Robin Sainty: the engine room of the Canary Islands is running empty

06:00 5 March 2022

A few weeks ago, City’s seemingly moribund season was revived by victory at Watford in a Friday night game.

However, Friday night’s defeat last week and Wednesday’s FA Cup exit could have been the death knell.

Despite all the pre-match optimism at Southampton, City barely put a glove on their hosts, and without another fine performance from Angus Gunn, who proved to be a more than capable assistant for Tim Krul, things could have been even worse.

City’s ball retention was once again poor, while their central midfielder, having performed well at Anfield the previous week, never had the slightest hold on the game and, in the end, went down. docile again.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that while relegation rivals like Watford and Burnley are capable of delivering results against teams in the top half of the table, City appear unable to do so.

Too often they show promising signs in the early stages of games, as they did again on Wednesday night, but the chances are squandered and then an overloaded defense makes a mistake which is instantly punished as virtually every opponent has a greater and more constant firepower.

I don’t want to dwell on the FA Cup tie too much because the two sides fielded very different squads, but a few performances from City would have given Dean Smith food for thought on Saturday’s squad selection.

Apart from the two goals, both of which were due to marking errors from an unknown defender, City generally defended well while causing a few problems for their hosts, much like in the league game two weeks ago.

Canaries full-back Sam Byram Photo: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
– Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I thought Sam Byram was exceptional and he and Dimitris Giannoulis will feel they made a strong case to keep their place, but what caught Smith’s attention the most was the high-energy performance, capped off by a superb goal, from Lukas Rupp.

Rupp was something of a whip for the fans in his debut season, but he came back strong in the Championship-winning side and offers both greater strength in the tackle and stronger attacking instincts than Billy Gilmour.

The composition of central midfield is a key issue for City as none of the combinations attempted by Daniel Farke or Smith appear to have been able to balance an ability to compete physically with generating enough chances for a force of knock too useless. for this level.

It’s for good reason that the midfield is often referred to as a team’s engine room, but in Norwich’s case they’ve often run on a two-stroke engine in a division where six-cylinders are de rigueur. .

The central midfielder has three tasks: protecting the four defenders, creating scoring chances and adding goals themselves.

This season, City have scored more goals than everyone but Leeds United while scoring just 15 goals in 26 league games, of which the various central midfield players used have contributed a grand total of three, suggesting that ‘they are well below each. of these jobs.

That’s not to say any of them are a bad player individually, but the unit as a whole just hasn’t gelled this season, and the team has suffered for it.

This weekend’s game is, of course, huge and, together with next Sunday’s trip to Elland Road, defining the season, but if Smith feels his players need some extra motivation, he should have them watch the game. ITV coverage of Wednesday’s match.

I’m pretty used to City being frequented by commentators but this was a whole new level of poor research and open disrespect and if that has the same effect on players as it does on those of us watching at TV, they should be ready to tear Brentford to shreds this afternoon!

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