David Hannant: Back-to-back defeats must drive City forward

Teemu Pukki and his Norwich City team mates had another frustrating evening against Watford in the Championship title race

Teemu Pukki and his Norwich City team mates had another frustrating evening at Carrow Road in their pursuit of the Championship title - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Any regular readers of this column will know that as far as Norwich City goes, my glass is almost always half-full. 

As it says on the strapline for those of you reading in print, I bleed yellow and green, and generally look through the world with these tinted spectacles.

But despite also being somebody who also likes to throw curveballs here and there, even I probably wouldn't have predicted my first post-promotion column would be built somewhat on fear, more than joy and optimism. You've been warned.

The fact of the matter is, though, on the back of two defeats against two of the Championship's stronger sides, the shell of promotion glory is already starting to crack.

Don't get me wrong, it will take a real disaster for us not to finish the league as champions and we will be deserving of that crown - but there is also quite a large elephant in the room alongside this.


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This elephant is the fact that both teams who came down with us, so the best representation of what Premier League opposition is like, have taken maximum points from us.

From a certain point of view, I don't think we can read massively into the two latest results in isolation.

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Were this a courtroom setting and I was tasked with mitigating for the defeats, I would obviously point out that in both scenarios, the opposition have had far, far more reason to need the points - with promotion already in the bag for us.

Already two of the better sides in the league, clearly they had more need to scrap, fight and grind out the results. 

On Saturday, the red card was the turning point - never a red in my eyes - and from that point Bournemouth set out to completely ruin the game.

Watford was different, until they got the goal. Then, once again, we saw spoiling tactics at their very worst (or finest?) 

Norwich City defender Dimitris Giannoulis was red carded for a foul on Bournemouth's Ben Pearson

Norwich City defender Dimitris Giannoulis was red carded for a foul on Bournemouth's Ben Pearson - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Add to Tuesday's game the fact that the run-up to the game would have been drastically different for the two sides - certainly Saturday night - and there was probably only ever going to be one winner.

Roles reversed and I'm fairly confident we'd have seen two totally different sets of games - particularly the fact they were both at Carrow Road.

However, what I worry more about is the psychological impact of being doubled by our two fellow relegated teams.

It is so important that the lads do not allow this to hang over them like a dark shadow going into next season in the top flight - and instead use it as something to motivate them and something to learn from.

The gusto with which City have steamrolled their way to promotion obviously breeds confidence, but confidence can also very quickly turn into complacency, which there is no room for in the Premier League.

There is no escaping the fact the Premier League is full of sides like Watford and Bournemouth, sides that play what I like to call "anti-football" and do it well.

Hardy sides like Burnley, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, who will no doubt approach playing Norwich in this kind of way too - which is largely what led to our relegation last time around.

It is definitely fair to say that we have tightened up tremendously this season, so by all accounts we should be better equipped to deal with this side of Premier League football - the defensive record this season compared to the last time we were promoted speaks for itself.

However, these past two games have made me begin to worry - as we will come up against the same level of motivation Watford and Bournemouth had, and the same spoiling tactics almost every week.

And the weeks we won't come up against teams that try to spoil games, we will be faced with teams that can splash out more on one player than we have on our entire squad. 

Watford and Bournemouth having more reason to need to win is a factor, but in the Premier League every team has this level of motivation for every game - we can't afford to take our eyes off the ball at any stage.

If we are to right the wrongs of last season and stay where we all feel we belong, we have to be prepared to play the game smarter. 

I'm obviously not saying we should turn our backs on our footballing principles, of course not, but we also need to be prepared to embrace the uglier side of the games.

I make no secret of what I think of Leeds, or at least their fans, but on the field they've shown this season exactly how it needs to be done.

Leeds haven't shied away from trying to play attacking football and have taken the occasional tonking for it, but they do also seem able to grind out results, which we will definitely need to do.

I have so much faith in Daniel Farke, Stuart Webber and frankly everyone involved at the club that I know they will have identified the learning points in these defeats, but it is vitally important that the players do that.

They have to look to these games as decent indicators of what we should expect this season and not chalk up our defeats in them as simply being down to a lack of focus or, for want of a better phrase, hangovers.

They do not, however, take away from how phenomenal this season has been and after 43 games, the table doesn't lie. Yes, Watford and Bournemouth got the better of us over 180 minutes each, but we have unquestionably been the best team because we have the most points.

And how lucky are we if we have the luxury of being able to be irritated by the fact we can now only manage 99 points maximum - and believe me, I'm irritated!

It has to be Emi

Emiliano Buendia of Norwich celebrates scoring his side’s 1st goal during the Sky Bet Championship

Emi Buendia has been linked with a host of La Liga clubs. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Two of my colleagues, Connor Southwell and Steve Downes, had a bit of fun on Twitter last week debating whether Olly Skipp or Emi Buendia should be crowned player of the season.

Genuinely, there are really strong reasons why either of them could lift the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy, but for me there is only really one winner.

It is a fair argument that Skipp probably prevented almost as many chances as Emi created and that is so important, but at the end of the day, what Buendia does is what wins games.

Skippy has been influential, definitely, but without Emi's spark how many of our tight wins would have been draws? 

I remember in Darren Huckerby's debut season, he missed out on player of the season to Craig Fleming, so Norwich City fans do appreciate defensive graft as much as creative flair, but history shouldn't repeat itself.

Clearly, we wouldn't be where we are now without either of these terrific players, but Emi has just done too much creatively not to win it. He wins it hands down, for me.

What a debacle!

What more can I say about the European Super League debacle that hasn't already been said?

Clearly, the whole thing is an absolute debacle, but has really highlighted the very worst of football in general.

Of course, it's impossible to escape that football is still a business, after all, but this has sent out completely the wrong message about what motivates the richest people in the game.

I genuinely have no problem with people trying to bring about change or re-evaluate things, but it was the underhanded way it was done that has irked me.

The six Premier League clubs dropping out isn't doing the right thing, it is backing out of doing the wrong thing after seeing the backlash.

Perhaps if the proposals had been put out to some kind of public forum before the announcement it wouldn't have left quite a sour taste.


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