Norwich City need to react during Premier League clash with Sheffield United after midweek defeat to Southampton
Having made important strides forward in recent weeks, the display at Southampton was an unwelcome step in the wrong direction.
Four points from the games against Everton and Arsenal had cultivated a genuine feeling that Daniel Farke’s side had turned the corner heading into the trip to the south coast.
Reflecting on the 2-2 draw against Arsenal, I thought City were unlucky not to come away with more than a point. But City’s undoing – as has so often been the case this season – was an inability to defend set pieces, first giving away a penalty before allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lash home.
And it’s an issue which reared its ugly head again at the St Mary’s Stadium – with City’s defence breached twice from dead-ball situations in the first half.
There have long been doubts about the effectiveness of zonal marking, and while I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory, it is clear City are not operating it with any great conviction.
In truth, the whole first-half performance was poor, with City failing to win the midfield battle and allowing Southampton to dictate.
With that in mind, it was far from surprising to see Farke replace Ibrahim Amadou and Tom Trybull at the break – with the introduction of Alex Tettey leading to a much improved second-half display.
Perhaps the biggest positive from a City perspective was a second goal in two games for Teemu Pukki, who had been enduring his longest goal-drought in a yellow shirt.
I don’t think it takes a genius to work out that Pukki will be instrumental to City’s survival chances – so for the Finn to be back among the goals is vital.
That continues on Sunday with a visit from Sheffield United, who deserve real credit for their impressive start to the season. After the midweek defeat, a reaction is needed.