Chris Goreham: Why City can't worry about keeping up with noisy neighbours

Paddy McNair of Middlesbrough and Teemu Pukki of Norwich in action during the Sky Bet Championship m

Teemu Pukki has struggled for goals, like the rest of his team-mates, in recent weeks. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Who needs social media when there’s the Championship?  

Supporting Norwich City is like being on Facebook on a Sunday night when you haven’t got much done. It’s hard not to feel a little bit inadequate when you see other families down the road sharing their picture-perfect weekends.  

The Brentfords and The Swanseas are currently the smug neighbours you hope not to bump into in the local park. It’s not easy to force your face into a friendly smile when the weather is this cold.  

Brentford have scored 15 goals in their last four games, Swansea have hit 11.  

Those totals include a 1-1 draw the two sides played out against each other at the back end of January. Meanwhile the BBC Radio Norfolk goals archive folder is beginning to gather dust with no new entries at all from Norwich City’s last four matches.  

Daniel Farke is discovering that managing Norwich City is like painting The Forth Bridge. His Championship winning campaign two years ago was based on scoring so many goals that letting a few in didn’t really matter. During the closing few weeks of a chastening Premier League experience Farke was asked why the Canaries had been left trailing by Sheffield United despite being promoted alongside them. He pointed out that Chris Wilder had built a team that was, first and foremost, difficult to break down.  

It made complete sense for Norwich City to look at tightening up defensively ahead of their Championship return. Tim Krul’s recent run of seven straight league games without conceding, the arrival of Ben Gibson and the formation of his formidable central defensive partnership with Grant Hanley has done the trick.  

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Farke might have solved the leaks at one end of his Premier League chasing pipeline but now there’s nothing coming out of the other end. The previously thrilling, free-scoring Canaries have hit a dry spell in the middle of winter.  

Argentina’s answer to Dyno-Rod Emi Buendia will be back in his yellow and green overalls next week. His unique set of tools should to help shift the blockage but it might only be a temporary fix. Norwich City’s goals output has been a concern for a while.  

We all remember the extraordinary high point that was the 3-2 win over Manchester City in the Premier League. What a night! That was 17 months ago and it might surprise you to learn that Norwich haven’t scored three times in a game at Carrow Road since.  

They’ve played 32 home fixtures in that time. In 10 of those they haven’t scored at all, 13 others have brought a single City strike and they have managed two in the remaining nine matches.  

There are mitigating factors ranging from quality of opposition in The Premier League to Championship opponents parking both buses they must now bring to fit in with social distancing rules.  

It’s also true to say that one goal has often been enough to win matches this season. However, the 2018-19 campaign brought 25 home games in all competitions and Norwich scored three or more goals in 12 of them so there has been a definite downturn.  

Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia have 18 of City’s 35 Championship goals between them so the conclusion must be that the rest of the squad needs to start chipping in more regularly.  

Onel Hernandez hasn’t scored since the FA Cup 3rd round day last season, Todd Cantwell has played against 18 Championship teams this season but has only netted against Cardiff and Mario Vrancic’s last away goal was the day the Championship title was clinched at Villa Park almost two years ago.  

In midfield neither Oliver Skipp or Lukas Rupp have ever scored for the club in the 61 appearances between them. Adam Idah has one league goal in 22 appearances. Most of those have been as a substitute but he did score a vital winner from the bench at Huddersfield on the opening day.  

The point here is that Norwich City’s goal drought seems to have been caused by lots of little dry spells all happening in the squad at the same time. Have another look at the list of names mentioned above. We all know they are good enough to get goals, and plenty of them, in the Championship.  

Comparison with others can be dangerous. Norwich City are still top so who in the division wouldn’t gladly swap places with us? Maybe we need to stop worrying about what others are doing with their weekends.  

Seeing red 

A player’s true worth often becomes clear when they don’t play. The 0-0 draw at Millwall and that frustrating defeat at Swansea have served to boost Emi Buendia’s reputation.  

Many have said that Daniel Farke should have taken him off in the game against Middlesbrough before that second yellow card. It’s a solid theory in hindsight but I wonder how fans would have taken it if City’s most creative player had been substituted 25 minutes before the end of a tight 0-0 draw?  

That red card was the fourth of Buendia’s Canary career. It’s often said that he’s not to be trusted once on a yellow card but is that really true?  

The first two of his sending offs were both straight reds. A bad challenge against QPR and a swinging elbow against Burnley, both at Carrow Road, led to early baths.  

He has been booked 16 times in his two and a half seasons as a Norwich City player. Before that mis-timed challenge against Middlesbrough recently he had only ever been dismissed for a second bookable offence once. That was at Stoke earlier this season.  

With that in mind Farke’s decision to show faith in Buendia to negotiate the last quarter of that game makes more sense. Neil Warnock admitted afterwards that he had told his Boro players to work on getting Emi to slip through the thin ice he was already skating on.  

All that does is highlight Warnock’s honesty. Similar plans will have been hatched by most of the other opposition managers in his 104 games for City.  

Buendia has plenty to learn but if Farke tried to protect him every time he was at risk of getting wound up he would play as often as I do.   

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