Six things you might have missed after City's satisfying Clarets stalemate
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Burnley brought an end to a horrible Premier League losing streak, David Freezer takes a look at six things you might have missed after Norwich City's satisfying battle.
1 – Sighs of relief
Let’s start with the overarching reason for relief following this hard-fought goalless stalemate: finally bringing an end to the Premier League losing streak.
As well as avoiding equalling the record for the worst starts to a Premier League season with a seventh consecutive defeat, it also stops the clock on the big one.
It had been 16 successive losses in the top flight - with a Championship campaign in between - and was closing in on Sunderland’s all-time top tier record of 20. We can finally stop that distressing count.
It’s a streak that won’t be forgotten in a hurry but a point at Turf Moor needs to be the starting point of a new narrative if City are to avoid the club’s sixth relegation from the Premier League, a record that they currently share with West Brom after the pain of 2020.
Rebuilding confidence and belief only comes from wins so the first target is simple: surpass the horrendous record low of 11 points achieved by Derby in 2007-08, as soon as possible.
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2 – Feisty encounter
Burnley can feel aggrieved that they weren’t awarded a penalty after Tim Krul clattered Matej Vydra in mid-air as he tried to punch a free-kick clear, with VAR seemingly judging that the City keeper only had eyes for the ball ahead of the collision.
Yet the hosts also lived dangerously with the officials, racking up five yellow cards and happily going to ground in the box under minimal pressure on three occasions, as the Turf Moor faithful desperately appealed for everything.
James Tarkowski had already clattered Kenny McLean when he took a yellow for the team in hauling Teemu Pukki down early on. Chris Wood was late as he stamped on Ozan Kabak’s foot and Matt Lowton talked his way into the book.
Josh Brownhill was similarly late on Pierre Lees-Melou and Jay Rodriguez cynically chopped down Ozan Kabak after the defender had surged the length of the pitch with a mazy run. It was Burnley’s 100th Premier League game without a red card – but they are uncompromising.
3 – Star of the show
Mathias Normann has quickly become one of the first names on the Canaries team-sheet and is swiftly becoming a fan favourite.
The Norway international appears to be revelling in being the focal point of a team on the high-profile Premier League stage, spraying some classy long passes around.
Normann is putting in the hard yards and working to provide defensive protection but is also the man the City players are regularly looking to in possession.
Nick Pope made a decent save from the 25-year-old's free-kick after Kabak’s rampaging run but was left stranded as Normann pulled the trigger on a powerful, swerving shot from a tight angle - after a pirouette away from two markers - which clipped the crossbar.
With a first 90 minutes in the tank, the Rostov loanee is swiftly finding form in England and pushing up the midfield standards – earning some luck after accidentally heading towards his own goal, which thankfully went straight to Krul.
4 – Settling down
It’s been a difficult start to the season for centre-backs Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson, returning from injuries after minimal pre-season preparations.
The experienced duo are leaders within the City squad though and looked more like the ruthless defenders of last season as the 3-5-2 shape was given another chance.
The most clearances Hanley had made in a game so far this season was eight, on the opening day against Liverpool. On Saturday he made 15.
It was the Canaries' first top-flight clean sheet since the last home game before lockdown, the 1-0 win over Leicester in February 2020, which was followed by the start of the 16-match losing streak.
Even with the addition of Kabak and the emergence of Andrew Omobamidele, City’s recruitment was based on Hanley and Gibson recovering their influential roles. This was a big step in the right direction, on a busy day defensively, when a season-high 24 defensive aerial clearances were required.
5 - Striking a balance
The defensive focus was undoubtedly required amid the downturn but City’s forward players are yet to get to grips with the new system.
Both Teemu Pukki and Josh Sargent managed just one attempt at goal at Burnley and despite plenty of hard work, it was similarly blunt at Everton in the previous game.
Pukki did dig out an early left-footed pass to find Max Aarons for an early chance and was hauled down by Tarkowski, while Sargent teed up a Lees-Melou shot and set up his strike partner with a back-heel.
The graft is clearly there but now City need to see more quality and better protection of the ball, to allow the midfield time to join attacks.
As a similar player to Sargent, Adam Idah deserved more time to make an impact than coming on for the USA international in the 90th minute as well.
6 – The ‘Ankara Messi’
That was the new name given to Ozan Kabak by Turkish media outlet Mackolik as the centre-back's superb surge forward was spread to the masses via Twitter.
It was more like Maradona 1986 as the 21-year-old weaved his way from one penalty area to the next and had hearts in mouths in the away end as the potential for an epic moment unfolded.
Intercepting a pass intended for Chris Wood, the Schalke loanee sped away and hurdled a Brownhill tackle, held off Ashley Westwood, cut inside Rodriguez and kept heading for the Burnley box.
With Pukki and Sargent crying out for the ball to be played into either channel, Kabak just took one touch too many before being chopped down in the D by Rodriguez.
Like Normann, the youngster is showing early signs of being a very good addition, with his best days still ahead of him.
- You can listen to the Pink Un Podcast review of the game above and watch David Freezer's verdict in the video below