Connor Southwell’s verdict: City’s victory over Wycombe proof that there are no free passes in the Championship
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
You could forgive Norwich City for thinking they’d cracked the Championship after such a dominant victory over Birmingham City.
Not only by winning the fixture, but in terms of how they imposed themselves onto the fixture and displayed such a positive performance, it seemed as though the only direction of travel was up.
But the Championship has a habit of bringing you crashing down to earth, even when you may not expect it.
On paper, this was a game City should have displayed their credientials and flexed their muscles. Wycombe are yet to pick up a single point, had only scored one goal and conceded plenty.
You could have forgiven them again for thinking the game would be straightforward after Teemu Pukki’s exquisite chip after three minutes.
You may also want to watch:
The opening ten minutes threatened to pick up where the Canaries left off on Tuesday. It was a relentless wave of constant attacks as the Chairboys gifted space and City’s slick possession created chances.
But then a brutal reminder of how the Championship operates.
- 1 Norwich City star tipped to reject move to Tottenham
- 2 City midfielder returns to Norfolk after loan spell terminated
- 3 Bushiri completes Eupen loan
- 4 Placheta must kick on at City
- 5 Giannoulis in contention for Boro clash - as City secure work permit
- 6 Giannoulis deal proof City can navigate difficult transfer market
- 7 Cantwell explains why he wears different coloured boots and why City is in his DNA
- 8 Lambert and Ipswich in crisis: Do you care, City fans?
- 9 City striker seals Swindon loan move; Hugill injury boost
- 10 'That's my dream' - Giannoulis hopes his style will boost City's promotion hopes
Wycombe’s equaliser was proof that football matches are living beasts, their equaliser swung the pendulum and City’s fragile confidence was once again exposed.
What Gareth Ainsworth’s men did was conjure up a feeling that they weren’t just facing the Canaries on the pitch, but the whole world. It helped them to bridge the quality gap and they began to wrestle control of the encounter.
Gavin Ward’s decisions probably aided that feeling through numerous poor decisions often weighed in City’s favour. There’s plenty to like about how the Chairboys operate, they are full of heart and workmanship.
That is what makes football and this division so compelling. Regardless of budget, expectation or bookmakers odds, it’s always competitive.
For City, the questions will surround why their performance regressed to such an extent that they looked off the pace for about an hour of this fixture.
City have a lot of self-infliction to blame. In a pre-match interview, Ollie Skipp claimed that Tim Krul was the most intelligent member of the Canaries’ squad due to the amount of languages he speaks; judging by the miscommunication with Grant Hanley for Wycombe’s equaliser, Scottish clearly isn’t on that list.
From there, Norwich threatened to self-implode with each passing minute. They were careless in possession by trying to force the issue rather than display the patient approach which served them so well against Birmingham.
That gifted the visitors needless counter attacks. A dynamic front three were causing City’s defence problems and that allowed them to grow in confidence.
Once again, Daniel Farke had to shuffle his pack and reach for his joker in Mario Vrancic, who is quickly becoming the equilvant of ‘a get out of jail’ free card with his contributions from the bench.
This underpins the quality City possess in their ranks, they have too much of it not to pose enough problems in games to emerge with points - regardless of whether their performance warrants a maximum return.
Yet, it still felt as though they had the gears to move through and patterns to sew together. If Birmingham was a cohesive, slick performance then this one was more stodgy and troublesome.
In many ways, City were on a hiding to nothing. Regardless of how they won, there would be people demanding for it to be increasingly convincing. The Championship doesn’t offer free passes. Not every game is going to see City produce a performance worthy of plaudits.
Farke admitted post match that he ‘wasn’t in love with the performance’ and still it feels as though City are yet to marry a convincing display with a similar result.
Even on Tuesday, they dominated with so much possession, but lacked effective usage of the ball, and yet still scraped through against an Aitor Karanka side who wanted to play against the ball.
Three wins is the positive, but the full story does contain red flags and areas for concern. City don’t move the ball in possession quick enough, they struggle to extract the talents of Jordan Hugill in general play and their is still a vulnerability underpinning everything they do.
So far this season, they have led for all of 25 minutes. Their three wins last week comes with their earliest winning goal arriving after 87 minutes.
Winning breeds confidence, but against upcoming opponents Brentford and Bristol City Farke’s men will need to replicate their display against Birmingham rather than the latest offering.
They cannot continue to rely on Vrancic’s individual quality from the bench to win them football matches. But no side is playing in top gear and there is so much to repair from the manner of their Premier League exit.
Good teams win when they play badly. But preventing it from becoming a trend is the objective the head coach needs to achieve. As City head into a testing body of fixtures it will be key to ensure they improve from here.
If not only for the sake of everybody’s heart rate.