Trials and tribulations at Cambridge United for Norwich City as new head coach Daniel Farke gets stuck in to pre-season
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Proper football matches are not split into four quarters, thankfully, but City’s 120-minute friendly at Cambridge may have offered a glimpse of how this new-look Canaries team will be shaping up.
Winning 2-0 was largely irrelevant, particularly with the goals from Josh Murphy and Ben Godfrey coming in the opening quarter, before the match descended into something of a slog for the remaining 90 minutes.
The hosts changed their entire team at the halfway point of the fitness exercise and the sprinklers even gave the pitch an impromptu soaking mid-match much to the enjoyment of spectators.
This was peak pre-season – emphasised further by Norwich coach Daniel Farke bringing a tactics board on to the pitch at the end of the first quarter, to ensure his plans were fully understood.
That was largely due to a new shape, deploying three defenders, in a 3-4-3 formation and latterly in a shape closer to 3-5-2, although both were noticeable for the fluid movement of the attacking players.
With loan keeper Angus Gunn making his delayed start to pre-season following his time with the England Under-21s, City fans got to see some of the sharp passing and neat footwork that have made the 21-year-old such hot property – with proud dad, Canaries legend Bryan, watching from the stands.
He had a defence with Christoph Zimmermann at its heart, Timm Klose to his left and returning captain Russell Martin to his right, making his first appearance of pre-season after back trouble.
It’s a formation which seems to suit Klose and Martin well, with wing-back roles also potentially a good fit for new signing James Husband on the left and – once his hamstring problem is dealt with – Ivo Pinto on the right.
Before the clash with the League Two side Farke had largely used a 4-1-4-1 formation but the German experimented against the U’s – and was an extremely animated figure in the opening stages.
He admitted afterwards he had been unhappy with a ‘lazy’ start, having given Josh Murphy the hairdryer treatment for smashing a clearance long and conceding possession, and barked at Ben Godfrey for not occupying the correct defensive position.
Both players offered immediate responses, getting stuck in defensively and scoring the goals.
Steven Naismith – vocal as ever but now being challenged by Zimmermann for loudest voice – burst forward and was fouled but Husband kept the ball alive and Murphy hit a snap shot on the volley from 25 yards which bounced past keeper Dimitar Mitov for 1-0.
It was 2-0 within two minutes when Godfrey flicked in a Mario Vrancic free-kick from close range to settle any nerves and allow the Canaries to start spreading the ball around nicely
Perhaps oddly, City had just 18 players and didn’t bolster the squad with youngsters, so when Klose hobbled off after a heavy challenge shortly before half-time the classy and calm Marcel Franke came on for his debut just a day after signing.
And when Alex Pritchard was taken off on a stretcher with an ankle injury, Husband had to come back on as a substitute with 17 minutes remaining. Those worrying injuries aside though, City were largely dominant.
George Maris had fired under Gunn in the 10th minute but an offside flag left the hosts frustrated, as it did again when Mark Roberts flicked past Remi Matthews after Josh Coulsen headed down a late corner.
Matthews made a fine diving save to deny Jabo Ibehre in the 89th minute and an unnamed trialist lashed a powerful shot against City’s crossbar 10 minutes later, as the visitors tired.
With matches against two German second tier sides to follow this week, we will soon see if Farke was impressed enough to stick with a back three, with less than three weeks left until the start of the real action in the Championship.
Our chief Canaries correspondent Paddy Davitt is in Germany to report on City’s pre-season training camp, follow him on Twitter @PaddyJDavitt for the latest updates
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