Happy new year everyone.

I'm sure most Norwich City fans are very relieved to see the back of 2023.

The highlights video for the 12 months could rival the brevity of the one recalling Liz Truss' achievements as prime minister.

Views are divided on the approach to Monday's draw against high-flying Southampton which kicked off the new year.

In one camp are those who say a point against Russell Martin's automatic promotion chasing side was commendable, with the 75pc possession which was conceded a necessary price to pay.

Others - and I'd put myself in this group - argue that such a negative outlook at home is symptomatic of where we are - and more evidence that David Wagner needs to go.

Eastern Daily Press: Fans want more from the Canaries

City legend and fellow columnist Chris Sutton was spot on in his analysis.

"This is the club of Ken Brown, Mike Walker, Paul Lambert and Daniel Farke - attacking football has been woven into its fabric. Shutting up shop shouldn't be in any #NCFC manager's make-up."

Monday certainly was painful for long spells, but after two straight defeats over Christmas, it was a fairly predictable tactic from the head coach.

There were some positives in the game. 

The sight of Grant Hanley back in the starting XI was terrific. He looked as if he had never been away.

His strength, leadership and of course his fantastic ability to win those free kicks were attributes we have so much been missing.

Equally as welcome was seeing Josh Sargent back in a yellow shirt - and scoring a goal like only he can for City.

Eastern Daily Press: Josh Sargent's return is a huge boost for City

We will never know how different the season could have been if that duo had been ever-presents - but there's no doubt that they are both talismanic figures.

Despite those positives, the overriding feeling I get from most supporters I speak to is a real lack of optimism.

I was talking to a mate who isn’t a regular City observer but saw the Millwall game.

“The players look like strangers – they just don’t seem to know each other.”

The more I think about it, the more I think he's right.

That lack of cohesion and players being on the same page has to have so much to do with all the chopping and changing this season.

Yes, the injury list has been a big factor. But mitigation surrounding that can only go so far.

Continuity is so key in football.

And as we look towards the possible comings and goings in this January's transfer window, there is one signing Ben Knapper has to secure.

You won't see the name Mr Consistency on any rumour mill. But my how we need him in NR1. 

Let me take you back 20 years.

In the 2003/4 season, when Nigel Worthington’s team stormed to the Championship table by eight points, there was an amazing similarity in the line-up.

In the back five, Rob Green, Marc Edworthy, Adam Drury, Malky McKay and Craig Fleming only missed nine games between them in the 46-game campaign (I’m no mathematician but that’s 221 matches out of a possible 230).

Green and Flem were ever-presents, Malky missed only one game and Drury/Edworthy played 42 times.

Throw into the mix Gary Holt (46), Damien Francis (39), Darren Huckerby (36) and Paul McVeigh (36) and you’ll see what a difference that continuity makes.

That team won 28 and drew 10 and lost only eight, with 79 goals scored and only 39 conceded.

Eastern Daily Press: City head coach David Wagner

Wagner’s troops have already lost three more matches and leaked three more goals and we’re only just over half way through the season.

In the 26 league games the head coach has used no fewer than 27 different players – and crucially when it comes to the solidity, Wagner has given starts to 14 different men in the back five.

There have been 14 - yes, you did read that right - different formations in the back line – and that also takes into account that the first nine league games had the same defensive unit of Angus Gunn, Jack Stacey, Shane Duffy, Ben Gibson and Dimi Giannoulis.

Managing players' workloads has become a big talking point over the festive period, hence plenty of rotation in the City line-up.

It appears the number of games wasn't an issue two decades ago and Hucks tweeted his views on the matter when he was asked if he ever wanted to be rested. 

"Never!" the flying winger said. "It's tough and you might not be 100pc in every game but you've just got to get through it, four games in 10 games shouldn't be a problem."

We keep talking about crucial periods for our club. But the month following Saturday's FA Cup match is really tough for the Canaries.

A trip to seventh-placed Hull is followed by a home game against West Brom (currently in fifth), before the little matter of a journey to face Daniel Farke's Leeds at Elland Road. They now sit fourth in the table.

And then Coventry (who are eighth) come to Carra.


Up for the cup

Some of my favourite memories in 45 years or so as a Norwich fan have been from FA Cup matches.

Keith Bertschin's winner in the East Anglian derby clash back in 1983 and the cup runs in 1989 and 1992 are among many which stick in the mind.

Sadly, in recent years the priority given to what was called the world's greatest domestic competition has dwindled greatly among many clubs.

Wholesale changes are now the norm as managers ensure they have the strongest squads available for league games.

I assume that will be the case on Saturday as the Canaries entertain Bristol Rovers.

I'm hoping for a decent City line-up  - not least because I'm taking my Mum who was a regular at Carra for decades but can't get to NR1 much these days.

For whoever pulls on the yellow shirt, it is a chance to impress Wagner and force their way into the reckoning for the huge games coming up.

And with so much negativity around at the moment, a cup run could provide a much-needed tonic.

Get the volume up

"That is as flat an atmosphere as I've seen here. And I've played a lot of games here - we spoke about that and trying to prey on that."

They were the words of former City favourite Russell Martin as he gave a frustrated and slightly scratchy press conference after Monday's stalemate.

The Southampton boss played more than 300 games in nearly 10 years as a Canary player.

I haven't got the breakdown of home and away games but we can assume about 150 of them will have been at Carra.

He experienced the heights of promotions and appearing in the Premier League to the depths of relegations and being in the third tier.

Whether his comments about the atmosphere on Monday were slightly tarred by his annoyance at not forcing a win is unclear.

I've certainly known our home ground quieter - but it is certainly not great at the moment.

It should serve as another wake-up call - if it's needed - to the top brass that lack of atmosphere and empty seats come from a lack of spark from the players.

And that downward trend has to stop.