Paddy Davitt verdict: Let’s cut to the chase, Norwich City
- Credit: Russell Hart/Focus Images Ltd
Strange times indeed at Norwich City. Cup runs jarring with dry spells. Derby dominance maintained but the walls of the Carrow Road fortress crumbling.
A group of talented young men, under a measured German head coach, who can pull off the rare feat of winding up Chris Wilder and his Sheffield United players. Yet, find themselves overwhelmed against two of the other newly promoted clubs.
Bolton may not be filed away in the same bracket as Millwall, regarding the scale of this Championship defeat.
But it was equally dispiriting.
All that genuine feelgood factor fuelled by a prolonged growth spurt since a desperate day at the Den has largely dissolved.
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Norwich do look far more cohesive defensively but there is still the individual lapses which are compounded by an alarming lack of productivity at the other end.
If City concede first, you fear the worst.
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The spotlight is firmly on Cameron Jerome now, in Nelson Oliveira’s absence, but there is limited assistance coming from City’s midfield.
Josh Murphy’s cool finish proved academic in the grander scheme of things at the Macron.
Yet following on from his audacious chip at Arsenal in the League Cup it fans frustration when 10 minutes earlier he contrives to slam a shot into the Bolton keeper’s chest and knock the rebound wide.
The venom he kicked the post in the aftermath would have been better channelled guiding the ball into an empty net.
Jerome was equally culpable when picked out by Ivo Pinto in the early exchanges.
The horrid, sliced miscue was the snatched effort of a striker who knows whatever else he does outside the penalty area he is judged on goals. On that measure he is failing, along with his team mates.
There has been a weariness to Norwich’s collective labours since the Emirates, which is accentuating those struggles in front of goal.
The pleasing passing rhythm at Bolton in the first 25 minutes has been replicated against the likes of Hull and Derby of late.
Yet the lack of punch merely emboldens rivals to counter with force once the puddles of inspiration dry up.
If City’s final pass, final shot, final decision lacks clarity then the outcome is seemingly inevitable.
Alex Tettey’s injury absence highlights how integral he was to the revival when restored to the side in the midst of that watershed defeat at Millwall.
Tom Trybull and Harrison Reed possess greater technical attributes than the combative Norwegian, but the mix is not right.
City’s back four is no longer getting the same insurance premium, when Tettey was Trybull’s minder.
That is no slight on Reed but an illustration he is not cut from the same cloth. Much like the top end of the park, Farke appears to have limited room for manoeuvre at present.
Ben Godfrey’s accelerated development at League One pace setters Shrewsbury may be an avenue he explores in January, when the young man returns to his parent club. But there is a congested period before that once another international bout of introspection is safely navigated.
City were not as bad as they suggested in those heavy early losses at Aston Villa or Millwall.
Yet the evidence of recent days indicates they are not as good either as the resolute wins on the road at Bramall Lane, the Riverside or over the border indicated.
In the best moments since an opening day trip to Fulham they exude a collective confidence, forged on a strong defensive platform, that maximises fitful attacking output.
In the worst moments, they look predictable, lightweight and ripe to be over-powered by Championship rivals who may be less talented but harness streetwise nous and possess enough experience to capitalise on routine lapses.
Respect in this league is hard-earned.
Blades’ boss Wilder must regret his bizarre post-match rant following City’s league triumph but you can be sure there was admiration for the manner Norwich had gained the upper hand.
Whatever the veracity of his time-wasting accusations, or gamesmanship barbs, the vibes during City’s long unbeaten run hinted Farke had moulded a squad you do not take liberties with.
Ipswich almost raised the white flag once James Maddison had nudged his side in front at Portman Road.
The contrast when they succumb first is alarming.
Farke needs to be no less creative now than he was after Millwall to revive a stuttering Championship season.
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