Melissa Rudd: There’s no guessing what this Norwich City side will do next
PUBLISHED: 19:59 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:59 15 August 2018
The League Cup may be a staple in the English footballing calendar, but since Norwich City lifted it at Wembley 33 years ago there’s little doubt its stature in the game has dwindled, along with its attendances.
For the bigger clubs, in particular, the prestige of winning what is now officially the Carabao Cup seems almost non-existent.
If the showpiece Wembley final is contested by two of the Premier League big-hitters come February then it will be important to win as the ‘first silverware of the season’ rather than in its own right.
With that in mind, an early-round exit against lower league opposition can be easily shrugged off, especially when managers are fielding second string teams.
Daniel Farke made 10 changes to the starting line-up against Stevenage on Tuesday night, and just minutes from a penalty shootout it was shaping up to be another of those cup nights to quickly forget.
Yet, having conceded four at Carrow Road 72 hours previous, it was perhaps more vital than it seemed for City to get a home win under their belts, even if few of those beaten by West Brom were on the pitch.
Extra fixtures may come in handy, too, during the course of the season.
Norwich currently have 30 senior professionals in a first team squad that is largely littered with quantity rather than quality.
That’s a lot of players for Farke to keep settled, happy and performing more consistently than last season. The fact that he is only allowed to name 11 non-homegrown players in each Championship matchday squad, when City have 16, means giving them the chance to shine in some midweek cup fixtures can surely only be a good thing.
Saturday’s defeat to West Brom brought out the best and the worst from this current crop. A first-half display that produced excitement and – more importantly – a host of chances, was possibly one of the most impressive attacking displays we have seen under Farke’s stewardship.
Then defensive errors and the gifting of goals – and subsequently points – to a team who had been largely outplayed.
Similarly, Jordan Rhodes’s afternoon was one of contrasts. He was in the right place at the right time to convert Teemu Pukki’s ball into the six-yard box (oh, how Norwich have been crying out for a frontman to put away chances like that).
Minutes later, the Scot’s penalty in front of the River End looked the most tame since Captain Canary’s penalties against Splat the Cat formed part of the half-time entertainment.
Still, despite suffering a loss that felt more like it should have been a comfortable victory, we enjoyed spells of the kind of slick, attacking football City supporters have craved at Carrow Road. Cutting out the simple mistakes will hopefully prove far easier than conjuring up creative chemistry.
It feels as though we might not see another game where the two performances are quite as extreme as Farke works to find the right balance.
Doing so against Sheffield United on Saturday may seem a daunting task, especially given Chris Wilder’s post-match sulk about the nature of City’s 0-1 victory almost a year ago, which no doubt means he is desperate to exact revenge on the same turf this time around.
The home side boast a classy attack with one of the league’s top scorers last campaign in Leon Clarke and the experienced Billy Sharp. They also have highly-rated Liverpool youngster Ben Woodburn and former Ipswich striker David McGoldrick at their disposal, both brought in this summer.
Given Norwich have conceded six goals in their first two league games, their chances of keeping consecutive clean sheets at Bramall Lane look slim. Yet, so did scoring four last weekend considering City managed just 25 at home all last season.
Perhaps it’s best not to second guess just what this new-look team might deliver.