Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 4-1 loss to Atalanta
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Atalanta verdict after the Canaries’ 4-1 friendly defeat.
1. Sober reality
Place everything that unfolded on Tuesday night at Carrow Road in proper context.
A pre-season friendly, where the result is largely immaterial, substitutions numerous and the real work lies ahead for two respective clubs who have vastly different priorities this coming campaign.
Atalanta have a maiden tilt at the Champions League as well as a quest to build on a top four finish in Serie A. City, whatever the extent of their ambition, must first of all secure their Premier League status for another season. When the Italians can bring on a £40m-rated striker starring for Colombia in the Copa America this summer, and City reply with a free transfer arrival in Josip Drmic, you get a sense of clubs on the same pitch at Carrow Road but orbiting different footballing planets.
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Daniel Farke had already processed this within minutes of the final whistle. He does not like losing games or leaking goals in such charitable fashion but there is a bigger picture in play.
And the negatives from defensive abdication should not mask plenty of positive attacking intent.
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2. Klose encounter
Yet nagging doubts about City's ability to resist going into the big league will persist if they continue to show such a charitable streak.
Only Timm Klose knows whether he was trying to return a ball to Ralf Fahrmann or clip it crossfield to Ben Godfrey, when all he succeeded in doing was inviting Luis Muriel to draw Atalanta level in the last act of a one-sided first half in favour of the Canaries.
But Klose was not alone. Jamal Lewis' wayward pass was returned with interest for the Italians' second, who strung four passes together before Muriel slotted his second.
His replacement, Philip Heise, fared no better for the third visiting goal after a sloppy piece of play in midfield triggered another devastating counter. While Kenny McLean will have no wish to review his attempted tackle punished eventually by Musa Barrow. Atalanta displayed an assassin's touch to ruthlessly punish City's sloppiness.
But that should be the benchmark every week in the Premier League. Better Norwich suffer such indignity when the stakes are relatively low.
3. Top notch Todd
Cantwell was the stand out for Norwich despite a rather painful final scoreline. His goal was coolness personified and the sharpness of his passing in the final third served up numerous opportunities for, principally, Teemu Pukki.
The boy from Dereham who has claimed Wes Hoolahan's former number 14 shirt may have been a long shot at the start of pre-season to feature against Liverpool on the opening night. That does not look quite such a fanciful notion with the growing maturity of his displays and the confidence to increasingly feel at ease in the spotlight.
There was a revealing snapshot prior to this game, when he was involved in a lengthy conversation with Moritz Leitner. From the body language and observing from afar the gist of the conversation appeared to rest on making sure they were on the same wavelength operating in the same tracts of the pitch. But Cantwell betrayed no visible signs of being the junior partner. He looks like he belongs in this company now. He may not have made quite the same impact as Max Aarons or Ben Godfrey last season. Nevertheless his time could be coming.
4. Krul versus Fahrmann
It appears to have been a growing debate on social media ever since the German arrived on loan from Schalke 04.
Fahrmann certainly has the pedigree to lay down a genuine challenge to City's number one. But whether it was simply a case of being too keen to impress, there was some less than assured work with his feet against Atalanta. Maybe even a sense he must stil navigate the getting-to-know-you phase with those defenders in front of him. Krul has no such issues to overcome.
One would expect him to return for the pre-season finale against Toulouse. Likewise it would be a major surprise now if he is not emerging second in line when the players exit the tunnel at Anfield on August 9. Krul certainly need a level of competition to keep his standards up but Fahrmann has yet to show on a consistent basis since his arrival the Dutchman is in imminent danger.
5. Loose ends
But to that end, with one 90 minutes now left between Norwich City and the eyes of the world when they head to Merseyside for a glamour date with the European Cup holders, Farke must use Toulouse's visit to ink in his starting line up for that Premier League opener.
Injuries could still intervene and as the head coach admitted after his side's Carrow Road midweek defeat, the likes of Emi Buendia and Mario Vrancic are still under-cooked following disrupted pre-season build ups. Farke appears content with the level of competition across all areas of his squad but there should be plenty of clues to his thinking when the team news drops on Saturday afternoon.
The head coach will also rightly demand a much more miserly display against the French and a sharper cutting edge. Expect a dramatic reduction in the mass substitutions and the focus on fitness.
Now it is about oiling the machine one last time this summer.