Connor Southwell: No need for Norwich City to push the panic button

Norwich Head Coach Daniel Farke reacts during the Sky Bet Championship match at The Den, London

Norwich City must not panic in their bid for promotion. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The frustration on social media after Norwich City’s second consecutive goalless draw was palpable.

Some of the reaction was understandable, this was a below par display where the Canaries once again lacked the attacking threat that has become associated with City in the Championship under Farke.

They did appear disjointed in attacking phases and lacked the usual thrust that makes them so enjoyable to watch.

How you view the last week for Daniel Farke’s side is probably dependant on how full your glass is.

Stuart Webber and Farke have installed a mantra instructing their players to ignore the noise, last night it was louder than ever before during this season.

Some of the criticism was over the top. But that doesn’t mean the anxieties are unfounded.
Two goalless draws does not mean Norwich have suddenly reverted into an incapable side. It doesn’t undo much of their positive work in the opening half of the campaign.

The Championship is a gruelling division, it’s the master at pulling down egos and humbling those who begin to think they’ve cracked it.

It doesn’t care for the perceived stature of the club or ambition of those within it. It is a relentless competition that doesn’t allow for plain sailing.

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Even the best teams have dips and poor results, it doesn’t define their quality in the long-term.

If this is Norwich City’s wobble, then compared to Bournemouth, it’s a breeze. They are not losing games and whilst that doesn’t end in promotions in the long-term, it keeps the pot bubbling.

There are so many factors that could be contributing to the under par performances – a condensed schedule, worsening pitches and the lack of fans are creating a crazier than normal season in the Championship.

The Norwich players before the Sky Bet Championship match at The Den, LondonPicture by Paul Chester

Now is the time for Norwich City to prove their quality and silence their doubters. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The fact Norwich have managed such consistency prior to this point should be applauded, especially as others continue to chase the dream in a season where finances are even more suppressed than usual.

Plenty will travel to the Den and fail to win. In fact, Reading, Watford, Bournemouth and Brentford have all drawn with Gary Rowett’s side this season.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate questions to throw in Farke’s direction.

For example, why there wasn’t more proactivity in the substitutes. Sure, City could have made a breakthrough, the game could have turned. They could have found a spark.

But could is doing a lot of heavy lifting in those sentiments.

As City made their first change on 65 minutes, Rowett squeezed the accelerator and made three, helping his side maintain the momentum.

In the end, they were fortunate to leave with a point.

The concern stems from the progress that Brentford and Swansea are making currently. Every point dropped is being gobbled up. City’s healthy lead is diminishing with every failure to pick up the maximum return.

Bartosz Bialkowski of Millwall makes a save from Teemu Pukki of Norwich during the Sky Bet Champions

City have been goal shy in the last three matches. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Over the last eight games, the chasers points per game return is higher than City’s, but both are still averaging under the magic two points per game often cited as being pivotal to promotion.

Consistency is hard to come by in the division at the moment, only four of the top half teams have a positive points per game ratio from the last eight matches.

City’s goal-shy nature in the last three games is beginning to enter their subconscious. They are looking increasingly like a side who are weighed down by their recent struggles.

But again, this is no time for the Canaries to hit the panic button.

Yes, they are off-colour, but they have rectified the porous nature of their defending. Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson are looking increasingly like the best defensive partnership at this level.

The last two matches have come against two really well-coached sides.

City’s lack of goals is partially due to sides showing them more respect and being unwilling to tango with them, instead opting to utilise a low block.

Games are becoming a test of patience, City have the quality. Now they need the mentality.

Shaun Hutchinson of Millwall and Kieran Dowell of Norwich in action during the Sky Bet Championship

Norwich City's defensive resolve has ensured they aren't losing games. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Two years ago, they drew 13 matches. It was those draws that carried them across the line.
Swansea will pose another defensive challenge. Anyone thinking it resembles a heavyweight boxing clash where two brutes swing for a knock-out is duly mistaken, this will be about boxing clever and claiming it on points.

This is a dip. But that’s all it is. City need a big result to ensure the ship remains on-course.
Criticism of Farke’s game management doesn’t wash. This is a coach who has called almost everyone correctly since relegation, he has sifted through the wreckage of the Premier League relegation and uncovered gold.

February is a massive month for Norwich City. It was also the case that the six games beginning with Cardiff would prove testing.

Now they need to hold their nerve and prove their quality, or else questions will be asked, and rightfully so.

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