Paddy Davitt verdict: Bad habits need to be stamped out
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 July 2018 | UPDATED: 12:30 18 July 2018
These are strange times for Norwich City as they look for the right formula for the real battles ahead.
Put that rather painful Championship hammering at Sheffield Wednesday back on the final day of last season to one side and after those difficult early weeks of Daniel Farke’s debut tour, City by and large looked defensively solid.
The residual problem was at the opposite end of the pitch.
Take James Maddison out of the equation, and that goals against column would have taken on a even more alarming complexion.
Maddison departed for good earlier this summer, which only heightened the need to find goals and a cutting edge where there had largely been none for too many months of a season which had periods of promise but rather tailed off.
Derby defeat may have been avoided to Ipswich Town in thrilling fashion, through Timm Klose’s thumping header at Carrow Road, but it was lost on no-one who follow the Canaries that Town managed to clamber above their bitter rivals in the final standings - although there is hardly much kudos to be had from two clubs languishing in the nether regions of mid-table.
So far this pre-season, however, black has become white.
City now possess strikers who have managed to find the back of the net with increasing regularity. Dennis Srbeny whipped in two in consecutive friendly games before Teemu Pukki came to the party with an almost nonchalant brace in the opening German tour win over SC Paderborn.
Another Bundesliga 2 test against FC Union Berlin on Tuesday was a chance for Jordan Rhodes to move centre stage.
That stooping far post header to open his account for the club he joined on a season long loan from the Owls may have looked routine, but one should not discount lightly the anticipation or the movement to lose his marker and create the conditions to apply a close range finish.
Rhodes may have lost his way somewhat in Yorkshire, but his goals-to-game ratio, highlighted by Farke following his arrival, demands respect. There is a striker there who can score regularly in this division if he is fit, focused and in a side geared up to provide ample service.
But making great strides in the final third appears to have come at the cost of the defensive vulnerability that was the hallmark of Farke’s early tenure. Yes, it is pre-season. Yes, results matter little but there is a worrying trend that continued against the Berliners at Delbruck.
After a calamitous own goal to gift Lincoln some late consolation last week there was another entry here to seal City’s fate, when Klose miscued a headed clearance that clipped the inside of a post to beat Remi Matthews.
The City keeper had just made a fantastic finger tip stop to foil Kenny Prince Redondo from grabbing his second of the friendly, after a first half goal that would not have looked out of place on Hackney Marshes.
A speculative bouncing ball was allowed to drop on the perimeter of Norwich’s penalty box.
Ben Godfrey appeared to wait for Matthews to clear, Matthews hesitated a moment too long hoping presumably Godfrey would deal with it and the resulting indecision allowed Redondo the opportunity to loop a header over the stranded keeper.
Farke thrust his hands skywards at the needless nature of the concession.
He later called both goals ‘slapstick’ but they should not be dismissed lightly. The sight of Grant Hanley watching on from the small Main Stand offers a degree of reassurance. Hanley will return soon enough and with him you suspect a level of authority which is absent at present.
Pre-season may be a glorified fitness exercise, but Farke and his players will be mindful not to let bad habits take root.
A tour finale against Bundesliga opponents and former German champions VfL Wolfsburg should serve to focus the mind.