Connor Southwell’s verdict: That similar sinking feeling as City lack quality in another home defeat
PUBLISHED: 06:00 25 June 2020
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You don’t need to be an expert to see where Norwich City’s faults lie - the loss to Everton was another Carrow Road defeat that felt all too familiar to those that have preceded it.
Daniel Farke came out swinging earlier this week in response to crticism of his tactical set-up, and responded by reverting back to 4-2-3-1.
Big occasions call for big decisions - Emi Buendia, Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell were all dropped to the bench.
In exchange for creativity, Farke sought workmanship and pragmatism. As a result, City were more cohesive, they occupied a low block with greater protection to their defence and dramatically reduced the supply line to Everton’s potent front two.
Lukas Rupp was tasked with nullifying the dangerous Lucas Digne – but, ultimately, underpinning everything the Canaries do is a soft underbelly that leaves them open to exposure.
The statistics reveal it all. They’ve failed to record a single point after falling behind in the Premier League this season. They haven’t scored more than one goal at home since December.
This wasn’t a display devoid of energy or purpose. City did possess more structure in their shape out of possession and edged proceedings in the first-half.
But, as has often been the case this season, they don’t possess the quality to shift through the gears - or even revisit their positive phases later on.
Everton upped their levels for a 10-minute period, grabbed a goal from a set-piece and were comfortable. City put on the pressure - but once again managed only a solitary shot on target – courtesy of Rupp’s long-range effort which was palmed away by Jordan Pickford.
Elements of their play were much improved from Friday night’s offering against Southampton. They were more rigid, Everton struggled to play through their shape and couldn’t utilise the delivery of Digne.
Time is now in short supply. City’s efforts need to be translated into points. Their decision-making in the final third isn’t as ruthless as what’s required at this level.
The Canaries do have the odds stacked against them. They don’t possess the financial muscle of their competitors around them and yes, they have had an injury crisis that has dismantled any degree of momentum or confidence.
But that won’t prevent the supporters from feeling that familiar sinking feeling. This season promised so much, but City haven’t been able to replicate the miracle which saw them crowned champions last season.
They are millionaires being permitted a period of enjoyment on a billionaires playground.
Mistakes have been made. Sporting director Stuart Webber has admitted to mistakes and confessed to their shortfalls. So much can be levelled at City’s approach, but their efforts this season have never wavered.
Farke has absorbed and been bruised by the criticism, but a post mortem was going to be inevitable after another season that has concluded with City not quite possessing the quality needed at this level.
The odds stacked against them, the achievement is that they made it this far. The figureheads were determined to temper those expectations following promotion, but City fans hoped this top-flight season would be different.
Even with the magical wand Farke seems to have possessed in the last two years, he couldn’t prevent City from what seems like another top-flight relegation.
Everton were compact and clearly keen to conserve their energy after an all encompassing 0-0 draw with champions-elect Liverpool.
Their press wasn’t as ferocious. City were top for spells of the game - but as they searched for creative spark, it was all sat behind the head coach on the bench.
Of course, that decision was designed to offer City with an increased amount of defensive protection - that was evident in their display.
But, it was a soft set-piece goal that they conceded as Michael Keane rose above City’s defenders to nod the ball into the far corner.
Onel Hernandez was lively throughout the opening period, but his spark fizzled out as City sought an equaliser.
City had to display a more pragmatic face after such a heavy defeat - they were the better side in the first half. But, once again, they’ve been defeated.
Fundamentally, it comes down to quality and City don’t have enough to stay in the top flight.