Injury curse continued as competitive edge vanished
PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:57 10 June 2020
In part three of our season review, Connor Southwell takes a look back at Norwich City’s progress during the month of October, where they failed to record a single Premier League victory.
Norwich City’s players laid on the Carrow Road turf looking crestfallen, dejected and, in some cases, in agony.
Merely weeks previous NR1 was the host of one of the most unexpected and joyous parties in the world - City had beaten Pep Guardiola’s formidable Manchester City and optimism was not in short supply.
City’s win over the champions had made them immortals within Canaries history - the conversation was centred around how high that victory ranked in City folklore.
That same passion, energy and togetherness was not on display as fellow promoted side Aston Villa schooled Daniel Farke’s men in a 5-1 mauling in Norfolk.
City’s injury curse had began to catch up with them - the adrenaline that saw them see off the Premier League champions had evaporated, the optimism quashed.
The second half was reminiscent of a training ground game as Jack Grealish and co sought to rub salt into City’s gaping wounds.
Michael McGovern, at that stage City’s third choice keeper, was between the sticks and even a penalty save followed by a miraculous reflex stop couldn’t make his first Premier League start memorable.
City’s midfield consisted of Mo Leitner and Kenny McLean - with Ben Godfrey the only defensive option, but he too was playing through the injury barrier.
When Farke emerged for his post-match press conference, he resembled a man who had just engaged in a 12-round bout with a professional heavyweight boxer, but with his squad on their knees, the German opted to sympathise rather than point the finger post-match.
“A tough day. Without any doubt,” he said. “Of course we are disappointed. There were too many problems, too many odds against us to be competitive.”
City went into the international break licking their wounds as they attempted to reawaken the brazen underdog spirit which had been the catalyst for that incredible evening just a few weeks prior.
It was during this period that the whole Norwich City world was left mourning the death of one its greatest sons - Duncan Forbes.
City’s iconic captain ruled Carrow Road with a ruthless streak, but off the pitch, he will be remembered as a gentle giant.
After two weeks of soul-searching, City emerged on the south coast seeking redemption and were seeking to prove themselves consistently on the top-flight stage.
Experienced duo Alex Tettey and Tim Krul returned from their respective fitness woes to offer City some light relief after their relentless injury troubles.
The goal at Dean Court was clear - to show their ability to be pragmatic and to retain competitiveness for lengthy periods of the fixture.
Despite a couple of flurries, City could, and perhaps should, have nicked all three points - with Teemu Pukki’s low-drive being beaten away by Aaron Ramsdale.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. But for Farke, City had shown a significant improvement and a step in the right direction as they prepared to welcome Manchester United to Carrow Road.
The afternoon was marred as Godfrey became the latest to join the never-ending injury list - meaning all four of City’s centre-back options were injured.
“I love Manchester City but with all due respect I would like to see them play without four centre backs. If they had Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva at centre-back they would struggle to be solid,” Farke said post-match.
When Manchester United come bouncing into town, the atmosphere always feels somewhat different. United may be a different proposition these days, but the aura surrounding their name remains. City had conquered them before in the top flight, with the memories of 2005 and 2012 still ingrained in the memories of supporters.
The Canaries, with Godfrey rushed back into action, were disjointed in the first half as Scott McTominay lashed home United’s opening goal. Tim Krul then offered a glimpse of his penalty saving capabilities as he foiled both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial from the spot.
The former was set free by Dan James before converting for United’s second. He then combined beautifully with Martial to add a third before Onel Hernandez marked his return from injury with a goal.
City ended October without recording a single victory - with only two goals; both being late consolations.
Still, hope remained that when the injured players returned, they could kick-start their season - with November including some winnable fixtures.