Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-0 Championship defeat against Swansea
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Swansea verdict after Norwich City's 2-0 Championship defeat.
1. Game on
Norwich will go to sleep still top of the Championship. That is if they are able to get any shut eye. City have now cashed in their insurance policy. Another anaemic display in a weighty promotion tussle at Swansea, allied to Brentford’s relentless pursuit, has dragged them back to the pack.
Basic errors compounded fresh concern at the bluntness of their attacking endeavours. Swansea is the last side in this division to try and chase a game, after Tim Krul’s spill proved so costly in the first half and then Kenny McLean was punished by Conor Hourihane for an aimless knockdown three minutes after the interval.
The superbly-drilled Swans had conceded only 15 goals prior to this Friday night tussle. They lead the way in clean sheets into the bargain. Norwich mustered one solitary shot on target.
Yes, this was a third game in six days, with two gruelling trips into the bargain, while Swansea were able to put their feet up on the sofa. To quote Daniel Farke. But the City head coach is not a man for excuses. Nor are his players.
They failed to do enough. When they do wake up on Saturday morning they know battle has been joined. Now they must respond.
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- 5 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 3-1 Bournemouth defeat
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- 9 Operation Bounce Back: The story of City's promotion success
- 10 'Amazing' - Buendia hails City's special promotion achievement
2. Actions speak louder than words
A fourth scoreless game for Norwich, three in the Championship, for a team who had engineered such a position of strength around the turn of the year.
This is now more than a blip, it is a real cause for concern.
For all Farke’s impassioned words at his pre-match press call, and those demands for a dollop of realism, he will know there is an urgency to his quest to find the solution.
It is not simply the absence of Emi Buendia. Teemu Pukki looks like the hesitant version of the second part of the Premier League season. A wild slash when teed up by Onel Hernandez in the closing stages said a lot. All that confidence and swagger in the early months of the Championship has, for now, disappeared.
Todd Cantwell, Mario Vrancic, Przemyslaw Placheta, even the central midfielders in the side to protect the back four, all have to be a part of the solution.
Such fitful productivity prompted Farke to make a triple change in the second half with Vrancic, Adam Idah and Hernandez all introduced. But the trend remained a regressive one.
3. Krul intentions
Not the night for a collector’s item of a gaffe from Norwich City’s number one. One hoped it would eventually be a special strike to end his nine game run without conceding in the league. Alas, it was a gift-wrapped opening from the Dutch international.
Krul came and spilled Connor Roberts' corner, which was recycled by Jake Bidwell for the predatory Andre Ayew to turn and fire a low shot through a posse of Norwich shirts.
Perhaps you have to go all the way back to last season at Arsenal, when Krul dallied on the ball to present a goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for such an obvious individual error. That underlines how impressive the experienced stopper had been in the interim.
The nature of such a costly concession in such a big Championship shoot out will sting. But Krul showed his character after a rocky start to life at Carrow Road.
There is no doubt he has ample credit in the bank. Now he has to use it as motivation to anchor another surge.
Buendia will return for Stoke City’s visit to Carrow Road next week. In his absence Norwich have lacked snap and sparkle in their attacking endeavours. That is an understatement.
One man should not make such a difference in a team game but the statistics make a compelling case regarding just how key the Argentine is to what happens from here.
Norwich have now failed to win 15 out of the 16 games when Buendia has been unavailable. Be it through injury or his propensity to fall foul of the officials.
There is plenty of points for him to prove, and league points for his side to play for. This has been a bad week or so in Norwich’s Championship season.
Buendia, however, is a talismanic figure who at his best is peerless in this division. With his immediate future now resolved, after the recent close of the January transfer window, Norwich need a massive few months from the attacking midfielder.
5. Hourihane hex
Many a Norwich fan will have felt a slight shiver down the spine when Swansea unveiled the Aston Villa midfielder on loan recently. Certainly for those who knew there was a pending league trip to south Wales, and another meeting with a player who appears to delight in punishing the Canaries.
Prior to this latest painful reunion it was six goals and three assists in eight previous meetings. Can there be another player who has quite so enjoyed his Norwich match ups in the modern era?
Add another goal to the tally now, with his early second half strike from range.
There is no question Hourihane looks capable of inflicting more misery on Norwich from here on.
He appears to have fitted seamlessly into the Swans’ midfield; his technical quality embellishing the defensive resolution of Steve Cooper’s upwardly mobile side.
Setting aside the fact Hourihane helped his temporary employers to shade this head-to-head, the Swans look to have found a vital piece of the jigsaw to perhaps go one better than last season’s failed play-off bid.