David Freezer: Clear plan to steady the Norwich City ship will be needed on the south coast
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
We don’t need Coleen Rooney to work out how Norwich City are being exposed in the Premier League – how will Daniel Farke bolster his side’s defensive resilience though?
While 'Wagatha Christie' exposing Rebekkah Vardy's alleged online treachery has kept the nation entertained online during the first week of the international break, Canaries fans have been taking a deep breath to consider's their team's prospects, while trying to avoid fresh injury anxiety.
Admittedly, that's not been easy with Jamal Lewis, Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell all pulling out of international contention, however it seems all three have minor issues which need resting, rather than adding to the injury list just as Farke is hoping to have some reenforcements available for the trip to Bournemouth.
Whichever players are available for City next weekend will have questions waiting to be answered though, after that chastening 5-1 thrashing at the hands of fellow promoted side Aston Villa.
That's gone now though and that first eight games must be considered as the first chapter of this Canaries book. Now the stabilisers have to be removed, to show that those painful falls have been learned from.
That doesn't mean lurching away from the attacking intent and passing focus which have drawn such high praise at times - and I have no expectation that Farke would do so. Those qualities can be retained in a tweaked tactical system though.
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A clean sheet would be incredibly satisfying for City right now but the opposition hasn't been shut out in any of the last 15 games.
The buccaneering style which has made Canaries games so entertaining meant that just 15 clean sheets were kept as Farke's team swept to the Championship title last season.
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A total of 57 goals conceded was the most conceded by a title winner since West Brom (55) in 2008 and 18 more than Nigel Worthington's champions of 2004, who had such a settled centre-back pairing in Malky Mackay and Craig Fleming.
That's all well and good when you're winning games, but the Premier League is a huge step up from the Championship and those goals conceded start to feel very different when losing regularly. It feels naive, it feels worrying.
Leaking 21 in eight games works out to an average of 2.6 per game. Continue at that level of openness for the next 30 games and City are on target to concede 99 goals, which would be the worst record in Premier League history.
Going to Bournemouth is hardly the ideal next test. Only the top six scored more than the 56 managed by Eddie Howe's team as they secured their fourth season of mid-table safety, although they did finish 14th and with a goal-difference of minus 14.
We know City aren't going to park the bus under Farke but could they switch to a 5-4-1 on the south coast and still try to play their style, just with added defensive focus, in an attempt to avoid being 3-0 down within minutes of the second half starting?
Assuming Grant Hanley isn't available but that one of Alex Tettey or Tom Trybull will be, a back three of Jamal Lewis, Ibrahim Amadou and Ben Godfrey, flanked by Philip Heise and Max Aarons as wing-backs, should at least provide a more solid base to build on, even if it does sacrifice attacking intent.
A midfield four of Marco Stiepermann, Mo Leitner, Tettey or Trybull and Emi Buendia should then have enough balance to fight for the ball, while still having the attacking ability to get forward to Teemu Pukki when possible.
The names may change accordingly when the next injury bulletin is delivered but it's clear that a fresh start is needed, to allow this City squad to get a foothold in the Premier League, before allowing ambition to ease back into that style if things have calmed down.
It's not a particularly palatable approach and I wouldn't want to see that attacking style sacrificed totally, but six defeats in eight and a 5-1 home defeat to Villa demands that a clear plan to steady the ship is put in place.
- IT'S GOOD TO TALK
I'd just like to give a mention to the excellent video released by Norwich City and the Community Sports Foundation to mark World Mental Health Day on Thursday, featuring some remarkable honesty from Canaries defender Timm Klose.
If you haven't already watched it, please do try to find some time. It shows how far society has come in being open about mental health, trying to shake the stigma and encouraging those who are struggling to seek support.
My family have seen the tragic extents that mental health crises can lead to as I sadly lost an aunt and uncle when I was younger, yet still I feel it's a subject which took me a long time to understand. It's a deeply complex subject which is so different for so many.
Klose was joined by U23s midfielder Tom Scully, former Canaries player Cedric Anselin and CSF coach Dudley Garner to talk about their own stories and I was in awe at the honesty they shared, in the hope of spreading awareness and benefitting others.
Please do give it a watch if you get a chance, it was released on City's official YouTube channel, and could well be of help to someone who needs support.