Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 1-0 Premier League defeat against Aston Villa
PUBLISHED: 00:09 27 December 2019 | UPDATED: 00:09 27 December 2019
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Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Aston Villa verdict after the Canaries’ 1-0 Premier League defeat
1. Sad symmetry
Norwich celebrated a Championship title win and promotion to the Premier League last time at Villa Park. This game might be the one they looked back on as the one where the top flight dream died.
City again carved out chances, again failed to take them and were predictably undone at the other end to present their fellow strugglers with a first Premier League win (and points) in five games.
This was a big day for so many reasons, You sensed that anxiety and nerves around Villa Park with Norwich starting the brighter of the two teams. There was also a positive spell before Conor Hourihane inflicted more misery on the Canaries. Allied to another improbable win for Southampton and a point for Watford at Sheffield United of all places, Norwich now prop up the rest. Given they have failed to rescue one point from a losing position this season not even the most optimistic fan would be able to construct an argument for survival.
2. Games within games
Norwich have lost to Watford, Southampton and now Aston Villa twice.
Call it a 'mini league' or call it six pointers or simply call it massive matches against sides dealing with the same sinking feeling at the wrong end of the Premier League table.
Norwich have had more than decent spells in all those four games yet failed to take a solitary point.
Claiming points in such battles may of itself not secure Premier League survival but it goes a long way to potentially sealing their fate. The negative impact for the Canaries is magnified by the boost they have provided to direct rivals. Daniel Farke may again point to a sense of burning injustice that earned him a booking in the aftermath of Hourihane's winner, with City clearly incensed moments earlier a throw in was incorrectly awarded against them. But they have to look closer to home.
3. Chance after chance after chance
This was another game ripe for the taking. Teemu Pukki for all his attacking pomp and prowess has looked strangely subdued in the past two games since that foot injury at Leicester. The Finn may have avoided a broken toe but there is a distinct lack of confidence when found in the same positions he has routinely slotted during a superb purple patch. Or maybe the GOAT rightly thinks it is about time others stepped up to the plate.
Sam Byram tried to take matters into his own hands when he headed one chance against the bar and guided one narrowly wide. Douglas Luiz denied Alex Tettey with a quite breathtaking goalline clearance. Tom Heaton shovelled away a far post header from Tom Trybull and then was in the right place to foil Onel Hernandez.
Much like the home defeat to Wolves, you could focus on the talent in the opposition ranks. But that only serves to absolve the men in green and yellow. At this level, they have simply not been clinical enough.
4. Step forward Mr Farke
Perhaps only for a spell in his first debut season, City's head coach has had to find the right words and make the right calls to pull his team out of a reverse spiral. Norwich managed to avoid any real brush with a Championship relegation fight in his first tour.
There followed the most marvellously uplifting ascent but for all the pre-season sound bites about City's place in the Premier League hierarchy he and his players will have hoped they could buck the trend.
But rock bottom going into New Year he will need to look within to dredge the belief and the will to resist from what appears an increasingly hopeless position. He also desperately needs helps in the transfer market. But how persuasive Stuart Webber can be to entice players to Carrow Road when the Football League is ranging back into full view is another matter entirely.
5. Cool hand Cantwell
If you want a measure of how important the Dereham youngster now is to this Norwich collective it was the pre-match sight of Cantwell interrupting his warm up to receive running repairs to his left knee from two of the club's physio department.
Thankfully, he took his place in the starting line up and there seemed no lasting aftereffects.
But Cantwell is one of the genuine success stories so far in a frustratingly sporadic bid for upward mobility. Whether Norwich could hold onto him should they return swiftly to the Championship may depend on whether he can maintain this level of output.
You can be sure Premier League clubs will be keeping tabs on Cantwell. That is a measure of his progress and his belief in his own ability. Sadly, not enough team mates have managed to make the same transition.