Albert Einstein famously declared that insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
It was a line that came to mind as I watched Norwich City’s most recent futile fortunes in front of goal.
The club’s inability to marry a genuine goalscoring threat with defensive solidity was brutally exposed again in the club’s latest Premier League defeat, a 2-0 reverse at West Ham. The only certainty, should such a debilitating trend persist, is relegation to the Championship.
James Collins and Mohamed Diame struck in the final 10 minutes at Upton Park to win a match in which the Hammers were indebted to the agility and shot-stopping ability of their goalkeeper, Adrian.
- Hammers rock Canaries
The Canaries carved out numerous chances, engineered by levels of controlled possession and territorial hegemony that, midway through the second period at the Boleyn Ground, saw the home fans berating their own players’ efforts.
Gary Hooper’s close-range header lacked the venom to edge Chris Hughton’s men in front early on as Adrian scrambled across his line to paw behind. Robert Snodgrass then timed his run to perfection to anticipate Nathan Redmond’s cushioned pass but an attempted chip from eight yards out struck the keeper’s upper body.
Alex Tettey was acrobatically denied when his right-footed finish appeared destined for Adrian’s far corner before Hooper yet again escaped detection after the interval but saw his angled shot cleared away.
Such a litany of missed chances will prove tough watching for Hughton when he undergoes his usual forensic post-match analysis of this latest missed opportunity.
There was a crushing inevitability about the final outcome with each fresh dose of disappointment in front of West Ham’s goal.
John Ruddy had brilliantly denied Mohamed Diame with a stop the equal of Adrian’s collection, but the England keeper’s rash decision to come for the Senegalese’s late cross allowed James Collins to glance a header into the unguarded net. Diame’s deflected stoppage time effort then left Ruddy wrong-footed and Norwich stumbling closer to the precipice.
West Brom’s late equaliser against Chelsea left Hughton’s men a point clear of the bottom three and that margin for error could contract again should Sunderland earn an unlikely reward at Manchester City on Wednesday.
Norwich are in familiar territory: reliant on others to soften the impact of their own shortcomings and limitations in front of goal.
For West Ham, read Cardiff on their previous Premier League away day when David Marshall was the Bluebirds’ obdurate last line of defence.
Even a stirring Carrow Road draw against Manchester City last weekend could have brought greater tangible benefits if composure had not deserted them in the closing seconds.
Hughton’s squad seem pathologically incapable of embellishing with goals recent Premier League outings, which offer encouragement and hope, but end in crushing defeat and further bouts of introspection.
The Canaries are losing key games against survival rivals as a by-product. Identifying the fundamental contributory factor is painfully obvious. Solving it is proving elusive.