Defensive solidarity, consistency and a sense of identity – Norwich can avoid meeting relegation

Defensive solidarity, consistency and a sense of identity – Norwich can avoid meeting relegation
Feb 18, 2016

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From defensive insecurities to a non-existent philosophy. It’s hard to unearth what exactly has gone wrong thus far this term for us Canaries, will we meet relegation? There could still be a way out for Norwich. Let’s pick the bones and start by looking at how we got into this mess, then how we can claw ourselves out of it.

A mess caused by simplicity. Points thrown away and some simply not contended for.

Too many times this season we have let points slip. Liverpool at home, we switched off and lost despite holding a two-goal lead. West Ham away, a fatal, individual error from John Ruddy that meant that rather than gaining a point, we lost two. Then, Manchester City away, individual errors, again, from Ruddy and Martin proving costly.

When you look at the tally of points lost as a result of individual errors and lack of concentration it is scary, enough to fire us into the top half of the table! Small, individual errors.

These dropped points wouldn’t be as much of a ball ache if Norwich had won their must win games this term; Bournemouth away, Newcastle away, West Brom at home and more recently the draw to West Ham at home – another game where we let a two-goal lead slip, sigh. All games where we needed to win, and at the very least not lose, that we ballsed up.

If we do go down it will be due to our failure to win these must win games, our colourless ability to turn up on big occasions! Had we have won in those four fixtures we would now sit eleven points above the drop zone in eleventh place, frustrating.

As the significance of beating relegation rivals shines through, we all know the cause of it… Our defence.

If you didn’t already need reminding, the stats certainly suggest that Norwich couldn’t defend even if it was to save their precious wags or kitted out four-by-fours! Norwich City have conceded the most goals in the Premier League this season, 50 in total – joint top with Sunderland. City have made 19 defensive errors, with six leading to goals, that ranks them third in that table. Also, in the second half, the Canaries have conceded 32 goals in total, proving that our defence cannot hold onto a lead. We have lost points too many times this season because of this – West Ham and Liverpool at home the obvious examples.

The fact our defence leaks goals like a tap leaks water doesn’t help as it is proven that as a team we tend to lose when we concede the first goal. When we have conceded first we have drawn five, won none and lost fourteen, winning just six points. Yes, six.

It is crucial that our defence stands strong for the opening part of the game ensuring that we are not the first to concede as when we do, we crumble instantly. It affects every aspect of our game giving us very little chance of getting anything from the match.

We are statistically proven to be unable to get back into a game when we are the first to concede. Our defence really is the sinkhole. Sort out our defence and it sorts out the majority of our problems. When we have scored first we’ve won six, drawn two and lost none; compared to when we have conceded first we have won none, drawn five and lost fourteen! That is the significance of why we have to get the first goal, why our defence has to ensure they are strong until exactly that happens.

So how do we resolve our lousy backline? We find some consistency. Consistency is needed across the club as a whole, from the eleven that plays, to the back four, to the philosophy.

This season we’ve played five different players at right-back, had four central pairings and a number of varied back-lines! There has been no consistency in the back four played and this could be the reason as to why it has been so poor. We now need to select a back four and stick with it irregardless of results. Time and understanding are the keys to a flourishing defence. A defence needs to have knowledge of each other, but this has been disrupted by the constant shuffling. A consistent back line should unearth some form of success.

We’ve also lacked consistency in our philosophy, the way we play. For the first part of the season, we were seen as a team that would take games by the scruff of the neck, attacking them and going out all guns blazing. But as the season has gone on, we’ve lost this mentality and reverted to a shy Norwich side who are more than happy to sit back and let the opposition come on to us. Not good.

You look at sides such as Bournemouth and they are feared, they have their own belief and philosophy. Norwich needs some consistency in the way they play, what they believe in. Be it defensive or attacking, we need to stick with one or the other, if not the players are totally bamboozled as to what they are supposed to do!

There is a cycle. A leaky defence leads  to our failure to win games, this then leads to a shuffled pack and a lack of consistency in our starting eleven, defence and style of play which then leads to an even worse defence, resulting in more poor results. To stop this loop we have to break the cycle, we stick with a game plan and team regardless of results, fail to do this and we continue to get sucked into this loophole of negativity!

An attacking style is key in this closing part of the season. We have must win games. With twelve more games to play, we need five wins for Premier League survival.

Swansea away, West Brom away, Newcastle at home, Sunderland at home and Watford at home – these five games are all must win if we wish to retain our status in the top flight. We win these and we get 15 points taking us to a total of 39, enough to secure survival! Not forgetting that along with these games we have the likes of Palace and Everton which could see us pick up a point, so we will stand a very good chance of staying up if we pick the points up where need be.

We must approach these final games with no fear and an attacking intensive in order to get the points needed. Norwich this season have picked up more points when they have played attacking football to when they have sat back.

It was after our romping to Newcastle that saw us change our style and begin to lose games, we lost four of our next six. But before that game we played poisitve, free-flowing football and won two, drew two and lost three; in these games we played with an attacking mindset. This ‘live and let die’ mentality has to return ahead of this final chapter in order for the best chance of survival, its a proven success.

Will we stay up? With a bit of luck, yes.

I can see Norwich City beating the scrap for many reasons, so long as they revert back to the attacking side they once were – judging on the recent West Ham performance, it seems Neil has already gone back to these old ways!

The Premier League is enduring its tightest, most unpredictable season for decades. There are a number of teams that could go down – Swansea, West Brom, Sunderland, Newcastle, Villa, Bournemouth to name a few. It’s fair to say Villa are all but down already, but two places remain. Two places which I feel will not consume the East Anglian giants.

Combine the quality of the Norwich squad, players such as Naismith and Klose, with the cruel, unpredictable nature of the Premier League and the amount of winnable games we have, that is why we can beat the drop. Attacking football, winning must win games, a consistent philosophy and team selection and we will not meet relegation.

 

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