Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 3-2 League Cup win against Swindon Town
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict following a tough test at Carrow Road
1. Naughty step for Nelson - With apologies to James Maddison and Wes Hoolahan, Nelson Oliveira’s absence from Tuesday’s squad proved one of the headlines from City’s hard-fought League Cup success. Given Daniel Farke made only three changes to his line up from the side that faced Fulham this was no shadow squad - hence why Oliveira’s omission carried greater significance. Farke opted not to repeat his public condemnation of the Portuguese striker’s petulant goal celebration at Craven Cottage, following this Robins’ cup win. You suspect the next round of talks will take place behind closed doors. Farke and Oliveira need to find common ground. Whether that is triggered by an act of contrition on the striker’s part or not may become clear when the team is announced for Sunderland’s weekend visit. It really is in neither party’s interest to let this fester.
2. Marvellous Maddison - Much like Farke sought to focus on those who performed in the line of duty, the young midfielder was a focal point in a first half surge prior to the interval that offered a genuinely thrilling glimpse into what the head coach is trying to develop. The movement, the clever interplay and the clinical finishing was too much for Swindon’s bedraggled backline. Key to that game-defining period was the 20-year-old, who drove forward to provide two assists and then swivelled to crash home the eventual winner. Maddison has staked a claim for a leading role in the first week of the season. But with Steven Naismith now available and Wes Hoolahan back in the fold, the competition gets no easier.
3. The wonder of Wes - Given Hoolahan had spent most of his pre-season coming back from injury there were no signs of rust from the Dubliner. One is reminded of the potent form he showed this time last season, before the gruelling nature of the Championship took a toll on a body which has given sterling service to the Canaries. Hoolahan’s workload will again have to be carefully managed, but even taking into account the level of competition faced, the midfielder remains far more than a luxury item. If anything the presence of a kindred spirit in Maddison appeared to bring the best out of his teacher.
4. Out with the old. In with the..old - No hard or fast assessments should be made on the evidence of two opening league and cup tussles. But the manner of Swindon’s two set piece goals evoked painful memories of far too many similar concessions under different management and a radically different defence last season. The likes of John Ruddy, Ryan Bennett and Seb Bassong may have departed but City look no less fragile from pinpoint deliveries into their own penalty box. They had escaped once, even before Olly Lancashire rose unmarked to head past Angus Gunn. To fail not once but twice more in the same fashion, and then to exude further distress signals in open play as Swindon smelt blood late on, raises genuine questions. Farke admitted he was angered by such cheap goals. Now he must find the solution.
5. Friendship Trophy? Just three points, please - Norwich host Sunderland on Sunday for the first time since that pivotal Premier League game in April 2016 that effectively consigned Alex Neil’s squad to the drop and catapulted Sam Allardyce to safety and a brief stint as England manager. Much has changed since for all concerned. That historical bond forged between the clubs, dating back to a memorable League Cup final meeting may persist, but what Farke’s Norwich would give for a first Championship win of the season against a Sunderland looking to re-adjust after losing their own top flight status. Less a slice of revenge, more a tangible sign the new City are up and running.