Melissa Rudd: Is it time for Norwich City to take Ben Godfrey out of the firing line?
PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 January 2019
The overriding feeling from Saturday's 2-2 draw with Sheffield United seemed to be that winning the game wasn't as important as not losing it.
Though having led twice through sublime goals only to concede so softly with 11 minutes to go, niggling echoes of ‘what if’ resounded for many of us on the final whistle.
That Championship league table would have looked a whole lot sweeter had City managed to hold on.
Though United were good value for their point, there was a certain irony that while Norwich found the net by playing exquisite flowing football, the visitors were gifted a penalty before Billy Sharp was awarded the freedom of the six-yard box to guide his header past Tim Krul.
While it was Christoph Zimmermann who lost his man at the back post, it’s his centre-back partnership with Ben Godfrey that has come under scrutiny. In the six Championship matches that the pair have started alongside each other in Timm Klose’s absence they have kept only one clean sheet.
Godfrey’s potential is obvious, he has still only made nine starts at this level, and 16 appearances in total. There is little doubt Zimmermann is at his best while alongside Klose, who organises and leads a back four that with Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons must be one of the youngest in the league.
The fact that those two have taken to Championship football like a duck to water shouldn’t mask expectations of a player who has just turned 21 and is very much new to the cut and thrust of the second tier.
Signed from York in 2016, Godfrey epitomises the modern day academy graduate in that he is very comfortable on the ball, which is probably why he played in central midfield rather than at the back during the majority of his loan spell at Shrewsbury last season.
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Having started 10 consecutive games during one of the busiest periods of the season only Farke can judge whether the time is right to give Godfrey a break and replace him with the more experienced Grant Hanley for Saturday’s top of the table clash at Elland Road on Saturday.
Ahead of that mouth-watering game, it’s worth noting that Leeds and Norwich probably have a lot more in common than both sets of fans would like to admit.
Both sides have become renowned for winning points from losing positions this season, with Leeds picking up 20 and Norwich 18.
The similarity in the style of play is reflected in the amount of goals both have scored (Norwich 54 and Leeds 49), with only West Brom, who have 57, scoring more.
Just like Farke, Marcelo Bielsa has also promoted several players from the academy, including number one goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and 18-year-old forward Jack Clarke, who has attracted a lot of attention from Premier League clubs.
When City lost 3-0 at the hands of Bielsa’s charges in August, the home fans looked on in envy at the slick, one-touch moves that those in white shirts executed as they spread the ball around beautifully and used every inch of the Carrow Road turf while Norwich players chased shadows.
Five months on, and Norwich are playing the same brand of tantalising football.
The prospect of the two sides meeting in front of the television cameras amid an electric atmosphere at Elland Road on Saturday would be tremendously exciting if it wasn’t so nerve inducing.
It also represents the last chance for City to beat another team in the top four this season.
The fact they are sitting in second place despite only picking up two points from a possible 15 from fixtures against Sheffield United, West Brom and the home tie against Leeds perhaps indicates these so-called six pointers are a less important than they may seem in the wider context of a 46-match season.
That could be really important to remember come 7.30pm on Saturday evening....unless we’re all too busy celebrating!