aston Villa before them at Carrow Road, exposed a brittleness and a naivety which is thwarting any sustained shot at Premier League progress. Just as worryingly it looks like Farke's players, collectively, have no answer to the intensity and the power surges top flight rivals can muster.
The blurring cut and thrust of Martial or Rashford, and the inability of Norwich's midfield to stem the flow, is troubling. Todd Cantwell and Moritz Leitner did not reappear after the interval. Onel Hernandez certainly injected drive and thrust, and merited the scant consolation of a first Premier League goal of his career, but the game was already up.
City's opponents are routinely pressing ferociously from the front safe in the knowledge Norwich will either cough up cheap possession or run out of ideas, or display a lack of conviction at the crucial moment.
Even Teemu Pukki skied his best chance at the near post early in the second half when 12 months ago the ball would have nestled in the roof of the net.
That is the growing concern, even with far more games ahead of them than behind on this voyage of discovery.
If the confidence starts to leak and the self doubt flow in its place Norwich will continue to lack what it takes to really push teams into a higher gear. United coasted to the finish line despite spurning two penalties awarded by the video assistant referee system.
Farke wisely sought not to use contentious decisions to mask the real issues.
The head coach, his backroom staff and players, fit or otherwise at present, need no further introduction to the vagaries of the highest profile club league in the world.
The allure and the glamour, the stardust and the exposure have receded to reveal a cold, hard reality underneath. The degree of difficulty will not change. It is City's ability to adapt that holds the key.
In that glorious march to promotion Norwich as a club and the players who so brilliantly represented it were in perfect sync.
What unfolded against the Red Devils offered fresh evidence too many in this squad are falling behind the club's newly acquired loftier status.
The pendulum needs to swing the other way. Sooner rather than later.