The ACN Match Review – West Bromwich Albion (h)

17/09/22

It’s not like a draw is reason to wail and gnash teeth - but why are we feeling… nothing? Maddie Mackenzie reports back from a puzzling vacuum of a day.

The atmosphere

As a fanbase we seem to thrive off of being the underdogs. Nothing gets us going faster than perceived slights from the referee or conceding against a ‘subpar’ opponent, so West Brom’s goal certainly galvanised the crowd somewhat. Not much, but enough that it was noticeable. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’d say the atmosphere has been an asset of ours this season: more on that later.

The lineup

Cantwell out for Sara was a prime example of Dean Smith’s ‘my attackers must provide goals or assists to stay in the team’ as the Brazilian was rewarded for Wednesday’s assist. It took a fair while for him to get into the game but the same was true of the whole team – unlike some of his teammates he did eventually get up to speed.

There was also a change from the recently preferred 4321 to a 433 which was not an experiment I would expect a repeat of.

Hurrah moment

Poor Sam Byram. When asked to think of the defining feature of his Norwich career you’ll most likely pick his unfortunate history, and it’s true that he’s had a torrid time of things. However, there was a period in 19/20 where Byram had a decent run of games, and seemed to get himself in a goal scoring position in each match.

The ball would just not go in the net.

He tried with his left foot. He tried with his right foot. He tried from the box. He tried from 30 yards out. There were sitters, there were potential worldies, there were total flukes, but nothing came of any of them.

So of course he scored his first goal for the club through a deflection he had little knowledge of, which saw a consultation between the officials so long that VAR would have been proud. What a man.

Boooo moment

One. Total. Minutes. Of. Added. Time.

If anyone knows how the officials landed on that number then let me know, because it was pretty damn far from my amateur estimations. 

Hero of the match

Max Aarons can be a properly foul git when he wants to be and I love it. Before one West Brom corner he took it upon himself to pick the ball up and take it on an adventure, cradling it under his arm like a precious bundle before dropping it at Krul’s feet in an interesting imitation of the opposition’s time wasting.

He also threw himself to the ground so dramatically that his keeper rushed over to check on his well-being, only to spring up and bounce away as soon as the referee blew for a free kick. As he spent the vast majority of the match completely isolated and hung out to dry on the right flank, you can’t blame him for indulging in some theatrics.

Our post-match takeaway

I’m not enjoying football at the moment and I’m not sure why. We just ended a run of six wins on the spin, which included last minute winners, some lovely finishes, and goals galore.

But I can’t get up for it. I don’t look forward to going to Carrow Road, don’t have that same childlike excitement that sustained me even through the darkest days of our most recent Premier League seasons; and even though it’s become taboo to admit it, the Carrow Road atmosphere suggests I’m not alone.

Take Bristol City. It was a goalfest, the referee acted the role of pantomime villain to perfection, we made it 6 in a row. Yet Tim Krul had to remind the Barclay to celebrate at full time. It is, as Björk would say, oh so quiet. The only times we seem even vaguely interested in what’s going on on the pitch are when things are going against us; when we’ve conceded, when we’re looking to claw one back. We’re second in the league and no one seems to care.

I really don’t understand why. Current Twitter wisdom would suggest it’s because we’re all hung up on Daniel Farke and can’t just sit back and appreciate all the points coming in, but I don’t follow that logic. Yes, I loved Farke, as many of us did, but he isn’t Norwich City. In much the same way as I don’t hope we lose whenever Lungi doesn’t play, I’m not standing there desperately begging for us to play terribly just because we have a different manager.

The club always comes first for me as it does for everyone. No one genuinely wants us to struggle, no matter what some may think. We all want Norwich to do well, preferably all the time.

Yet all we seem capable of doing is arguing with each other about what ‘well’ is. Appreciate the wins for what they are and you’re burying your head in the sand; mention your concerns about the style of play and you need to stop whining. It’s tiring. Why are we so desperate to shut down any dissenting opinions? When did having a cohesive hive mind mean you’re the best fanbase that ever lived?

Personally, I do have concerns. I was at Birmingham for Onel’s 90th+ minute winner and it was a complete drudgefest from start to a-few-moments-before the end. Our play lacks fluidity, our passes are speculative at best, some of our players don’t even seem to like each other.

Yes, I know we don’t have a left back. Yes, I know we have two defensive midfielders on the cusp of a return, but are these solutions? We keep hearing of a mythical time when Issac Hayden will make his Norwich City debut and fix any and all problems – a heavy burden to place on the shoulders of a man who has barely played football in the last 12 months.

I had similar worries in 2018/19. Of course the football was sublime but the defensive frailties worried me, and I was concerned that – if left unresolved – they would come back to haunt us in the Premier League.

🤷‍♀️ 

I’m not saying I want us to play beautiful football for 90 minutes without pause. I’m not saying it’s not great to play poorly and grind out a win. I don’t want, never want, to be negative about one of the things I love most in the world, but to not do so would be dishonest.

Maybe the negativity is causing the apathy, maybe it’s the other way around. Either way it’s present at Carrow Road and we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist when so many of us are clearly feeling it. 

Or maybe I just need Lungi back, who can say?

Comments

  1. Charlie Robinson says:

    my feelings are similar. i have no doubt they are trying hard but so many continuing problems remain. how many times did we fanny about at the back and pass the ball straight to the opposition? how many times did we pass the ball straight out of play? why does Krul suddenly refuse to deal with crosses? why, when we have probably the best on-the-ground striker in the league do we hammer 40 yd balls into his head with his back to goal? why cant max create a genuine chance with all his possession? why do we continue to lump the ball up the pitch when under no pressure? are we long ball now? what is the set piece coach doing? Because this league is short on quality we get away with some of this stuff and then Krul will turn round and suggest we aren’t supporting enough but most fans have sat through two straight Prem seasons of getting our arse handed to us for all these flaws so what is the end game of promotion? sitting through that again? maybe the game is broken rather than Norwich.

  2. John says:

    Succinctly summed up Maddie.
    I don’t go anymore for all the reasons you’ve highlighted.
    We’ve become a dull and featureless team, under a management who are exactly the same – and if we were to get promoted with this group of players………….

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