Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 5-1 Premier League mauling against Aston Villa
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Aston Villa verdict after the Canaries’ 5-1 Premier League defeat
1. Now it begins
Both Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke cautioned Norwich fans before a ball was kicked at Anfield there would be thumping defeats and tough times ahead. The glamour and the glitz of the Premier League, that stirring triumph against Manchester City, has now given way to cold, hard reality.
A nightmare run with injuries underpins a chastening spell which plunged a painful low in front of their own against Aston Villa.
The joint heaviest defeat of the Daniel Farke Norwich era. The heaviest at Carrow Road. Shockingly poor marking mixed with costly turnovers. A midfield not even second best and a largely toothless attacking mix around Teemu Pukki, until Josip Drmic cashed in on Tom Heaton's indecision.
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Farke pertinently spoke in the build up about how Norwich fans understand the degree of difficulty and the obstacles in their path.
It is easy to hail historic victories over the champions. Now is the time Farke's squad need that support.
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2. Tipping point
At no point has Farke or his players sought to use a chronic injury list as a cheap excuse. But at some juncture there was going to a game in the Premier League when City's meagre resources would be exposed.
Just look at a home bench which contained two development players in Akin Famewo and Archie Mair. Villa's movement across midfield, the width they put on the game, especially in that dominant first half, exposed a creaking Norwich backline that has borne the brunt of a injury saga that goes back to Christoph Zimmermann damaging his knee in the summer.
The manner Jack Grealish free wheeled away from both Kenny McLean and Moritz Leitner to slot a third earlier in the second half quashed any hope of a home comeback.
City were harassed and harried and despite bravely trying to bridge the gap on this afternoon at Carrow Road they looked a long way short.
If ever an international break comes at the right time. As long as Pukki and co returned unscathed.
3. Tough at the top
Ben Godfrey has had to grow up fast. Not just a regular starter but captain in recent times. While Ibrahim Amadou has looked what he is in the vital moments of recent games, a makeshift centre back. Neither could get to grips with the towering Wesley in the first period.
Godfrey's desire to win an aerial ball was admirable but in misjudging the flight he allowed the frontman a regulation slot past Michael McGovern.
Even Villa's second, once it fortunately reached Conor Hourihane from Grealish's initial cross, saw an almost apologetic finish from the unmarked Wesley stationed on his own inside the six yard box.
Farke revealed on Friday Godfrey had played through considerable pain of late - given the alarming lack of central defensive options - but a hernia operation now beckons over the international break.
Whether he can recover in time to be in contention for Bournemouth on the resumption of league hostilities is another matter. But Farke desperately needs a fix at the heart of his backline.
4. Changes afoot
On the proviso Farke does get some of his longer term injured options back over the next month then it would appear inevitable the City head coach needs to freshen things up. Norwich limped into the international break on the back of five defeats in the last six Premier League games.
The magnificent win over Manchester City was an isolated if joyously uplifting episode. Goals and points have become precious commodities.
Amadou looks capable of adding some grunt to a central midfield mix that was again too lightweight in a key battle Farke had highlighted prior to the game.
But Marco Stiepermann spurned another chance to convince he can genuinely make the step up and contribute goals and assists, albeit not in the same quantities as his productive seam in the Championship.
Patrick Roberts replaced the German in the second period and must surely now be edging towards an elusive top flight start. One thing is for sure, whoever is dipped out over the next phase of Premier League life can have no complaints. This is a results business.
5. Dreams do come true
McGovern will have no desire to dwell on the result but this was nonetheless a landmark day in the career of a 35-year-old who must surely have felt it had passed him by.
Injuries to Tim Krul and Ralf Fahrmann handed him an unexpected chance to make his full top flight debut, after that emergency cameo at Crystal Palace.
McGovern, like the rest of his team mates, had no answer to a marauding Villa but the penalty stop from Wesley in the first half and then the superb reactions to throw himself in front of the £22.5m striker's follow up effort drew a round of applause usually reserved for home goals at Carrow Road.
The third choice keeper should not take exception when you consider most of those same City fans will be desperate for Krul to be fit for the next top flight test at the Cherries.
But no-one can take away the fact the likeable Northern Irishman is now a bona fide Premier League player.
Do not underestimate his invaluable experience either around the camp as Farke and his coaching staff looks to plot a response to such adversity.