Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 3-1 defeat against Watford
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Paddy Davitt delivers his Watford verdict after Norwich City's 3-1 Premier League loss.
1. Play. Stop. Press repeat
Norwich good again in phases. But punished for defensive naivety and basic individual errors. Sound familiar? It is the soundtrack of the Canaries’ early Premier League campaign, 2021/22.
Watford arrived with no points and no goals in the league since the opening weekend. A record still considerably better than Daniel Farke’s side.
But this was another defeat for the head coach against the Hornets. The difference was another opponent with the quality to accept those invitations from the men in green and yellow, and to ruthlessly punish them. For Gabriel Jesus, read Ismaila Sarr.
Norwich had gained the upper hand after the interval until a rapid counter and Sarr’s excellent near post movement put Watford back in control.
Even then City were rousing themselves for a big finish. Ben Foster had just denied Milot Rashica when Kenny McLean’s horrid slice got the treatment. Following the obligatory VAR overturn. Correctly one might add.
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Farke was at pains to stress in the build up this was not must win. Plenty of Norwich fans disagreed. The number of empty seats by the final whistle and the smattering of boos that greeted it was telling.
It needs to change. And quickly.
2. Hit like
Mathias Normann arrived in Norfolk with the platinum blond hair, tattoos and social media presence to match. This is a footballer who does not lack for self belief. Which is just as well given his arrival was understandably packaged as the answer to the question, ‘Who can possibly replace Olly Skipp?’
That is a tall order and a high bar to set for the Norwegian international.
But he certainly made his presence felt on his Carrow Road debut.
Not only in the quality and the sharpness of his clip around the last defender for Teemu Pukki to draw the Canaries level in the first half.
But there was an earlier incident when he shrugged off Danny Rose, and then delivered a verbal barb or two, judging by the former England international’s body language.
Norwich need far more bite and a generous helping of personality in that midfield battleground.
Farke pointed out his failure to track King's run for Watford's second but added he was running on empty by that stage, and was substituted shortly afterwards in what looked a pre-planned move.
His introduction also enabled Billy Gilmour to roam further forward, and in City’s brighter spells attempt the role you suspect he was recruited for; to set the tempo and exert a measure of control.
That facet remains a work in progress, but Normann should only get better for his Premier League bow. While he was on the pitch it was a contest. After Watford’s third went in it was an exhibition.
3. Ballast. With a lower case b for now.
Ozan Kabak was the other debutant in green and yellow. The 21-year-old Turkish international centre back arrived with a pedigree that suggested he should improve City’s defensive effort. Boy, do they need it.
There were some composed forays in possession that hinted this is a player who could provide that vital link into midfield areas so pivotal to how Farke likes to set up his teams.
There was also a goalsaving block in the first half from Josh King.
He looked a touch flat-footed for Emmanuel Dennis’ close range headed goal, although the wide player appeared on his blindside after Max Aarons also failed to sense the growing danger.
Kabak perhaps could be cut some slack for that aberration; given this was his first competitive club action since April.
Judgement as a result should be reserved but there were more than enough positive additions to the ledger to hope he looks the real deal.
City cannot continue to leak in such quantities.
4. Talk, talk.
A 13-minute pre-match monologue from Farke drew the focus onto the German’s impassioned pleas for support from all sides of Carrow Road, and away from some of those in his squad who may have found their deficiencies highlighted in certain quarters of social media.
But if it was a calculated gamble to get ahead of any potential flood of negativity the reaction at the final whistle suggested Farke needs to find plan B.
The German appeared to cut short his customary on pitch salute to the home supporters. Make of that what you will as the jeers rose. But the fans were asked to play their part. That requires Farke and his players to deliver their part.
There were bursts of encouragement either side of the interval but that is nowhere near enough. A fifth winless game, against a team who followed them out of the Championship, means the scrutiny and the criticism that will flow from the same sources Farke seem keen to appeal for backing on Friday is inevitable.
Both the coach and his players may well be advised stay away from social media.
It is not words those fans want to hear from now on. It is actions and performances and points.
5. Turn the power up
Pukki hardly needed Farke to provide a character reference on Friday at his pre-match press call. But there was a noticeable rise in the decibel levels when the Finn’s name was read out prior to kick-off.
Maybe it needed a reminder for some just how important the free transfer has been in the past three full seasons. Plus how pivotal he remains to City’s latest attempt to buck the odds.
Farke drew parallels with Jamie Vardy’s treatment when he went through a ‘dry spell’.
Pukki has certainly had to adapt his game in the opening weeks of this Premier League adventure. As Farke rightly pointed out, a lone front running shift against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City would be a thankless task for the best frontmen in the world. But his opener here was classic Pukki.
Anticipating Normann’s first time clip to perfection before the composure to draw the experienced Foster and slot at the near post. It was a signal Pukki is not done. Nor is he ‘too old, or too past it’ to paraphrase Farke.
The addition of Josh Sargent certainly eased some of the burden. But it was still not enough in the final analysis. Nowhere near.
Nevertheless, Pukki among the goals is one of the key staples if City harbour any chance of making a competitive fist of this season.