Maybe now is the time for Norwich City to mix it up a little bit
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Last Saturday’s game was slightly surreal in that City utterly dominated the first 20 minutes, created two excellent chances and then proceeded to gift the initiative as sloppy errors and unfocused defending allowed Bolton to claim a two-goal lead which had looked totally beyond them in that opening period.
What was perhaps worse was the fact that they then continued with their ponderous build-up play to no real effect as Bolton sat back and allowed them to play in front of them, and it was only in the closing minutes that they actually started to put balls in behind the home defence to utilise the pace of Josh Murphy.
It wasn’t as pretty to look at, but the fact is that the more direct approach resulted in two glorious chances for Murphy as Bolton started to look distinctly uncomfortable for the first time since going ahead.
With City previously showing little appetite to take players on, Bolton had been safe in the knowledge that if they closed down the man in possession the ball would invariably be played sideways or backwards giving them time to regroup, yet once City started to make their defenders turn they looked much less composed.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that Daniel Farke should suddenly radically change City’s style. However, I think that there’s sometimes a case for mixing things up in this league when things aren’t going to plan, and that is something that City currently seem stubbornly reluctant to do until it’s too late.
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I also think that there is sometimes a tendency to shoehorn players into a system rather than adapting it to their strengths and weaknesses, and Cameron Jerome is a case in point. I’m certainly not in the camp who criticise his every move, but he was totally ineffective on Saturday and looked completely shorn of confidence.
However, Jerome’s strengths are different to Nelson Oliveira’s. He is at his best running the channels, pulling defenders out of position and using his pace and strength to bully them. His goal at Wembley is a classic example of that, yet on Saturday, despite regularly showing for balls into the channels, he ended up largely playing centrally with his back to goal where his indifferent touch made him significantly less effective.
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Yanic Wildschut is another example. Having scared Bolton to death with two strong runs to the byline in the first few minutes he rarely found room to do so again as the combination of Bolton’s high line and City’s slowness of build-up resulted in Marco Stiepermann, who is by nature a left-sided midfielder, getting into the same areas.
Like Jerome, Wildschut isn’t the greatest technical footballer, but give him room to develop a head of steam and grass ahead of him and he’s a potential match winner as he showed at Ipswich. However, in congested areas of the pitch his effectiveness is massively reduced.
Despite all these issues the lack of a killer instinct is still the key problem at the heart of City’s current slump, and the continuing absence of Oliveira, by far their most effective finisher, is starting to really hurt.
Notwithstanding the criticisms above, and the general flatness of City’s performance at the Macron Stadium, they still generated several clear-cut chances, but showed little composure in front of goal until Murphy’s late finish.
While Murphy, like most wingers, can be frustrating at times, he does at least offer a genuine goal threat and if only he had converted his earlier chance City might have had a chance of snatching a largely undeserved point.
As it is Farke goes into the international break with some serious thinking to do, but I don’t think that we will see any major change in approach when the action returns. However, perhaps an occasional willingness to be artisans rather than artists might make City less predictable and therefore harder to defend against.