Connor Southwell’s verdict: Process over points for City
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Processes have been a major part of what Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke have sought to construct during their tenures at Norwich City so far.
Conventionally, supporters have rewarded them with patience to put their ideas across - that allowed Farke to embed his desired philosophy into practice during the title-winning campaign and the wider youth enabling policy could be put into full effect.
Even post-lockdown, in the midst of their faint top-flight survival hopes evaporating and a series of poor performances, supporters were promised an era that would see a vast improvement.
Underscored by the velocity of transfer speculation which has fuelled uncertainty and caused unnecessary distraction in a period where Farke needed their concentration more than ever - a point made more pertinent by a limited pre-season.
But, laying foundations and rebuilding isn’t how supporters expected the season to begin - especially after a transfer window that has seen a vast number of talented players enter the building.
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In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Farke urged that his new look squad is given time to show the essence of their true quality.
Against Bournemouth - City’s phases of play resembled a Farke outfit.
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Despite the lack of creativity, they dominated possession in a way that they hadn’t been able to in the Premier League. If City want to inject that confidence - having the ball will be a key factor.
Derby’s game plan resembled the Cherries, out of possession they parked a compact back line of five and then a midfield four. It suffocated space and prevented the Canaries’ chief creators from locating positions between the lines.
It is a game plan that teams will deploy when they come to Carrow Road this season. The next two home fixtures are against newly promoted Wycombe Wanderers and Aitor Karanka’s Birmingham City - so Farke’s men need to learn to play through these sides again.
There is a frustration because City moved the ball effectively in an attempt to unpick the low block and work an opening - unlike Bournemouth, they did construct chances and were denied by two quality stops from David Marshall.
For the last three halves of Championship football, City have been in the ascendancy and asking the relevant questions of their opponents.
Emi Buendia’s presence offered City some quality and also injected a change of pace in the final third - there was more nuance and intricacy to their work around the area, but that still didn’t translate into clear cut chances consistently.
Defensively, Ben Gibson’s introduction was positive. Technically, his vertical passes added a dimension to City’s work in possession and his vocal qualities organised the defence.
But despite those positives, they lost the game - that is the only statistic that matters.
Increased expectation leads to increased pressure - despite City’s boss fielding questions on the future of his counterpart prior to the game, Derby are now one point behind them.
Norwich have shown themselves to be a club of logic and one that takes considered decisions - they won’t be dispensing with their head coach four games into the season.
Ben Godfrey’s imminent departure, and any subsequent ones that follow, will provide more ready-made excuses for City’s boss if results don’t improve.
But often results follow performances - and they had to turn around a sinking sink and even now, it feels like they are still treading water. There is a muddled nature to their work, they are looking to cross regularly whilst Teemu Pukki is the lone striker.
Pukki’s penalty slip shows the rub of the green still hasn’t returned. It was the defining moment of the fixture - if City do take the lead, then Derby are forced to chase the game and more space opens up.
There are parallels to draw from that title-winning campaign, City were slow out of the blocks that time. But they followed their mantra; they ignored the noise.
City won’t revert back to that free-flowing, fluid outfit overnight. That isn’t a tap that can be switched on after so many setbacks. It will be about laying the bricks again.
The nature of last season means there will be a period of re-adjustment. Expectations are through the roof and supporters frustration from not being able to attend games at NR1 is playing a part.
It will be an international break dominated by transfer speculation. Inside the walls of Colney, Farke has two weeks to work with his squad and refine his approach.
Processes are important - but Norwich City and Farke need points.