Michael Bailey: Six things we learned from Norwich City’s Bristol City stalemate
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So the goals have gone then – MICHAEL BAILEY delivers his six things learned from Norwich City’s goalless draw with Bristol City at Carrow Road.
1 – Angus looks the real deal
From the moment he was signed, it was hard to shake off the fact he had never played a single senior first-team game. Now nine matches into the Championship season – plus a couple of Carabao Cup appearances – it’s like Angus Gunn was always part of the Carrow Road furniture.
City’s defensive improvement has been put down to many things, yet arguably the undersold factor has been their 21-year-old goalkeeper. And that in turn says it all.
He’s reliable; exuding an aura of security that could be taken for granted. Simply put, Angus Gunn has been hugely impressive.
A generally quiet afternoon still needed Gunn to be perfectly concentrated to tip over Jamie Paterson’s fluke of a lob, that could so easily have caught him out.
In all honesty, it’s still a little hard to take – because Angus should be City’s first-choice keeper by right, not by loan. But these things happen, and at least Norwich have him now.
2 – Josh may be due a game off
Only two players have appeared in all 11 Norwich City league and cup fixtures so far this season. The first is obvious, given Christoph Zimmermann is a football machine that devours minutes as easily as breathing in oxygen.
The other is Josh Murphy, who like Zimmermann has started nine of those 11 games – although unlike Christoph, Josh has started every game since making the XI for the win over QPR.
Murphy spoke well before this weekend’s match and there’s no denying his head is in the right place. Likewise, he’s had some blistering games this season that have won points for City single-handedly.
But at the same time, the last few appearances the 22-year-old Canaries winger has looked like a break from starting duties could do him a favour.
Farke has plenty of pace options available, while a rested Murphy occasionally coming on from the bench can still be a match-winner.
3 – It was Farke strife
The coat came off, and it felt like a signal of intent. In fact, it was probably more about the way it came off. And then there was the bottle-kicking. And German shouting . Daniel Farke was not a happy man for most of Saturday’s goalless draw.
For those who read everything into his public words, it’s worth looking at his public actions during the game. His City side are still doing a lot of things he’s not happy with.
In fact, it was Angus Gunn who stated City made such a big leap forward after the first international break, imagine the next step they can take when Farke gets another one? It’s after the Reading game, for the record.
Farke’s selections on Saturday made sense. His use of Harrison Reed over Alex Tettey – both with Bristol City and Tuesday’s trip to Middlesbrough in mind – showed the City boss is continuing to adapt.
He’ll just hope he can leave his coat on from here – after all, it’s getting colder.
4 – Colney’s not been all bad
City were pushing hard. They almost nicked it with their last kick. Then the final whistle blew and the Carrow Road crowd slipped off muttering under its breath.
And then he came into view. One number seven doing his own lap of the pitch he used to call home.
Canaries academy product Korey Smith’s first return to Norwich was as busy as his last appearance – a buzzing, awkward midfielder that has proved a very able Championship player. Indeed, he’s playing in a side that could continue to cause surprises all season.
City’s academy has come under plenty of stick in recent years for its productivity – and likewise, plenty of it is justified.
But just as often the issue has been the Club’s inability to make money from the sale of players, as much as the quality of players being produced. And the warm applause Korey received from the City fans – plus his own clear appreciation – was a moment worth remembering.
5 – Robins are patience experts
If Norwich supporters think they’re having to show patience a lot, then what about the Bristol City fans?
Alex Neil’s winless runs saw him eventually carted out of Norwich. Simultaneously, Lee Johnson’s record was even worse, yet he stayed – and is now hoping this season’s promising start is something more substantial than in recent seasons.
The Robins showed real loyalty – to the point that their own fans were well offside. It’s so rare that a manager can turn that situation around.
And yet with what Bristol City are trying to achieve, their fantastic ground development at Ashton Gate and now what looks like a flexible, stubborn, strong and cute team to work with, there could be big benefits for such loyalty heading their way.
Johnson has always struck me as a decent manager, and on Saturday his side struck me as decent too. Keep everyone fit, and they may well be pushing the top six pretty hard come May.
6 – Demands are in big supply
The Canaries’ defensive improvement really is remarkable, given just how poor they looked just last month. It’s a stark change and it’s a timely one too.
But it’s not enough, is it? Four successive clean sheets in the league for the first time in 16 years – yet consecutive goalless home draws for the first time outside the top flight since 1921. Defence sorted, now people are realising the goals have dried up.
Of course, you won’t hear any complaints about the work rate or commitment – because they’ve been bang on point in the last month.
Yanic Wildschut chasing back 60 yards to retake possession said it all – I’ve seen too many players give up on that run. When someone does it properly, it deserves praise – and got it.
It’s easy to complain. Easy to feel bored or want more. Saturday’s game was pretty awful at times – I even tweeted as much. But this isn’t bad football – and it is getting better.
• For the latest Norwich City news and opinion follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey, Facebook @mbjourno and Instagram @mrmichaeljbailey