Paddy Davitt verdict: Can Farke now connect the dots?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s stalemate at Burnley confirmed one thing beyond doubt. They are not soft or naive.
Whether they have enough quality, whether they can limit the match-deciding individual errors over the entire duration to stay in the Premier League is something else.
But any who claim this a brittle, lightweight, weak group of players under Daniel Farke is as detached from reality as a national radio broadcaster who obsess about ‘little old Norwich’.
From the minute Josh Sargent left a bit on Charlie Taylor inside the opening seconds, with a challenge that told him City were not going to be bullied, to Tim Krul’s ‘gamesmanship’ at restarts, to the manner Grant Hanley, Ben Gibson and Ozan Kabak appeared on a crusade to repel all invaders this was a display from a set of players who looked frankly sick and tired of the criticism.
No doubt sick and tired of losing games, of being written off and mocked in certain quarters.
They know, and Farke knows, the only place they can deliver a right of reply is on the park. But 90 minutes of toil and graft and sweat at Turf Moor should confirm, both to them and their detractors, they can be competitive.
But as Farke himself said, as the rain swept across this part of Lancashire and the last disgruntled home fan had disappeared into the gloomy night, one point, one clean sheet or one game is nowhere near enough.
This has to be a line in the sand and a signpost to the way forward. In focusing on a quest for more defensive solidity questions on City’s lack of a cutting edge will only grow; fanned by the sight of two expensively-acquired wide players warming the bench.
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Farke needs no convincing of the qualities of either Milot Rashica or Christos Tzolis. But he has clearly prioritised the greater importance at this early stage of erecting a sturdy defensive barrier.
Those boos that sent him on his way down the Carrow Road tunnel, in the aftermath of Watford’s recent win, will have stung. Whether they represented the views of the majority is doubtful but it needed a performance of this ilk to stem the simmering frustration.
Norwich at least looked like a cohesive unit out of possession, with Hanley and Gibson far more certain in a defensive three and Kabak showing glimpses again he could prove to be a real wildcard - not only with his physical presence in his own box but that spirit of adventure.
Dimi Giannoulis has arguably never defended better in a yellow shirt. The aggressiveness and combativeness were the perfect response to his head coach’s criticism following a rocky first half at Manchester City.
If the Greek international has gone away since and taken Farke’s words as positive motivation it says plenty about his character.
The attacking endeavour and the natural balance and width he offers on the left were already a given. In tandem with Max Aarons you can begin to see a route where Farke connects the dots between defensive solidity and the prospect of genuine attacking thrust.
Mathias Normann is already a talismanic figure with his platinum blond hair, tattoos and penchant for a shot at every available opportunity. But there is substance beneath the style.
He also offered ballast in front of City's back three in an increasingly fraught second half, when there was an urgency and a desperation to Burnley’s efforts.
Easy to forget, but the Clarets remain winless in the Premier League this season as well and now without a home league victory in 14. It is not only Farke who has knots to unpick.
The boom and bust nature of how football is consumed ensures if Norwich fail to deliver against a well-drilled Brighton, the other side of the international recess, the same questions and accusations will be levelled.
That comes with the territory, but after the angst and search for a Premier League point a chance to pause and reflect should be grasped.
Inside the City dressing room it must have felt they were buffeted from all sides; a bruising, endless losing league run where faults were magnified and deficiencies highlighted.
It is only right the resilience, steel and character they displayed at Turf Moor is equally flagged.
Farke has a plan he believes in, and on the evidence of what we witnessed at Burnley, his players do as well.
NCFC Extra: Burnley 0-0 Norwich City - Paddy's ratings