THERE was more than a hint of Groundhog Day at L4 on Saturday as missed opportunities and comedy defending from set plays cost us for the second week on the spin.
There were some positives to take from the contest; Oviedo showed he is a decent option on the left whilst Naismith’s strike was the Scotsman’s third in his last three starts.
Norwich pressed more aggressively and higher up the pitch after the break which made it more difficult for us to play out from the back and resulted in more panicky long balls.
Their equaliser had an air of inevitability about it and we’ve now shipped seven goals from dead balls this season which is more than we conceded in the whole of last season.
Stopping dead ball situations arising needs to be priority one. Only Stoke (182) commit more fouls than ourselves (172) and whilst Pulis’ mob have six footers in all positions and specialise in defending such situations, we don’t have the artillery.
The key issue we have faced in defending dead balls is from players switching off and not showing the concentration required for 90mins with both Howard and Heitinga identified by Moyes post match as the chief culprits. A look at our bench on Saturday showed the scarcity of our squad and because of this we will have to persevere with out of form players.
After the midweek joust with Arsenal we face Manchester City who are the one side you don’t want to be facing when you are going through such a defensive crisis. Last season the champions scored more goals from corners than any side in the top flight and have converted the joint most goals (10) from dead balls this season.
We do of course have an enviable record against City; we are still the last side to beat them on their own patch in the league with Moyes beating Mancini in five of their six duels. Such results are wildly disproportionate to the clubs’ budgets and judging by his disparaging 'long ball' and 'not playing to win' jibes as well as his physical skirmishes with Moyes and Neville it’d be fair to conclude that we have got under Mancini’s skin.
City’s Champions League exit has placed the Italian under pressure. They've spent an avalanche of cash and failed miserably to get out of the group stage for two years on the spin. Even limited managers like O'Leary and Redknapp got through the group format at the first time of asking in equally tough groups. Hopefully our good form against them continues on Saturday afternoon.