Six things you might have missed after City's sixth successive defeat
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After a difficult start to Norwich City's season continued with a sixth successive Premier League defeat, David Freezer takes a look at six things you might have missed during the 2-0 loss at Everton.
1 – Signs of progress?
Norwich City have become accustomed to dominating possession under Daniel Farke but Saturday was the first time this season that the Canaries have enjoyed over 50pc – against an Everton team currently fifth in the table.
Last season City dominated the ball in all but three games and even in the Premier League in 2019-20 they had more possession in half of their matches.
So enjoying 53pc at Goodison Park would appear a good step in the right direction, particularly as the Toffees had largely controlled the opening 30 minutes before City grew into the contest.
Both shots on target – from a total of 10 efforts at goal - were long-range strikes from Mathias Normann though, with forwards Teemu Pukki and Josh Sargent barely even forcing an opening to shoot.
There’s only one statistic that matters and with just two goals scored in six league games, the search for improved defensive standards has left the attacking ‘Farkeball’ brand in limbo.
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2 – Frustration for McLean
Kenny McLean rubbed his face in disbelief as he dropped to his haunches at full-time, after contributing an unforced error for a second game on the spin, before raising an apologetic hand in the direction of the away supporters as he trudged off looking dejected.
In general play, the Scotland midfielder looked more effective than he had during the 3-1 home loss to Watford, when his miscued clearance led to the Hornets’ third goal.
Unfortunately, however, another horrible moment awaited the 29-year-old as he got in a muddle and lost possession in the 77th minute to allow Everton to spring forward and seal the deal.
It should be remembered that McLean only made two appearances as a substitute during pre-season, after the knee injury which kept him out of the Euros. On Saturday, he contributed more passes, tackles and interceptions than in any of his earlier appearances this season.
One of his whipped free-kicks was nodded agonisingly wide by Ben Gibson at 1-0 but another, shortly before the second goal, left the Scot embarrassed and with his head in his hands as he thumped it over everyone.
3 – Immediate influence
One of the City players who could leave Merseyside feeling an element of satisfaction was Mathias Normann, after twice being denied by good saves from England number one Jordan Pickford.
The skill to tee up his second effort was particularly eye-catching and in just his second appearance the Norway midfielder is already becoming something of a focal point.
His passing range and energy had been at the heart of the resurgent middle section of the match when the Canaries were pushing for an equaliser that could have been immensely valuable.
However, shortly after treatment for cramp the 25-year-old was replaced as Farke switched to a 4-2-3-1 and brought on Christos Tzolis and Milot Rashica in pursuit of the goal.
Seven minutes later and McLean’s midfield mistake wasn’t cleared up despite Pierre Lees-Melou's attempt and it was game over. After his assist for Pukki against Watford, Normann is already looking a positive addition to the City squad, particularly once he is able to handle the Premier League intensity for a full 90 minutes.
4 – Experienced heads
Farke stuck with the 3-5-2 shape that had been used during the midweek cup loss to Liverpool and brought Gibson and Lees-Melou back into the fray.
Rashica had been an injury doubt and dropped to the bench alongside young Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour, giving City a more experienced line-up – although still featuring four 21-year-olds.
Brandon Williams could well find himself as the next youngster to make way for experience for the game at Burnley, with the Manchester United loanee struggling to contain Andros Townsend in the first half.
He did get on the front foot after the break but struggled to find the final ball and coughed up possession cheaply on a couple of occasions. His battle with Dimitris Giannoulis remains very much alive and kicking.
The leadership of Gibson and Grant Hanley is likely to be needed at Turf Moor, with the back three alongside Ozan Kabak needing time to settle.
5 – Chance missed
While there were a decent number of positives to cling to, in a game of fine margins, there was a feeling of an opportunity being missed against Everton.
Having started well under Rafa Benitez, the Toffees had chief attacking threats Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin among their absentees – naming two keepers on a youthful substitutes bench.
The hosts were still able to field a team packed full of internationals though, with a starting XI featuring close to 1,500 Premier League appearances, against a Norwich XI with fewer than 500, emphasising the challenge in stepping up from the Championship.
In isolation, this was a decent effort from a newly-promoted side against a team with top-six aspirations.
Yet being the sixth successive defeat and 16th at this level when adding to the nightmare end to 2019-20, it’s understandable that plenty of supporters aren’t interested in silver linings after another loss.
6 – Comforting sight
In spite of a painful start to the campaign, looking at the Premier League table is surprisingly reassuring.
City are one of five teams yet to win and still just three points adrift of Newcastle in 17th, providing a reminder that the season is still in its infancy.
Losing at Burnley would equal the Premier League record of seven successive defeats at the start of a season, previously endured by Portsmouth (2009) and Crystal Palace (2017) - Pompey finished bottom but Palace surged to 11th after Roy Hodgson’s arrival.
To put that into Norwich terms, Chris Hughton’s team of 2012-13 only had three points at this stage but finished 11th and Alex Neil’s team of 2015-16 had eight points but went on to be relegated.
It’s all still to play for, in spite of an undeniably awkward and frustrating start.