Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from nine-man Norwich City’s 2-0 Premier League home defeat to Burnley
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Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Burnley verdict after the Canaries’ eventful latest Premier League defeat.
1. How to implode. Norwich style
The Norwich playbook on how to lose a Premier League game this season appears to have infinite chapters. Fitting perhaps they signed off at Carrow Road with another episode that at times defied logic.
Two red cards, a sliced own goal and in between the defining moments more chances than they have created for many a week. But the end result was depressingly familiar. City should have gone in front when both Ben Godfrey and Alex Tettey were denied in the first half.
Then Emi Buendia and Josip Drmic’s dismissals presented Burnley with the initiative and skewered what had been to that point a finely-balanced contest. Chris Wood cashed in on more charitable donations from Norwich defensively to clear their lines. While Godfrey’s late slice past Tim Krul summed up Norwich’s desperate decline since football’s resumption.
Even then Nick Pope acrobatically turned away Onel Hernandez’s spiralling goalbound effort. Would a goal be too much to ask for? Norwich appear to have seriously offended the footballing gods.
2. Any way back for Josip?
City’s top brass painted last season’s glorious Championship title win as scaling Everest. Drmic might view that as preferable to trying to convince the doubters he can prove his worth at Carrow Road.
A fitful, injury-blighted debut season in the green and yellow plunged a new low with a straight red for a lunging over the ball challenge on Erik Pieters, right in front of the Burnley bench and the fourth official.
It did not need the VAR check to confirm Kevin Friend’s original decision was the right one. Given Buendia had barely reached the dressing room himself it was a brainless, ill-disciplined attempt to rectify his own heavy touch. The backdrop to this game saw an unacceptable media post directed at Drmic purporting to come from a Norwich fan wishing him serious injury and worse.
That is the society we inhabit.
But given a growing constituency of fair-minded City supporters were unconvinced by the Swiss international prior to this outing such a rush of blood does nothing to further his case for greater Championship involvement.
3. Buendia falls for the classic set up
Why not have another contentious video assistant referee (VAR) episode just for good measure to round off this wretched season.
Buendia was dismissed on the guidance of the VAR and a follow up look at the monitor from Friend for an elbow on Ashley Westwood.
The Burnley man went down in instalments after taking a vicious blow to his upper back. Clarets’ team mates and Sean Dyche led the appeals.
Dyche had spent most of the preceding 30 minutes of this game berating either the referee or the fourth official, for what he must have perceived as a series of poor calls. He got the one that mattered. Westwood had two bites at Buendia immediately before the Argentinian’s fuse was blown. It was a classic set up and Buendia fell for it.
Inevitably there will be those who focus simply on his reaction to provocation. But there is a stack of similar examples this season right across the Premier League to suggest the midfielder was hard done by the infernal VAR system. We do not even need to reprise City’s own bitter experiences with this patchy technology.
It was also hard not to escape the sense with a suspension coming at Manchester City next weekend it might be the last sight of him in a Norwich shirt. What a sad way to go out, if it is.
4. A sliver of hope
The towering presence of Christoph Zimmermann entering the fray at half-time offers some reassurance for the Championship grind ahead. Zimmermann has been sorely missed for the majority of an injury-hit top flight campaign.
Farke spoke in glowing terms about his compatriot on Friday. Not just his ability but his leadership, which really came to the fore down the stretch in the title-winning campaign.
City badly need a fit and firing Zimmermann to lead from the front now. There are so many imponderables in play over the summer. So much speculation and the growing sense the current squad will undergo a sizeable turnover.
But there must be some constants. Some bridges from the recent past. Whether Godfrey partners him or not next season hinges on whether firm interest materialises in the transfer window, and Stuart Webber’s response.
Worth noting, despite a horrid sliced own goal past Krul to seal another Premier League defeat, Godfrey looked far more aggressive and willing to stand his ground against Burnley’s muscular frontmen.
Too little, too late for this campaign but that is a centre back pairing few Norwich fans would surely be averse to see back in the Football League.
5. For those of a nervous disposition...
A club record nine Premier League defeats. A painful relegation, where City will finish rock bottom a long, long way behind the rest. And now the small matter of a final weekend trip to Manchester City. A team packed with a galaxy of talent who perhaps want to set the record straight after a rare defeat in the corresponding league fixture. Yes, Norwich were able to mix it with the very best on occasion.
Add in David Silva’s farewell on home soil, and the motivation of a tilt at the Champions League to further focus minds, and you already start to have that queasy feeling.
Farke will say all the right things in the build up but do those under his command really believe they can pull of another mission impossible? Given the downward spiral since the restart City’s players would need bottomless reserves of self-belief.
But these were the teams and the stages and the tests it was all about to reach the Premier League in the first place.
The stay has been brief and far from pleasurable. But memories of that epic night in Norfolk will always provide a lasting snapshot of joy and pride. One only hopes the abacus is not required on Sunday week.