Melissa Rudd: Norwich City’s Premier League world suddenly looks very different
PUBLISHED: 05:59 28 November 2019
Given Norwich City’s early season injury woes, they were long overdue a bit of luck.
Travelling to Goodison at a time when Everton manager Marco Silva was feeling the pressure having lost five of the previous eight games certainly played in City's favour. The boos that rung out on the half-time whistle told you that an away goal could turn the atmosphere toxic.
There was nothing lucky about Norwich's deserved 0-2 win on Merseyside though, which by all accounts was one of their most impressive displays so far this campaign.
The return of Christoph Zimmermann will be heralded as the main reason for a first win in well over two months.
His first notable contribution to the game? Picking up a yellow card for pulling down Richarlison when the Brazilian had gone clear of him. That kind of willingness to prevent a dangerous attack is exactly what Norwich have missed so badly.
While Zimmermann's commanding presence was no doubt key to only a second away clean sheet in 33 attempts, so was being able to play a first choice midfield.
Daniel Farke must have been wondering when he'd have the opportunity to pick a side which didn't involve trying to fit square pegs in round holes. When it finally came on Saturday, he got his team selection spot on.
Having the luxury of four defenders to form the back line meant Alex Tettey could push up into central midfield alongside Tom Trybull.
With such a solid defensive pairing, Todd Cantwell was afforded the freedom to roam in the role usually reserved for Emi Buendia, and Kenny McLean was also able to support Teemu Pukki who had cut an isolated figure in recent weeks.
The Scot dominated in the air, winning 12 headers on Saturday, three times the number of any other player on the pitch.
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It was a knock down to Pukki which helped create the first goal after he was then able to pick out Cantwell's perfectly timed run.
MORE: Why Buendia was dropped by City
It was one of those afternoons where Farke couldn't do much wrong, with two of his substitutes combining to score the second. Buendia's run and Dennis Srbeny's show of strength to stay on his feet and place the ball past Jordan Pickford topped off a performance which resulted in City's first Premier League away win by more than one goal in five years.
If Norwich played the Toffees at a good time, they are about to play an Arsenal side at an even better one.
Unai Emery is the odds on favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked, having not won a game in the top flight for eight weeks. While results have been poor, it's the manner of their performances which has added to a growing discontent towards the manager.
Arsenal have kept only two clean sheets away from home since the beginning of last season, and they conceded 31 shots against Watford when the two sides drew in September.
Against Southampton, the only other team below City in the table on Saturday, the Gunners conceded 21 shots. If those defensive displays are anything to go by, Norwich are sure to get chances on Sunday.
Arsenal's strengths are obvious. In Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang they have a strike force which has netted 12 goals between them so far this campaign. City will of course need to put in a defensive display that is unrecognisable from the shambles we witnessed against Watford to keep them quiet.
It's amazing though how much a win can boost morale.
From being rock bottom of the league amid some serious doom and gloom, supporters and players must now feel Norwich have a great chance to kickstart their season before the festive period.
With West Ham fourth bottom and facing a trip to Chelsea on Saturday, City could have the chance to go level on points with them with a win over Arsenal. A first victory in well over two months has injected that crucial shot of confidence needed to try and take advantage of a team whose manager appears to be on the brink.