You may have excused Alex Neil for starting Cameron Jerome against Swansea if he was just having a blip of form in his career, but he isn’t, he has always been this bad in the Premier League.
Ever since Grant Holt left the club, Norwich have failed to find a striker who can score the goals needed to stay in the Premier League.
Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel were both signed by Chris Hughton as Norwich were relegated back in the 2013/14 season as neither of them managed to find a run of form or goals.
At the start of this season, we needed to make sure we had good striking options going into the season. Instead, the board and Neil were happy to go into the season with Cameron Jerome and Dieumerci Mbokani (signed on loan in the summer). This was because of Lewis Grabban’s antics and Neil’s strange dislike toward Gary Hooper, who is now banging in goals for Sheffield Wednesday. Not to mention having Kyle Lafferty sitting in the reserves.
Jerome scored over 20 goals last season as we achieved promotion from the Championship but it was clear to see it wasn’t going to be as rosy coming into the top-tier. Jerome has always struggled to score goals in the Premier League and it has cost Norwich time and again this season. If the Premier League made a blooper reel of misses this season then they would all be from Jerome. The amount of golden chances he has missed is second to none in the league this season.
Dieumerci Mbokani had a spell of games and looked very impressive. Yet, a distinct lack of goals still followed him, with just four league goals to date. His hold-up play is much better than Jerome’s, as his finishing and strength is too. However, for some reason, Alex Neil has decided to play Jerome in the last four matches, which has resulted in a number of glaring chances missed and points dropped.
If Norwich didn’t have any other options then you could forgive him for playing Jerome/Mbokani up front. Yet, he does; Patrick Bamford.
The 22-year-old striker was signed in January on loan from Chelsea and is regarded as one of the best young English forwards around. He won Championship player of the season last term with Middlesbrough and was a coveted asset in the summer, with swarms of clubs after him.
His first six months of the season on loan to Crystal Palace didn’t go to plan but he is now at Norwich looking to set that right and get back to the form that we know he is capable of.
The only possible reason to start Jerome ahead of Bamford on Saturday is just that Alex Neil was being naive in all honesty. Neil does this a lot with players, he picks one factor of their game and doesn’t weigh it up with how it actually affects the match at all. Like playing Howson out wide, thinking that his work rate would help and not factor in that his pace and tendency to drift in would make the side unbalanced. He also did it with playing Russell Martin at centre back against Liverpool, he thought he would deal with the ball on the floor better against Roberto Firmino but failed to factor in that he is incapable of tracking movement around him, which led to four of Liverpool’s five goals. Finally, Neil picks Jerome because of his work rate and pace but fails to factor in that he creates no chances for teammates, misses sitters and renders Steven Naismith useless with no good striker to play off.
But anyway, enough about our inexperienced manager who is the messiah to most fans. Bamford has to start against Manchester City. He was on the pitch for around 30 minutes against Swansea and still managed to do more in that time than Jerome had done in the last two matches combined. Jerome had had one shot on target in the previous two matches and Bamford had two on target in his brief cameo, as well as having one just wide and setting up Wes Hoolahan for a great chance, which he failed to take.
Bamford’s movement was superb from the moment he came on, seeming to strike a chord with Hoolahan straight away. Hoolahan and Bamford looks like a combination that could prove very fruitful between now and the end of the season. Wes’ superb vision and passing matched with Bamford’s movement could create far more chances for Norwich.
With these added chances, Norwich will be able to actually score goals and put some points on the board in a bid to retain their place in the Premier League. We were making chances with Jerome in the side but his poor finishing has bene costing us every match. However, with Bamford, we have a striker who can take the limited amount of chances Premier League sides have in matches. His goalscoring record is very impressive and I have full faith that it can continue at Norwich.
For me, it would be the biggest mistake of Neil’s reign so far to pick Jerome and not Bamford for the clash with Manchester City this weekend. Ten games without a win is dire form, to say the least, so why is Neil seemingly scared to make the needed changes? I really hope he does the right thing and selects Bamford to start this weekend and, in turn, that Bamford gets the goals.