Farkeball, intensity, naivety and big sheets of paper - six things learned from City's battle with the Blades
After an intense battle with promotion rivals Sheffield United, David Freezer looks at some of the key talking points from Norwich City's 2-2 Championship draw.
1 – Shot stats emphasise fair result
Stand-in skipper Christoph Zimmermann made a good point in his post-match interview after City’s 2-2 draw with the Blades.
The big German pointed out that if it had been the hosts fighting back to draw such a hard fought battle against a promotion rival 2-2, the mood would have been much more positive, the point perceived very differently.
The intensity of the crunch clash was something quite different to that experienced at Carrow Road for much of the season, an all-out battle between two well matched and motivated teams.
City only fired seven shots at goal, the fewest they’ve managed in a Championship game all season – although a respectable five of those were on target. In fact it’s just the second time in the Daniel Farke era that fewer than 10 shots have been attempted in a home league game.
So while the defending which led to both of United’s goals was disappointing, taking a point from a tough game really wasn’t too bad.
2 – Wilder is more than just angry
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has become a man City fans love to hate, since his infamous rant about Farke’s team arriving late at Bramall Lane last season.
The Blades fans’ chant about that day could be heard again, concluding: “Take your time, Sheff Utd, playing football the Norwich way.”
So when it emerged that United’s kit men had covered up as much of those famous supposed ‘testosterone lowering’ pink walls in the away dressing room with big sheets of white paper, a spiky encounter was teed up.
But Wilder deserves credit, after seeing City dominate the opening 20 minutes and leading 1-0, he issued fresh instructions to his midfield, dropping John Fleck and Kieran Dowell into deeper roles to try and congest the midfield, and it worked well.
It did kick off around the dugouts late in the first half, and they may not play the most attractive style, but the Blades reflect the desire and tenacity of their manager in their abrasive approach.
3 – Swift play to savour from City
The latest example of the ‘Farkeball’ style thrilling Canaries fans came when Onel Hernandez deservedly opened the scoring.
Earlier in the week that was the phrase used to describe the style of a goal scored by City’s under-23s at Colney and the slick team move led to a very similar goal.
Marco Stiepermann kicked it off by exchanging a one-two with Hernandez to find Mario Vrancic, who flicked on to Teemu Pukki, who continued the sharp passing to play Hernandez in on goal – and the Cuban finished the job with a low shot under Dean Henderson.
The roar of appreciation from the home faithful reflected the quality of the goal and both Stiepermann and Emi Buendia embarked on similar efforts later in the game which would have been equally brilliant.
So while a point was fair and the Blades did a good job on the day, only one of these promotion rivals looks like it has the potential to perform well in the top flight.
4 – Midfield questions for Farke
The intensity of this tussle was an ideal warm up for the huge matches against Leeds and Ipswich which now lie in wait for the Canaries.
There was a taste of the big game atmosphere at West Brom and now the players in City’s squad who haven’t been in a Championship promotion race are starting to see the standards of hard work and quality required in the months to come.
There will be very little room for error at a sold-out Elland Road against the leaders on Saturday, or when Paul Lambert’s Ipswich arrive with all the motivation in the world to finally end their derby day misery.
Tom Trybull had another very good game against United, making more tackles (five), clearances (four) and interceptions (six) than any other City player.
While Mario Vrancic was again decent going forward, and has been performing well, Alex Tettey is due back in training this week and his muscle may just be needed in the white hot heat at Leeds.
5 – Worrying moments of naivety
The rapid progress of City’s young stars has been a huge part of the successful season so far – and perhaps even provided added satisfaction. However, lessons have to be learned from the goals conceded against the Blades.
Max Aarons was caught on his heels as Enda Stevens got in behind him to reach a John Fleck pass during first half injury-time, perhaps still feeling the effects of Stevens catching his ankle 10 minutes earlier.
From there a reckless shoulder charge from Emi Buendia, desperately trying to salvage the situation, gave the Blades the spot-kick from which Billy Sharp scored his first equaliser.
Aarons, 19, did also show his attacking instincts when teeing up Pukki for 2-1 but it was Jamal Lewis’ turn to get caught out on the left as Sharp equalised again, losing track of Mark Duffy for the cross which led to the goal.
All three have proved their ability but now they must show they can concentrate when the real pressure is on.
6 – Cup games may prove huge help
While involvement in the FA Cup may have been waved goodbye quite happily by City, the competition is still alive for other top-six rivals.
The current top three of Leeds, Norwich and Sheffield United were all able to crack on with their promotion campaigns this weekend, while West Brom, Derby and Middlesbrough were all in FA Cup fourth round action. Of course that means a game in hand for each – but that will have to be squeezed into a midweek slot.
West Brom drew 0-0 at Brighton so now have a replay against the top-flight side next week, before their rearranged trip to QPR next month.
Boro conceded a late equaliser against League Two side Newport so head to Wales for a replay next week and have to squeeze in a home game against play-off chasing Bristol City. Derby avoided a replay, winning 1-0 at Accrington, but have a trip to Millwall to rearrange.
Extra games during the second half of a long campaign, it’s all very welcome to see for the top three.