Connor Southwell’s verdict: Why it pays to look beyond the result
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Football can be a simplistic game - for some people, losing a game always constitutes a poor performance.
But the sport doesn’t work like that - you can be in the ascendancy and yet still emerge from the game without a single point.
That is what makes the game so pulsating and why the drama in football is incompatible to any other professional, elite sport.
Norwich City did lose the game, their first since returning to the Championship - but they did so with some glaring positives to extract out a game against a side also hoping to sit top of the perch come May.
Let’s deal with the elephants in the room. Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell’s absences make the Canaries weaker - that is undeniable.
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At it stands, there have been no bids - speculation is spreading like wildfire and their heads seemingly left spinning after being pulled in numerous directions.
Whatever the background noise - both players are contracted to the football club. That means a level of dedication and loyalty until the day they exit stage left for the final time.
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There is nothing more frustrating as a supporter as when players turn their back and feel worthy of a move elsewhere - nobody comes above the squad harmony and for that, Daniel Farke believes he made the correct judgement regardless of the result.
So often we have heard about how City want to ‘invest in the root, not the fruit’ - both of these players may have blossomed into apples, but they still sit on the tree that has nurtured and grown them.
Not yet have they fallen into the goldmine of the Premier League. Now they need to display a level of professionalism that repays the club that gave them such a massive opportunity initially.
That’s not to suggest that either have downed tools or behaved recklessly, being aspirational young players will mean mistakes can be made. The key is learning from them.
The real sadness would be anything other than an amicable ending. Both have done so much for City, as have the Canaries for their careers.
And how City could have done with them at Dean Court.
In possession, they were slick. They moved Bournemouth’s defensive shape and managed to dominate proceedings effectively. Although, playing in front of a low block presents an altogether different challenge than Preston’s intense press created last weekend.
When the Canaries did work the ball up to the final third, they lacked that creator that could penetrate the structured shape and play the killer passes to help City construct the chances they required to leave the south coast with a point.
With a creative presence behind Teemu Pukki - with the movement and purposeful possession that City displayed, then that would have been converted into chances created had Cantwell, Buendia or Kieran Dowell have been present.
This stage at the season, in its embryonic state, isn’t about results. The last time City went up as champions, they won one of their opening six and similar concerns were being levelled at Farke and his team.
It’s about performances and foundations - in many ways, this display resembled more of an archetypal Farke display. City’s wing-backs pushed high, Quintilla and Godfrey joined the offensive passage and Skipp looked comfortable in a deeper midfield position.
Against Preston, there was a frenetic nature to how City played. A chaos that isn’t usually evident in their game. Huddersfield was about graft - something they were criticised for lacking after football’s return.
The criticisms are clear - City only had five efforts on target, they lacked penetration despite plenty of aesthetically pleasing football.
Improvement is a must - but after a host of new additions, one can forgiven the teething issues present at the moment. City are muddled in the final third.
Przemyslaw Placheta makes runs that blocks off the space for a full-back. Kenny McLean didn’t get beyond the ball enough to support Pukki in the first half.
But City changed to a three at the back - a system that matched up Bournemouth and allowed City to play themselves into the ascendancy.
It’s easy to analyse proceedings based on the scoreline, but you have to revert to the bigger picture and understand why it is critical that City re-discover their identity.
Last season, they went down with a whimper. Now, they need to shift the mentality and learn to dominate games again, that will take time.
Often it was about surviving fixtures, not it’s about asserting the quality needed to win them. That’s before you delve into the lack of cohesion created by a summer of new additions.
It was a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough that turned the tide for City two years ago - it make take something similar to inject the flourish they need into their attacking play.
Confidence is built by players getting on the ball regularly, that finesse in the final third takes time to create - Farke’s job is to make sure it does arrive.