The final word: Norwich City must forget about hard luck stories
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Togetherness has been the watchword during Norwich City’s recent rise. Now it is more important than ever.
Even by the Championship’s gruelling standards, these past few days have strained every sinew of a depleted squad.
That successful derby trip to Ipswich was stylishly navigated. Arsenal was an occasion to savour but a painful experience for all concerned in the manner of City’s League Cup exit. Defeat to Derby felt like a by-product; the resurgent Rams with their ‘feet on the sofa’ as Farke poetically labelled it.
Norwich went to the well one more time in the closing stages at Carrow Road and found it was empty.
Controversy surrounding the actions of the officials has proved an unwanted strand in the past few days. No-one could accuse Farke of indulging in the baiting of referees which for some in his profession appears a tactic.
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But even the measured German is finding it hard to process why the Canaries have seemingly been wronged so often.
Scott Carson stayed on the pitch to deny Marco Stiepermann in the second half with what his manager labelled a ‘world class stop’ after taking desperate measures to halt Josh Murphy inside his own area prior to the break.
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Farke rather flippantly suggested City should have had not one but two penalties for the manner Carson at first appeared to grapple and then lunge from behind to get a piece of the ball as Murphy advanced along the byline with the goal at his mercy.
The sight of Carson defiantly repelling Norwich thereafter merely fanned the flames of injustice and fuelled the frustration. Farke expects the slate to be evened as the season unfolds.
Time will tell on that score, but City must also help themselves.
The vagaries of officials is outside their control. A heavy workload was another mitigating factor, in the manner a fresh and firing Derby inflicted a first league defeat in nine games.
But it should not disguise the worrying lack of productivity at Carrow Road, which has been masked by a winning surge away that only an eternal optimist would expect to continue at such a prolific rate.
City’s lack of goals on home soil will begin to check genuine upward mobility once the richness of their efforts on the road inevitably levels out.
It is not enough to seek comfort in hard luck stories or excellent chances created and not taken.
The enduring issue of how to break down teams who come to Norfolk intent on frustration rather than entertainment has replaced defensive frailty as the dominant mood music.
Given the manner of Norwich’s counter-attacking strategy at Bramall Lane, at Reading or at Middlesbrough it would be churlish to castigate rivals for adopting largely the same tactics.
Farke masterfully addressed an alarming concession rate in the first part of the season, now he must focus on the top end of the pitch.
In that regard, Nelson Oliveira’s on-going fitness issues limit his room for manoeuvre.
Here, you could draw a direct parallel with the visitors, who could replace one goalscorer in David Nugent with another in Sam Winnall.
Cameron Jerome is manfully carrying the attacking burden but City always look far more potent with Oliveira as their primary spearhead.
Alas, the Portuguese international’s body appears susceptible to the rigours of the Championship.
Oliveira has played 36 minutes of league football since September 13. It is an unhealthy situation for all parties and without a firm resolution threatens to undermine progress.
Much like a weary City stalled in the closing stages against the Rams, once Timm Klose’s far post header gave them false hope, the same could happen now they have plotted a path to the fringes of the top six.
That is the beauty and also the challenge of trying to last the course over such difficult terrain.
After Millwall, City superbly managed to haul themselves ahead of the curve, with new players grasping what the league is about and a residually effective template limiting defensive errors and maximising moments of creativity.
But they have to keep evolving and problem-solving, not only to stay ahead but stay in the leading pack.
Injuries and contentious refereeing calls are part of this complex equation. But in that regard, Farke and his troops are no different to many Championship rivals. A burning sense of a raw deal may be a strong emotion.
Yet Norwich must also help themselves.