Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 2-1 Premier League loss at Watford
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Watford verdict after the Canaries’ 2-1 Premier League defeat
1. It would be Norwich
Danny Welbeck’s worldie consigned Norwich to defeat and brought him a first Premier League goal since August 2018. The thick end of two years and the former Manchester United and Arsenal man picks the Canaries to serve up surely one of his career highlights.
A bicycle kick finish that would not have looked out of place in ‘Escape to Victory’ alongside Pele’s effort.
City had broken their own long drought with Emi Buendia’s sharp opener but paid again for an inability to defend on set pieces. There was far more urgency and purpose to Norwich in comparison to what has gone before since the restart. But that is a fairly low bar, and the final outcome was depressingly familiar.
The visitors carried more thrust and more aggressive intent in general play and, bar Welbeck’s acrobatics, there was precious little to separate two squads assembled at vastly different cost.
But Norwich’s relegation will be confirmed if they lose at home to West Ham. That is only rubber-stamping what has been clear for some while. There is work ahead. Plenty of it.
2 Beauty, Buendia
Not a bad way to open your Premier League account. Buendia’s instinctive back heel bought him the space for a snapped, curling effort on his left that had too much juice on it for Ben Foster.
The attacker’s lack of goal output has been publicly highlighted by his head coach earlier this season.
There is no doubt a decent harvest from the Argentine maestro, to sit alongside his impressive body of assists, could have been one of those tipping point factors for his club in this season of turmoil on the pitch.
But the quality of the trigger move and finish again underlined once again he has the talent to mature into a coveted operator at the highest level.
This will have provided some personal satisfaction. If not the desired outcome for his team. And it avoided an unwanted club goalscoring record run of consecutive barren league games.
3. Anger management
In different circumstances a prolonged verbal joust between the fun-loving Timm Klose and Onel Hernandez might have been taken as a signal all is not well in the camp.
Klose took exception to his first half ball played out of defence for Hernandez, who seemed to be on his heels as Kiko Femenia nipped in to spark a Watford counter.
The debate looked spicy in the immediate aftermath, once City had dealt with the threat. With even Daniel Farke appearing to chip in from his touchline vantage point.
But the next break in play saw the duo continue the dialogue on the park.
Given City’s collective work since the resumption of this Premier League season had been bereft of any spark, any real intensity, any real passion, it was heartening to see Farke’s pre-match call for some pride and professionalism had struck a chord. The result might have been another defeat.
But some of the recent charges do not apply after this offering at Vicarage Road.
4. Auditions for old favourites?
Farke’s response after a weekend loss to Brighton, when pressed why he had left out both Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell, was ‘we can’t live in the past’, while underlining every player under his charge retains both his support and trust.
But on that measure, both Marco Stierpemann and Mario Vrancic must grasp rare first team opportunities at this level to impress for whatever comes next.
Stiepermann forged a superb double act with Pukki that spearheaded that Championship promotion surge.
While Vrancic, above all others, was responsible for hauling the Canaries over the line down the stretch to seal a remarkable title triumph. But that, rightly, should not count for the here and now.
Vrancic needed all of a minute to underline his intent with a crunching challenge on Femenia.
Stiepermann also offered some robust ballast; although there were losses of possession one can forgive, perhaps, given his inactivity.
Both clearly have proven they can handle Championship terrain. It remains to be seen if they are a big part of the puzzle next time around.
5. Keep going, son
Stiepermann tellingly made way for Adam Idah for the final quarter. A young man with it all in front of him. Backed by a growing groundswell of fans calling for the young Irishman to step up.
It is not just the old guard who are perhaps auditioning.
He certainly could not have come much closer to that maiden Premier League career strike in the past two cameos.
After a glancing header against the foot of a post on Saturday against Brighton it was literally his right foot that was unable to guide a cross home as he slid into the six yard box on the sodden turf.
Idah put his hands to his head as lay prone in the Watford box in disbelief.
Farke has said from the outset he has a natural gift for goalscoring. He is certainly demonstrating he has that knack to be in the right place at Premier League level. The goals will surely flow in the Norwich first team in the not too distant future.
He should not dwell on what might have been in recent days.