Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-0 win against Barnsley
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Barnsley verdict after Norwich City's 1-0 Championship victory.
1. Happy New Year, City fans
You would hardly describe one point from two festive Championship games as a crisis for a team leading the standings on Christmas Day. Nevertheless, Daniel Farke spoke on Friday about the need to inject some fresh momentum into the promotion push.
Emi Buendia volleyed home Kenny McLean’s raking pass to seal a hard-fought win. But what a win. Barnsley were aggressive out of possession and fully committed on the counter.
They looked like a team full of confidence and belief under Farke’s former coaching ally, Valerien Ismael. Norwich again spurned clear chances to have avoided another tense finale.
That was an understatement.
City coughed up another golden stoppage time chance from inside their own six yard box, in a repeat of QPR’s near miss a few days earlier. Again, they avoided punishment. The sliding Michal Helick could only divert a cross wide of Tim Krul’s far post.
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You can call it luck but look at the league table. At the halfway stage to be six points clear of third spot – albeit Brentford have a game in hand – is a testament to the work done thus far.
2. From the sublime to the ridiculous
Given Barnsley's obduracy and Norwich were again perhaps guilty of failing to convert some excellent chances, it was hardly a great surprise Buendia was the man to provide the moment of magical inspiration to force the deadlock.
The trigger run and volley across his body was perfection. The superb weighted pass from McLean was top drawer. It was a brilliant piece of execution. A goal that underlined why Norwich look down on the rest.
Buendia’s seventh goal of a productive campaign will do nothing to quell the inevitable transfer speculation over the coming month.
City can do nothing about that but every public utterance from the Argentine suggests he is happy and enjoying his football.
To trade that for anything but a move to a top drawer club, when Norwich could be back in the big time in a few months, would be a risk.
That is quite apart from any potential suitor actually meeting Norwich’s valuation. Either way, he was the difference again. He is an indispensable cog in this machine.
3. Good timing, Tim
A smiling Tim Krul seemed to appreciate emerging for his pre-match warm up to the strains of Boney M’s disco classic ‘Daddy Cool’ on the loud speakers. Krul has certainly been the man following his arrival on a free transfer.
His absence since a suffering a thigh injury at Stoke in late November would have been felt more keenly but for back up Michael McGovern, who largely mitigated the potential negative impact from Krul's on going absence.
The Dutchman is more than just a keeper in this squad, he is a talisman; an experienced operator for the younger players and a reliable ally for the likes of Farke and Stuart Webber.
He is also by common consent the best in the Championship. Which is why Krul’s return after McGovern was ruled out himself for months with a hamstring tendon injury could not have been better timed.
Whether there were some lingering concerns the thigh would stand up to the kicking demands of his trade only Krul could answer. He looked to be understandably more measured in his distribution from longer range on the floor.
But his all round performance and demeanour on the pitch suggested the Dutchman had come through unscathed. His calming presence was invaluable in a fraught finale. That was big this weekend. It will be even bigger for the weeks and months ahead.
4. Two’s company. Three’s a crowd
Christoph Zimmermann made way for Ben Gibson to resume his central defensive partnership with Grant Hanley. It might be tempting to focus on his penalty concession against QPR a few days earlier as a primary factor in Farke’s decision, but that would be to downplay his impact for the duration of Gibson’s recent absence with a calf injury.
But there was no doubt Gibson and Hanley were forging a solid understanding prior to the Burnley loanee’s pre-festive removal from the frontline.
Gibson was brought in from the Premier League club with a proven Championship pedigree. The left-footer's signing also offered the prospect of a natural balance to City’s central defence Farke had not had at his disposal during the past couple of seasons.
Unless the German opts for a re-think, in terms of his defensive set-up, it will remain two from three for the foreseeable. For now, Zimmermann might have to be patient and wait for another opportunity.
5. Time to hit the pause button
Farke spoke from the heart and with common sense on Friday regarding how football could look over the coming days and weeks, should the rising infection rates across the country require the game to take a pause.
The Canaries can do nothing about events outside of their control. For now they will continue to plan for a Championship path to promotion. But before they resume league hostilities at Cardiff there is an FA Cup third round home tie against Coventry City.
With Lukas Rupp, Marco Stiepermann, Bali Mumba and Onel Hernandez all possibles for the visit of the Sky Blues next weekend it is surely a precious chance for Farke to give some of his key operators a breather.
No-one should question Farke’s respect for the cup competitions since he landed in England. But there is a greater prize. And a congested fixture list to deal with.
Few would surely begrudge the City boss for wrapping his best talent in cotton wool for a fortnight.