New Norwich City manager Alex Neil has been quick to show his ruthless side
PUBLISHED: 11:00 02 February 2015
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If anyone had doubts about whether Alex Neil would be afraid to wield the axe, Saturday’s starting line-up was an early indication that they’re very much unfounded.
Making five changes to the side following the Brentford debacle, only one of which was imposed by an injury concern to Cameron Jerome, proved just how ruthless Neil can be. Watching his post-match press conference last week, you get the feeling those players he had in mind when criticising the lack of desire and hunger weren’t spared any detail when being told why they weren’t on the team sheet at Birmingham.
Yet again we saw a different central defence pairing, this time of Russell Martin and Seb Bassong who was back in from the cold, making his first City appearance since April. It was a brave decision that a lot of fans seemed to applaud and one that ultimately paid off as Norwich kept their first clean sheet since mid-December. Considering Neil’s public questioning of players’ commitment, it was always going to be a risk to start Bassong when the same accusations had been directed at him towards the end of last season. And while Martin’s display at right back last week was poor, I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s not a more natural position than centre-half.
It does though highlight the central defensive selection problems that have plagued the club all season. The mysterious case of Ignasi Miquel rumbles on, with the 22-year-old yet to make a Championship appearance. Considering City’s lapses at the back have been their biggest problem this season you’d imagine there have to be serious question marks over the decision to bring in a player who was not even selected by the man who signed him in Neil Adams. Hardly a great recommendation, and it’s yet to be seen whether Alex Neil deems him good enough for a place in the team.
Criticisms of the Brentford defeat included a perceived long-ball tactic that added fuel to the fire when picking over a dismal display. At St Andrews, there seemed to be grumblings of too many sideways passes. Either way, only four games into his tenure it’s surely too soon to get a real idea of Neil’s preferred playing style.
He may have exercised his authority in picking the team and adapting the formation, but it’s going to take time for us to really find out what type of manager he is. The negativity that comes from the Carrow Road stands isn’t going to banish overnight. There seems to be a general feeling among the Canary faithful now that the club are in danger of losing its identity, with the changes in backroom staff adding to that in what could be a pivotal season in the club’s history.
The visit of rock-bottom Blackpool on Saturday will be another fixture that sees Norwich as heavy favourites. Another fixture where some fans will expect to turn up and see a comfortable win. The fans need to collectively do their bit to help City get a much-needed three points, in whatever style it’s achieved in.