Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 2-2 Premier League draw against Arsenal
PUBLISHED: 20:03 01 December 2019 | UPDATED: 23:13 01 December 2019
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Arsenal verdict after the Canaries’ battling 2-2 Premier League draw
After that vital win at Everton, and against a backdrop of Arsenal dismissing Unai Emery and installing the popular Freddie Ljungberg on a caretaker basis, this was a test of whether Norwich's Merseyside mission was blessed relief or the start of a genuinely encouraging phase of the Premier League journey.
It was most definitely the latter.
City led twice, were pegged back twice, had to endure more unwanted attention from the officials at Stockley Park in another VAR episode, yet finished the stronger.
Bernd Leno foiled Kenny McLean and Max Aarons before Todd Cantwell guided a first time effort agonisingly wide.
Arsenal were heavily reliant on the world class goalscoring instincts of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the other end, but there was not question who will take more from this stalemate.
Norwich's fan base warmly applauded Daniel Farke's men back down the tunnel.
After those chastening episodes against the likes of Aston Villa and Manchester United this was another step in the right direction.
2. Another quiet shift at Stockley Park
Time to pull the power out of the cameras, audio and technology linking Carrow Road to VAR headquarters. After two VAR-awarded penalties in the home defeat to Manchester United - both admittedly saved by Tim Krul that day - those in attendance were back staring at the huge screen and referee Mr Tierney.
United's first penalty that day was subsequently shown by Mike Riley to be the incorrect call.
There won't be the same levels of controversy around Aubameyang's re-taken spot kick in the first half but it was another episode that did nothing for VAR's dwindling support base.
After Christoph Zimmermann was penalised for handball, Krul flung himself to his right to keep out Aubameyang's first effort. But home euphoria swiftly evaporated when it became clear there was a check for encroachment.
Aarons was penalised but there was at least another two yellow shirts and one Arsenal shirt in the box as the striker shaped to shoot. There was later a suggestion Aarons was penalised because it was he who cleared Krul's parry. Had it not been Aarons, the save would have stood. Aubameyang made no mistake second time around, despite Krul's delaying tactics.
It would be interesting to see whether the same sequence had unfolded if Arsenal had scored first time around. We await the same level of consistency in VAR's application from here. A decision or two in City's favour wouldn't go amiss, either.
3. Never in doubt
It really was only a matter of time before Teemu Pukki returned to the scoresheet for his club.
A first goal in eight (for City) had a slice of good fortune attached in the manner his low effort struck Shkodran Mustafi to wrong foot Leno.
But Pukki's movement in the build up was top class. First a diagonal run to the right then a switch into the opposite channel to make the angle for McLean to slip the Finn in.
A focus on Pukki's 'drought' was inevitable during a prolonged downturn after that epic win over Manchester City secured by his sixth top flight strike. That was all part of a rocket-fuelled start to his Premier League adventure that earned him the player-of-the-month.
But the reality was during a fallow period for the Canaries Pukki was increasingly an isolated figure, lacking in genuine support or a supply line of chances. That has started to shift in the past two games with the re-deployment of McLean in particular. So much of what Norwich can go on to achieve this season will hinge on Pukki and the template Farke can wrap around him.
4. Quality counts
Cantwell's fourth Premier League goal in 14 appearances at the highest level is productivity far beyond what any could have reasonably expected from the Dereham youth before a ball was kicked at Anfield on the opening night.
Farke opted to dip him out after a lull, following his impressive early season displays, but he has come back with a bang in the last two games.
A composed finish set Norwich on their way at Everton and there was another in front of those fans who declared he was 'one of their own' in the aftermath in front of the Barclay.
Collecting Onel Hernandez's cutback after finding a pocket of space just inside the Arsenal penalty area he whipped a curling shot around a Gunner's defender and past the partially unsighted Leno.
It was the act of a footballer so comfortable at the top table.
You might have got generous odds in pre-season that come the end of the season Cantwell would be the brightest shimmering star among the Canaries' cast of young talent. But he is certainly blazing a trail to this point.
5. Now we know
This was a first real chance to assess Ibrahim Amadou in the defensive midfield role he was essentially recruited to fill before a debilitating central defensive glut of injuries forced him into makeshift action alongside Ben Godfrey.
With Alex Tettey unavailable for personal reasons this was his moment.
Farke labelled him the most like-for-like replacement at his disposal on Friday, and 90 minutes later you could see where the City head coach was coming from.
There was any number of athletic interventions to mop up the ensuring danger. Capped by a fantastic, arguably match-saving full length block to foil Lucas Torreira deep in stoppage time.
In the interests of balance there might also have been one or two moments of alarm in possession. One diagonal ball back to Krul required the Dutchman to make a diving tackle to halt an Arsenal attacker.
But overall, Amadou looks like a more than useful addition to a midfield mix which has plenty of technical ability but perhaps not as much grunt.