Paddy Davitt verdict: Arrogance and stupidity underpin Norwich City’s flaws
PUBLISHED: 06:00 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:47 20 February 2017
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Arrogance and stupidity. Alex Neil’s post-match words were aimed squarely at a Norwich City collective with a Championship deficiency.
In the Scot’s defence, they were not delivered as cutting accusations but fresh evidence of residual flaws in a group of players who, in less refined outposts at this level, are simply not fit for purpose.
Neil rejected a growing injury list as mitigation for another anaemic, timid, rudderless offering at a club fighting for Championship survival. So he should. Norwich is not the only team struggling to cope with the gruelling workload in the second tier.
City’s enviable resources have drawn admiring glances from league rivals ever since they swatted aside Blackburn on the opening weekend. A result which appeared to lull too many into a distorted sense of what lay ahead in the arduous terrain of the Championship.
Norwich can perform in sporadic bursts but they lack the consistency to mount a genuine promotion surge. To travel to a club punching above its weight in admirable fashion and re-assert their dominant market position.
The meagre points haul away from Carrow Road is a sad indictment of a trend which on occasions they can successfully mask but remains under the skin; framed in a routine surrender whenever they encounter physicality and energy and desperation for points. It was evident again at the Pirelli.
Neil’s post-match dissection was fuelled by a frustration that the recent upturn had hinted the worst was over. It is not. This is no longer about complacency or a culture shock for many in Neil’s ranks, who suffered a hard landing from the Premier League. This is the brutal, cold, pragmatic reality of Norwich’s straightened circumstances. They simply do no possess enough grit and determination to mine points away from Carrow Road on a consistent basis.
To accuse them of not caring misses the point; they do care, they are committed, they are prepared to work but too many at Neil’s disposal struggle to adapt their talents to an alien environment.
Timm Klose is a Champions League defender, a Swiss international, who, you sense from all his public utterances so far this season, has had to re-model his entire game. Strip it down, go back to basics. Kick it, head it, put your body on the line. Concepts Klose must have had to wrestle with since exiting the top flight and a league where his ability on the ball and composure were prized commodities.
For the first 25 minutes at the Pirelli Stadium his work was impressively aggressive. But the relentless aerial barrage from Burton, the uncomplicated pressure exerted by the Brewers produced a basic, elemental mistake one doubts the 28-year-old has committed too often in his professional career. Klose’s aberration was simply the latest act of fragility seen too often this season.
Neil knows he lacks the heavy artillery and his January moves for Yanic Wildschut and Mitchell Dijks were confirmation. But Wildschut’s difficult acclimatisation, since arriving from Wigan, underlines the perils of trading midway through a campaign. Neil needed fast-acting remedies, yet the symptoms persist because it will be the summer and beyond until he can fundamentally cure the affliction.
The Norwich boss may get some of his influential injured players back for the run-in. There may be stumbles from those in the play-off positions but the Canaries will face the same type of test again between now and May that they failed at Rotherham, at Barnsley, at QPR, at Reading and now Burton.
City’s red mist in many of those away games contributed to their demise on numerous occasions but as Neil himself said following the dispiriting Boxing Day loss at Reading, no one wants to hear that. The script is painfully familiar.
Many of those stood on the terraces enjoying the novelty value of a first trip to Burton delivered their damning verdict at the final whistle.
Ipswich’s pending derby visit on Sunday can be the perfect riposte or it can unleash the unthinkable. That is the corner Neil and his men have backed themselves into again. Talk of fading promotion hopes and fallout can wait.
Neil must narrow the focus. This is about three points and nothing else against their bitter rivals on Norfolk soil. One thing is for sure, Ipswich will test their appetite for the battle.