Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s dire 3-0 Premier League loss to Southampton

A masked Stuart Webber surveys the scene at Carrow Road prior to Norwich City's Premier League retur

A masked Stuart Webber surveys the scene at Carrow Road prior to Norwich City's Premier League return against Southampton Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Southampton verdict after the Canaries’ 3-0 Premier League home defeat

1. Sterile

Off the pitch and most definitely on it. This was Norwich’s chance to make a real statement they firmly believe the great escape is possible.

What other conclusion can be drawn now other than Daniel Farke’s optimism has not permeated enough of those under his command?

Farke said on Thursday it would require Norwich at their very best for the remainder.

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This was a long way short of that. Yes, further injuries and the bizarre circumstances of a return with no supporters after the game was put on hold during a global pandemic may be offered in mitigation.

But Southampton seemingly had no such problems hitting their stride.

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City, bar a positive start when they could and should have gone ahead through the likes of Tom Trybull and Josip Drmic, were far too compliant in their own downfall.

There is only one place City is heading if this is the performance level over these remaining ‘play-offs’. Down.

2. Sloppy repeat. Or should that be retreat?

The manner of Southampton’s goals must surely sting Farke and his players. At Southampton they were bullied by Danny Ings and punished for a lack of concentration or urgency on set pieces. There was echoes here many months on.

Ings’ opener owed as much to City’s inability to clear a throw in as his run off Timm Klose, and unnervingly accurate rising finish beyond Tim Krul.

But the second was another avoidable concession from a City viewpoint. Cheap possession coughed up and then Stuart Armstrong found free on the counter, before waltzing back inside half-hearted attempted challenges to guide a low shot back across Krul.

Nathan Redmond rubbed in the salt when he glided past Ben Godfrey with ease to rifle past Krul.

It was symptomatic of the alarming difference in intensity from the two sets of players.

Saints pressed with a desire from the front through the powerful Ings. The hosts, after carving out those early chances, retreated into a lethargic, laboured session. Norwich have shipped far too many goals this season.

Nothing on this evidence has changed following the long hiatus.

3. Central dilemma

Norwich went into this game mulling over another scarcely believable hit to their central defensive stocks. The theme of the season remains a drag on the Canaries’ depleted resources.

Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmermann have been ruled out of the remainder through injury.

Klose was pressed into a first league start since January 2019.

Ings cashed in ruthlessly but it was the mix in front that simply conceded the initiative to the Saints energetic, high tempo central midfield.

Trybull and Kenny McLean were unable to set the tempo in possession and when the Saints raided with pace and purpose they were unable to protect a back four working overtime.

Farke had seen enough by the time Southampton cruised into a two-goal lead with Mario Vrancic replacing Trybull, but the damage was done. It underlined again what Alex Tettey brings to the mix. Farke’s selections looked bold and progressive prior to kick-off.

But his midfield formula failed to fire. At this level, there is usually only one outcome.

4. Surreal sights

A game in an era like no other. Carrow Road has never seen anything like this. No supporters, just a collection of banners with inspiring messages draped around the lower tiers of three sides of a ground which, when Manchester City came calling in what still is the same season, rocked and reverberated.

The players almost apologetically ambled onto the pitch. Not quite sure of their surroundings. The music blared but there was a hollowness and a sense no one surely wants this for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

Those few in attendance observed social distancing and in the main wore masks.

But the only soundtrack inside the stadium was the booming voice of Ralph Hassenhuttl or the players themselves. Football but not as we know or love it.

5. Status check

Still bleak. Another game day. No more in roads made on the clubs above and the situation may look even more precarious by the end of this weekend.

City were always facing an uphill struggle. Which is why Southampton at home followed by Everton offered a chance to inject some genuine momentum and upward thrust.

Now by Farke’s own measure it is five wins from eight remaining league games. Minimum. On this evidence that looks simply unobtainable. City will press on. There is the tantalisingly prospect of that FA Cup quarter-final in the equation.

But the sight of Adam Idah and Josh Martin finishing this game already shone a light on how this might look when the 2020/21 finally gets underway. What no one wants is a sad, slow trudge back to the Championship.

Those fans sat at home will rightly demand more.

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