Norwich All At Sea At The Back
Saturday`s defeat at Villa Park against a struggling Aston Villa side was the latest in a long line of "along come Norwich" moments.
It feels pretty dismal as I write this on Sunday and my biggest concern at this moment is the state of the City back four.
Norwich have needed new defensive blood for several years now, particularly in the centre and the signings of Timm Klose, Christoph Zimmermann and Marcel Franke were all welcome. At this time, with Klose injured in pre-season, Daniel Farke has been forced to go with Franke and Zimmermann as his main defensive duo when playing a back four as he did at Villa Park.
Both lads are "big units", powerful, athletic young men who have the physical attributes to play the modern game, although currently they are struggling.
By his own admission at Friday`s Colney presser, Zimmermann admitted that the physical nature of defending in the Sky Bet Championship has led him to discover that "anything goes."
It`s something that both these new lads will need to get to grips with quickly or they will sink without trace. Timm Klose, a player with more finesse about him, found that out last season after relegation from the top flight.
The impending return to fitness of Klose could well be what`s needed here so that one or the other of them can drop out of the first team starting XI for a while to take stock. Klose, while not always a rock at the back, should be able to help them with some of what is required.
It is still early days of course but what I have already learned is that Russell Martin will definitely not be challenging for first choice right back/wing back when Ivo Pinto is fit. He didn`t cover himself in glory at Villa but was by no means alone as being culpable for the defensive mistakes made. James Husband is still finding his feet on the left and I`ve noticed that opposition attacks throughout this season have often come down the Norwich left. It could be that those opposing teams just happen to be stronger on the right wing, or they could be targeting him as a weak link, I`m not sure yet.
Zimmermann had a shocker against the Villains and had Angus Gunn to thank for digging him out on more than one occasion. Franke wasn`t much better and both looked slow and ponderous against lightning counter attacks and the mobility of Davis and Green.
By contrast, City were slow to move the ball at times, especially in the first half as Villa retreated behind the ball and awaited the inevitable sloppy pass to break at pace against us.
I like the idea of Farke`s possession based philosophy but it needs to be quicker in the build up. It`s been clear that when Wes Hoolahan, Nelson Oliveira and James Maddison have played that we look sharper and quicker going forward. In the second half against Villa, Josh Murphy was the one shining light that everything went through and he scored one and assisted one for Oliveira.
Having said that, he wasn`t as effective in the first half and that was arguably where the game was lost.
Cameron Jerome is toiling away without getting any real opportunities. He needs balls to run in behind the defence and with our ponderous build up play, there haven`t been many of those. He doesn`t have the little tricks and turns that Oliveira has and it was unfortunate that Nelson wasn`t fit enough to start the game. It makes me think that we need another striker before the window closes but those type of players cost the big bucks - bucks we probably don`t have. If, god forbid, we lost Oliveira through injury for a while then with only Jerome (and possibly Watkins) we will be in trouble.
Wes Hoolahan`s aging legs and increasing recovery time are meaning that he can`t play three games in a week and that is a problem because we are so reliant on his skills and vision. If Maddison is going to play in a deeper role and without the injured Pritchard, we lack creativity at times. Although he has done very well in that deeper role, if Wes is having to sit a game out, I would be playing Maddison behind the striker while Pritchard is still injured and let`s not forget that we aren`t likely to see young Alex until January. Either that or Watkins needs to fill that hole better than he did against Sunderland.
So, with eleven days to go until the transfer window closes, I would like us to bring in another centre back and a striker. No football club will bring in lesser players than they already have, they need to be improving the team or it`s just not worth signing them. That will cost and it remains to be seen if we are able to do that.