Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's 3-1 Championship defeat to Sunderland
PUBLISHED: 07:49 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 07:49 14 August 2017
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Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict following a difficult home league baptism for Daniel Farke's men
1. Staying alive, staying alive - Okay, we get it. This is a work in progress. Norwich City, under Daniel Farke, is far from the finished article. But the lack of anticipation from the Canaries’ backline to a series of quickly-taken set pieces is inexcusable. City have coughed up goals from two Swindon free kicks, plus a Sunderland goal kick and then a corner in the past few days. And it could have been much worse. The first Black Cats’ free kick of the game saw James Vaughan escape unattended down the side of City’s defensive three, but drag his shot at Angus Gunn. You can talk about the merits of zonal marking over man-to-man all day long but irrespective of the defensive formula Farke demands, the nous to be vigilant to thwart trigger movements from opposition forwards should not be beyond the gift of City’s new-look backline. If it continues then personnel changes are the only answer.
2. From cheers to (a few) jeers - It was a smattering but that disapproval was audible on the final whistle. Attribute it to the frustration of watching Norwich succumb in such testing circumstances. It is far too early to make definitive judgements on Farke or his players. The atmosphere when the boys in green and yellow first emerged, by way of contrast, was crackling at Carrow Road. Farke had got much right in the preceding days, in the manner he expertly defused the Nelson Oliveira episode. There is plenty of goodwill behind a bold, fresh approach. It will take more than a couple of early setbacks to puncture such optimism. But this is a game of patience off the pitch, as much as on it.
3. Spice it up - Mention of Oliveira brings us to another frustrating facet of an opening home league defeat to Sunderland. Farke made much play of the overwhelming weight of possession but Black Cats’ keeper Jason Steele was chronically under-employed until the final quarter. City’s attacking urges were sporadic, their play in the final third predictable. Farke called it ‘static’ and it is soothing he had already identified that negative trait in his post-match media call. Cameron Jerome and Marley Watkins were unable to stretch the play or run in behind Sunderland’s well-drilled backline with any regularity. Without greater variety, City’s smooth passing will too often be bottled up by the better teams at this level.
4. Is Daniel a quick learner? - We will find out in due course. But City in the opening week of the season have failed to marry defensive resolve with attacking thrust on a consistent basis. There have been sporadic glimpses. Norwich were dangerous on the counter at Fulham and scintillating in the first half against Swindon. But in what the head coach labelled ‘the small details’ on Sunday, they were found wanting. As much as this is about those who take the field, it is also a test of Farke’s ability to adapt and re-fine his philosophy. Norwich have the element of surprise at the start of the season with a head coach at the helm who is largely an unknown commodity, but that will swiftly erode if they fall behind the curve.
5. A bit more street, please - Sunderland were a distant second in open play, illustrated by those possession statistics Farke was quick to quote, but quite apart from the only statistic that really counts, they led the way in terms of experience, nous and attacking power. Simon Grayson’s side displayed far more nous and streetwise cunning. Players like Lee Cattermole, Aiden McGeady and even Lewis Grabban may have plenty of miles on the clock but they know what is required. Once the visitors had gone ahead, against the run of play, they willing retreated to their own penalty area to repel all Norwich could muster. There was a naivety to the hosts’ declining creative output that was a worry. It is a big ask for younger players to lead the way in that regard. The old guard need to set the tone.