Written by Neil Dawson
For once all of our fans are in unanimous agreement about the position of our game on MOTD. It doesn’t happen often and apparently they do have to show all the games so, if your marriage or friendships are that bad this presents a better option, prepare for a late one.
An abject, injury-hit, Norwich limped into town…….. looking to avoid setting the record of conceding two or more for seven games in a row. They were in luck though – up against a Bournemouth side that had spent time honing their skills in the international break…… their cricket skills. Lerma and King were missing too, although Smith provided a pre-match boost for the fans still stunned that Harry and Solanke were given another trot out. Yep… the Klopp mesmerisation had struck again….
The home side started brightly with some good spells of possession and bright switches and interchanges. Both Smith and Rico looked good in attack and Billing was using the ball well. For once the balls into the box were good and quick but every move floundered on the lack of movement in the box with Callum looking jaded and Solanke looking…….well…….like Solanke.
The only half chances came to people yet to score for the club…with finishing to match…Rico and Billing blazing over from clearances. The purple patch died after 15 minutes though and Norwich took over, using their extra man in midfield to build well with players much closer together. Bournemouth were rocked backwards and when they did clear the forwards first touch was abysmal. It was poor to watch and the crowds frustration was growing.
Billing represented the best chance by winning the ball back but the gaps around him were so huge and Bournemouth were feeding on scraps. From one decent move the games best chance was created – Wilson feeding in Solanke six yards out with one half of the goal gaping. It was one of those chances you wish had fallen to anyone else on the pitch (odd I know as he is our centre forward) and he duly rushed an un-composed shot straight at Krul.
HT Bournemouth 0 Norwich 0
The second half was really a story of Norwich building patiently with very little threat or talent apart from Pukki and Bournemouth clearing and chasing the clearances hopefully. It was probably our most disjointed performance in 11 months of performances that have rarely hit the mark. No pattern or shape, the players stretched and as a result a makeshift back four of midfielders hit for five by Villa last time out ended up looking like Baresi’s AC Milan.
When a sustained period of Norwich pressure had seen Tettey head over Eddie had seen enough. Off went Solanke to save himself further humiliation and shortly afterwards off went Harry Wilson (‘I didn’t even realise he was playing’ – my old dad). King and Danjuma arrived. What happened next will be of no surprise to veteran Bournemouth watchers. All four forwards went and stood up the pitch miles away from team-mates who were too tired to either pass that far or run the ball to them. We then just launched it………and wondered why a forward line not known for their aerial ability didn’t demonstrate any aerial ability. ‘It was like we thought we had a target man’ said Eddie a bit worryingly afterwards….
I am conscious I haven’t talked much about anything that happened in the game…. there is a reason for this – is it a) I forgot to make notes b) nothing happened? Tune in to MOTD folks to find out of the answer. AFC Bournemouth breached the mighty Norwich defence once more when Danjuma registered our second, and last, shot on target down Krul’s throat. At the other end Ramsdale was hugely tested with an excellent save from Pukki’s low drive that would have snatched all of the points. So, it could have been worse.
FT Bournemouth 0 Norwich 0
Ramsdale 7 – Tidy and one great save.
Smith 8 – Lively clever return at both ends.
Cook 7 – Solid and watchful although not really much to test.
Ake 7 – (See Cook)
Rico 7 – Maintained his recent resurgence with clever control and passing.
Wilson 4 – I assume we have to play him – it’s in the deal right?
Cook 6 – Periods of good stuff but out-numbered.
Billing 7 – Really on it – vision and fight.
Fraser 5 – Fits and starts of danger but a long way off.
Wilson 5 – Battled away but no touch or breaks today
Solanke 4 – All the menace of a baby hamster.
MOM – It has to be Smith or Billing but I thought Billing tired whereas Smith went and went. Both bright buoys in a sea of sewage though.
The small band of hard-core apologists on this website will just be excited we were on the same pitch as a team that played in the 1985 Milk Cup final (“ooh… a sign of how far we have come – it felt like our cup final not theirs – remember Chris Sutton and Jeremy Goss…blah blah”) The majority though will see this as another disappointing performance from a squad playing well below their capabilities against a team constructed at a fraction of the price and in defensive disarray.
There is no point in having the most talented squad we have ever had if we can’t work out how to play them. When was the last time you saw us play really well for 90 minutes – like we used to do on a regular basis? Without always winning or drawing of course because of the high standard we now play at but always a team with shape, direction and energy.
It is so, so obvious that we are drowned in midfield. Cook and Billing were exhausted at the end. Teams have us sussed in that department and play through the middle against us leaving us so stretched with no ability to link with the forwards. If either centre midfielder push forwards and we lose it we are then on a rush all the way back to our own box and it is leaving us leggy, weary and unable to link play. Its how you end up with two home wins out of eleven and a game that looks stretched. The other problem we have as well is we have replaced players that grew up with 4-4-2 with players that grew up with 4-3-3. Watch Danjuma not understand his defensive responsibilities like Iturbe, Gradel, King, Ibe etc and suffer while we try and turn him into Matt Ritchie.
If you really have to play 4-4-2 that extra forward has to add something to make up for the lack of midfield….and Solanke doesn’t offer anything. No pace, no aerial ability, no clever little balls behind gaps. Before the game the talk was he would come good against Norwich’s makeshift defence – why? He was completely dominated by Burton and Forest Green’s centre-halves. He is a show-pony player trading off very non-competitive England U21 appearances. He should be well-coached before he is let anywhere near a starting jersey again, if at all. Please let’s not give him 30 odd games like we did with Rantie to try and falsely justify the fact we weren’t ripped off. Throw into the mix Wilson had an international hang-over, Fraser is only half here in mind and you don’t score against the leagues worst defence.
That brings me to Harry Wilson…. who presumably we have to play as there can be no other reason? He could maybe fill that number 10 role we are crying out for having shone there at a level below and being great on a loose ball with a shot. On the wing though – he is lost and wasted. Again this is taking too long for our management team to work out.
We are back in that space of being far too stubborn with changing players, not able to play the system tailor-made for our team and the number one coached system throughout every successful team in the world. Stuck playing a league one system with a league one coaching team. We have a real chance this year with the squad we have. I don’t care about winning, I don’t care about league positions but I do care when I see teams not prepared and set up right with talent and potential being wasted and we are not doing the best by our players at the moment.
They are improving at cricket though………
The gap was huge. Sometimes 30 or 40 yards between Cook and Billing and the forwards.
No one dominated the midfield. There was a huge Lerma sized gap. At one point Fraser was in the centre and Wilson out wide.
This was tactically inept throughout. Smith was an exception to most. He worked and ran and tackled.
Back 4 in all was solid ish.
But when anyone had the ball there were no options at all.
Norwich deserved a point. We deserved nothing. – Join the conversation, click here.