Multifaceted. Perhaps the most apt description of Norwich City throughout the entirety of this campaign.
Two steps forward, one step back.
Against high flying Aston Villa, Norwich were rampant, provoking a sense of excitement which has been threatening to ignite on many occasions this season. At the Stadium of Light however, they displayed a style of football which underlines the reasons why City have failed to challenge at the top end of the division.
This provided an excellent opportunity for Norwich to construct some much required momentum and inject some productivity into a supporter base who are beginning to get irritable with the lack of visible progression.
Ultimately, Norwich lack tactical consistency and the quality necessary to implement the philosophy Daniel Farke is seeking to deploy.
In the opening period, the match resembled an encounter seen in NBA. This was an expansive and scrappy game of championship football full of chances at both end of the pitch. Norwich were comfortable but the missing presence of Alex Tettey in the engine room was pertinent.
The tactical dilemma remains as Farke fails to establish a clear rhythm and consistency with either formation.
Both have their pros and cons, the four at the back formation offers an offensive edge whilst compensating for width and an injection of pace. However, their defensive solidarity and efficient shaping comes from a compact five at the back. For the most part this season, Farke has juggled the two relatively effectively.
Naivety. Admittedly, there was some anxiety that crept into Norwich’s play, particularly within defensive phases of the game, but this Sunderland side didn’t play through Norwich. In Aiden McGeady and George Honeyman, Sunderland possessed athleticism in wide areas.
That is what makes the tactical alteration even more perplexing.
Norwich, as a unit, possessed a greater offensive output whilst operating in the four at the back formation but without the resilience in the defensive phase which left Farke feeling like a tactical switch was required.
The reversion to the five at the back gifted Sunderland the ascendancy. Norwich regressed into a side having to defend against the ball while Sunderland probed with greater intent in their opponents half. It was difficult to distinguish which side were limping to League One and which is languishing in the comfort of mid table.
After the abject failure and capitulation which unfolded in the Capital eight days previous, Farke deployed the same eleven with hope for an altogether different outcome. Scratching beyond his public pronouncements, it is evident the rebuild is underway ahead of next season.
Fundamentally, as an offensive force, Norwich need to contain a higher degree of offensive productivity. The over reliance on key protagonists, namely James Maddison, won’t lead to sustainable success.
Josh Murphy’s superiority over Donald Love in the first half was visible to everybody in attendance inside the Stadium of Light. Murphy continued the form which saw him take all the plaudits in the 3-1 victory over Villa. This dominance was restricted in the second period as he was deployed as a makeshift striker.
His self belief is evidently at a level higher than recent weeks as he attempted an audacious lob from distance. Norwich need him to operate at this level more consistently next season.
Tactically, Farke got it wrong.
A tactical consistency needs to be found if Norwich are to perform in an upwardly mobile direction.
The hosts will have felt as though their second half dominance warranted all three points but their lack of defensive resolve has seen them succumb to a result which all but condemns them to relegation.
Dropping a confident Dennis Srbeny seemed ill-judged. After scoring against Aston Villa on Saturday, Srbeny would have felt at the peak of his powers and keen to impress once again this time out.
What is becoming pertinent is the need to unearth a genuine goal threat. Oliveria was much improved in physicality and body language, yet his failure to convert a series of golden chances may have condemned him to the scrap heap as City search for fresh bodies in offensive areas.
The Portuguese must grasp those chances that arrive in his direction in the coming weeks to make a compelling case for his position at Norwich.
The desire for the season to conclude is palpable. Many are longing for the return of optimism and freshness that the beginning of a fresh season brings and with it, expect a progressive Norwich City come August.
If they have any ambitions to return to the upper echelons of English football, the intensity at which they pass the ball needs to be increased. Now, attention turns to pooping the Cardiff promotion party and proving they aren’t on the beach quite yet.