Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 0-0 draw against Wolves
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Paddy Davitt delivers his Wolves' verdict after Norwich City's spirited 0-0 Premier League draw.
1. Power. Surging
A point Norwich City more than merited against a Wolves outfit who started the game inside the top six of the Premier League. Still early in the Dean Smith reign but this was another hugely encouraging statement.
City’s second half surge was reminiscent of the opening day against Southampton. With one crucial difference.
Teemu Pukki’s toe poke struck the advancing Jose Sa, or it could have been two wins on the spin for the new head coach. To use Smith’s Carrow Road measure, the men from Molineux will have boarded the bus home knowing they were put through the mill.
Driven on by the manic Kenny McLean, Norwich roared forward, with Max Aarons on one flank and Brandon Williams and the impressive Milot Rashica on the other, pinning back a side who arrived in Norfolk with five wins from seven.
There was no fairytale ending on this occasion but it was another major step in the right direction. Norwich on this evidence are no longer soft touches in the top flight.
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2. Double Scotch
McLean and his compatriot Billy Gilmour were excellent in that midfield battleground.
Wolves looked to dictate early on through the cultured promptings of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho. Gilmour probed for the hosts on the ball, and then accepted another layer of responsibility when he dropped deeper following Mathias Normann’s injury exit.
But it was McLean who performed like a man possessed to set the front foot tone in that second period. Smith revealed afterwards he had wanted a better balance from his midfield in the opening period. McLean certainly added the ballast. His energy, his closing down, his cajoling of others appeared to inspire all those around him.
It was a relentless offering from the ‘Mayor’ and with the tide turned, Neves and Moutinho’s influence waned dramatically.
Gilmour, afforded that type of defensive protection around him, was able to pull the strings for the second week running. It remains something of a mystery why he was so out of favour under Smith’s predecessor. But the Scottish duo now look key components.
3. Rising Rashica
City’s biggest financial outlay of the summer enticed Rashica from the Bundesliga. Smith admitted at his official unveiling recently his destination could easily have been Villa Park, prior to the Canaries sensing an opportunity on their return to the Premier League.
Rashica had been on the radar of plenty of English top flight clubs but it was City who took the plunge this past summer.
There were glimpses of attacking intent perhaps under Daniel Farke. But Smith’s re-deployment to the left at half-time of the Southampton game appears to have met with the Kosovan’s approval. His thrust, his directness and willingness to track back and support Williams down the Norwich left were noticeable elements again at Carrow Road against Wolves.
Rashica still needs to deliver goals and assists but the desire of Smith to squeeze the play, and the press in the opponent’s half, certainly suits his game. The standing ovation that greeted his late substitution spoke volumes.
Add those missing elements, in terms of productivity, and there is no doubt it may prove an astute piece of recruitment.
4. Leeser spotted Rupp
His inclusion on a Farke team sheet had a tendency to draw unflattering comments from a section of the Norwich fan base. Bar, perhaps the start of the Championship title win when he formed a decent central pairing with Olly Skipp, Rupp has had to settle for a supporting act in his City career to date.
So too under Smith, until Normann was unable to continue after dropping to the turf twice in the first half. Smith confirmed afterwards Normann is struggling with the ligament damage in the pelvic area he himself revealed in the last international period.
Rupp was Smith’s first port of call. That in itself was a vote of confidence, and the German did not look out of place in a rare Premier League cameo. He bailed out Gilmour within minutes of his arrival, with a timely interception at the edge of his own box.
There was a cushioned wall pass at the opposite end for Aarons to test Sa. His first time pass carved out a big chance for Pukki in the second half and he could have written his own headlines but for a tame 80th minute side footer at Sa.
But this was an impressive appearance. With a tight turnaround for the midweek trip to bottom club Newcastle that must place a huge doubt over Normann's availability, Rupp may be required for a longer stint.
5. Howay the lads
Irrespective of City’s gritty result against Wolves, their upcoming trip to winless and wealthy Newcastle had a big feel to it. Eddie Howe’s first official match in the dugout ended in a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal earlier on Saturday. His first appointment at St James’ Park will no doubt whip up the atmosphere from an expectant home crowd.
The bar has been raised considerably higher on Tyneside, with that recent investment and change of ownership. Propping up the Premier League is not acceptable.
The mind wanders to a similar assignment in the Alex Neil top flight season for Norwich, when a heavy defeat appeared to leave scars on that Canaries’ collective.
This squad looks rejuvenated under Smith. They will fancy ruffling a few Magpie feathers.
Ultimately it is three points at stake, but should Smith’s boys maintain this unbeaten run it will send a real statement of intent. And induce plenty of early jitters in the Howe era.