New year but same Norwich - minus the FA Cup progress
PUBLISHED: 17:00 13 June 2020
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January is always an exciting month from a footballing perspective. The transfer window opens, the FA Cup third round takes place and the Premier League steps up a gear. Connor Southwell reviews City’s month in part six of our recap series.
A new year is always supposed to feel like a fresh start, with resolutions and optimism very much the order of the day.
Mixed with a typically frantic schedule - including the FA Cup third round - is the increased uncertainty provided by the transfer window which runs alongside fixtures and dominates narratives throughout the month.
Although it may not mark the beginning of a fresh season, a new year does often create a renewed sense of optimism.
As Carrow Road opened its doors to the masses, regardless of their league position, supporters occupied their seats hoping 2020 would continue the positivity largely seen throughout 2019.
Daniel Farke’s search for a formula that would see the Canaries return points in the top flight continued.
Aspects of their performances in December provided hope, but as the season continued to advance, City needed to turn those positive moments into a consistent stream of performances.
January began with the Canaries welcoming Crystal Palace to NR1, hoping to kick-start a run of form that would move them away from the relegation zone.
Those expectations would only have been heightened when Todd Cantwell exchanged passes with Emi Buendia before converting beyond Vicente Guiata.
City’s experience with VAR only a matter of days previous resulted in muted celebrations, but this wasn’t a goal that Farke’s men would be robbed of. VAR would play a significant role in the fixture late on though.
Buendia played a starring role as City pelted the opposing goal with shots from all angles, yet that crucial second goal eluded them. Kenny McLean smashed the underside of the bar, Buendia’s free-kick went agonisingly wide and Roy Hodgson’s men punished City late on.
Wilfried Zaha’s teasing cross was turned in by ex-Ipswich Town striker Connor Wickham but City thought Lady Luck was on their side as they glanced across to see the linesman raise his flag for offside.
As per any goal, the matter was referred to Stockley Park who proceeded to draw their lines and create the accurate measurements only to rule, correctly, that the striker was onside as he tapped the ball into the net.
If VAR was seeking validation in Norfolk, it certainly didn’t receive it - but it did display its importance when used in decisions that displayed clear daylight.
City’s flirtation with the FA Cup has commonly resulted in an early stage exit in recent years, and you could have forgiven Canaries fans for lacking enthusiasm around the competition when a draw with Preston North End came out of the hat.
The only player rubbing his hands with anticipation was young Adam Idah, the man looking to make his mark and seeking redemption following a difficult senior debut against Crawley Town in August.
Any doubts that had existed in the Irishman’s mind would have evaporated after 90 seconds when he latched on to a Marco Stiepermann pass to put City ahead at Deepdale.
The Canaries haven’t felt the romanticism associated with the competition for numerous years, but by 61 minutes, Idah had ensured they found themselves in the fourth round for the first time in seven years, with a hat-trick.
Manchester United at Old Trafford followed, with Idah given the nod after Josip Drmic and Teemu Pukki were ruled out with injuries. The 18-year-old failed to leave a lasting impression on this fixture as Marcus Rashford starred in an impressive performance for the hosts.
That forgettable Old Trafford performance saw City look to the transfer market to strengthen their side, and welcomed Hertha Berlin’s attacking midfielder Ondrej Duda and Hoffenheim’s Lukas Rupp on a loan and permanent deal respectively.
The visit of Bournemouth was earmarked as one of significant importance. Fresh impetus, a new year and a chance to get results.
Duda’s influence was noticeable as City’s offensive passages contained more zip. It was the Slovakian’s dipping shot which saw Steve Cook save illegally, leaving Pukki to convert from the spot to give City their win in 2020.
A trip to Spurs saw City play well but fail to leave with points after a fortuitous deflection left Heung-Min Son to score a tap in and earn a 2-1 win.
Then, it was back to FA Cup action and another trip to Lancashire to face Burnley. City rotated and Grant Hanley’s header was added to by Swiss striker Josip Drmic in a 2-1 success at Turf Moor which sent City through to the fifth round to face Spurs again - surely the odds would be stacked against them?