Connor Southwell: Have Norwich City been too nice in their top-flight quest?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
For all of the plaudits Norwich City have assembled over the last seven months, the reality is that they sit rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table.
And that isn't through the want of trying. You only have to have consumed the Canaries this season to witness how infuriatingly close they are to becoming an established top-flight side.
Yet, that dream is rapidly fading. The odds are dwindling by the hour and Daniel Farke's 'little miracle' seems to getting greater every week.
Ask a City supporter. They will underline how close the Canaries are to being where they'd hope to be.
Punters may point towards the depletion of a defensive unit due to reoccurring and unforgiving injuries, a fact that has evidently impacted City's progression. Contrast and compare to Sheffield United's backline, Chris Wilder has only had to endure Jon Egan missing one fixture.
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Daniel Farke can definitely point towards not getting a rub of the green, but equally, City do need to have a period of self-reflection in the mirror should they suffer relegation.
If nothing else, the brutality of the Premier League has been exposed to City this season. Games are decided on moments of quality and how you restrict them. City, for all the praise they've received, haven't been successful in doing that on enough occasions.
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The likelihood is that Norwich City will be competing in the Championship again next season, but that doesn't constitute supporters being resigned to the drop.
That 'what if' element that has lingered around their season remains. Football is a game that provokes emotion and that means the impossibility of a situation can be flipped by a supporter.
It would be miraculous. It would be sensational. It could happen.
As supporters have sat down to watch the highlights, they will have heard pundits laud their side and, for the most point, that is deserved.
But what constitutes a positive performance?
When consuming City, there are effective passages of play that displace defensive shapes to construct clear-cut chances. They do consistently manage to produce aesthetically pleasing passages of play. Their bravery in possession is genuinely exciting to watch.
Watching City is comparable to listening to classical music, it is soothing and intellectual, but it just doesn't provide the intensity that rock music offers.
That is far from a criticism, City do so much so well. Their patterns are meaningful, in possession they are often technically superior.
Yet, despite all of that positivity and hard graft, they have been beaten on 18 occasions and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Premier League.
Comparisons with the Blades are tiresome. Supporters don't wish to be reminded of the disparity between the clubs constantly.
But the fact is, where the two sides differ on the pitch is on their effectiveness in both boxes.
The Blades' approach to football is successful. They overload superbly and have a distinct philosophy that has proved successful this season.
They possess an intensity and a grit that provides a platform for them to remain in games. From there, it boils down to quality in both boxes, something Chris Wilder's men possess in abundance.
Admittedly, City don't have the financial muscle to compete in terms of recruitment. Some will argue that has prevented their progression this season. But the chances have been there.
Fundamentally, does it boil down to the fact that City are too soft? Too nice, some would argue.
Even Farke accused his players of being too soft after their defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers a fortnight ago.
A by-product of deploying players with technical proficiency is the absence of physical characteristics that contribute to a stronger side.
That doesn't require a radical departure from the footballing philosophy associated with Farke, merely an attempt to embed those qualities within it.
Equally, those comments don't jeopardise the fact City are heading in the right direction on and off the pitch. Saturday's defeat isn't a disaster, they performed admirably. But that's become a trend. And they can't convert it into points.
Similarly, this isn't a cry for the German to radically shift away from his ideology and head into a direction akin to that of Tony Pulis. As ever, it's about balance.
Tim Krul is the only player capable of antagonising opposition supporters, if City possessed a few more streetwise operators, their Premier League quest may well have fully lifted off.