Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s below-par 1-0 Premier League loss to Sheffield United
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Sheffield United verdict after the Canaries’ 1-0 Premier League defeat.
1. Pick your excuse
FA Cup exertions. Emotional highs. Physical tolls. Perhaps the vagaries of the UK road system and a delayed midweek coach journey home from Tottenham. Or simply Norwich City do not possess the quality, drive or intensity to match a team on the up like Sheffield United.
City mustered the briefest of flurries of attacking intent but the Blades pressed on the accelerator and it brought reward for Billy Sharp.
But look at the winner from a Norwich perspective. Ondrej Duda allowed John Lundstram to take a touch, look up, wait some more, and then deliver a delicious cross to where Sharp had evaded detection behind City's centre backs to crash a flying header past Tim Krul.
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An entirely avoidable concession. Farke changed shape at the interval and introduced Josip Drmic but bar a goalline scramble, when Dean Henderson underlined why he is one of the best keepers in the land, and perhaps a later reaction stop from Lewis, it was far too little, far too late.
That might equally apply to City's fading top flight status.
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2. Goal shy
Norwich have now scored a paltry six league goals on the road. Watford are the second lowest with 11. That is simply an unacceptable level of productivity for a team who are not able to rely on the defensive resolution of a side like Chris Wilder's.
Teemu Pukki sliced a follow up shot against the outside of Henderson's post with the game goalless in the first half. In the context of the game it felt like a pivotal moment.
The Finn has simply not looked the same fearsome frontman since that toe injury at Leicester prior to Christmas.
But when he needed assistance from his pals it has largely been absent.
That is a slight on his team mates as much as an acceptance there was an over-reliance on the GOAT to carry the load this season.
Perhaps if Drmic had been fit from the start of the campaign it might have been a different story.
The Swiss has shown on FA Cup duty he knows where the goal is. But for all the chance creation and latent attacking potential in this squad, it has been nowhere near good enough.
3. Flexible Farke
The City head coach has his detractors, when it comes to his apparent reluctance to change course during matches - particularly with regard to substitutions.
That was not a charge you could label at Bramall Lane.
City emerged for the second half with Drmic replacing Todd Cantwell and a new-look diamond formation in midfield, which saw Alex Tettey at the base and the ineffective Duda at the point.
Adam Idah and Mario Vrancic were both introduced but the pattern remained largely unaltered. Bar that late sporadic flurry.
This was not one to forensically analyse Farke's touchline work. The focus should be squarely on his under-performing players.
4. Duda. Discuss?
Farke insisted recently he was more than happy with the output from his January loan signing. But after a bright Bournemouth debut, the Slovakian international has been unable to offer the spark City were desperate to unearth in that problem number 10 position.
Farke pointed out his huge workload and offering statistics to back up the assertion. But Duda was surely enticed to inject quality and guile? Not for his ability to clock up the kilometres.
This was another shift that largely drifted by without any real imprint from the attacking midfielder.
Given Duda will return to sender in the summer, if the focus is starting to shift to the next phase of the Norwich project, perhaps Farke would be better advised looking at options who might reasonably be here next season.
5. Crumbs of comfort?
Hardly. But defeats for West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth elsewhere at least ensured Norwich did not lose any further ground at the bottom. But that probably only heightens the sense this was a missed opportunity.
Sheffield United were functional and economical but there was something here for City if they could have generated any decent level of intensity for a prolonged spell.
As it was, another game has slipped by. More emphasis shifts to Southampton's Carrow Road visit.
Right now, if City's immediate aim is to stay on the margins of the survival battle for any length of time, they simply have to produce on home soil. Because, put simply, they do not look like scoring let alone winning a game on the road.