Game state perfect for magic Mario to show his class
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When Mario Vrancic is given the licence to show the full extent of his passing range, he is a joyous footballer to consume.
The Bosnian possesses a match-winning quality, few have the capability of being genuinely able to flip a match on its head. When Vrancic has the ball, City have a chance. It's as simple as that.
Having quality is one thing, but transferring it into output, both goals and assists is another. Whilst Emi Buendia is lauded as City's creator in chief, Vrancic is a reliable and quality deputy.
In many ways, the real shame - similarly to Alex Tettey - is that Vrancic isn't four or five years younger. His weaknesses are there for all to see, he doesn't possess the stamina or pace to be an option in games where City are pressed relentlessly or under the cosh.
But often there is a fixation on the aspects of a player's game that aren't as strong. Instead, Vrancic's quality needs to be front and centre of any discussion surrounding whether he should be included in a starting line-up.
Saturday's game was one built for extracting his qualities.
The Canaries dominated possession and that allowed Vrancic to operate as something of a deep-lying playmaker. He could drop deep and was afforded space to dictate City's attacks from the base of midfield.
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Daniel Farke has spoken before about the type of game he feels is best-suited to Vrancic. One that includes the Canaries dominating the ball against a side who construct a low block without the willingness to adopt an aggressive press.
“He is a good choice to play deeper when you are dominating possession and you have control because from this position he can influence the game like no one on this level,” said the City chief back in October.
As statistic based Norwich City Twitter account @NCFCNumbers pointed out at the weekend, City have scored eight Championship goals at Carrow Road when Vrancic has been on the pitch since his free-kick against the Owls, the Bosnian has scored or assisted all eight of him.
It was his quality in-front of goal that helped City extract six points against Birmingham City and Wycombe Wanderers, but on this occasion, it was his passing quality that helped his team win from the clutches of defeat.
On the cusp on half-time, Vrancic sought to replicate that memorable last-minute free-kick against the Owls in the title-winning campaign two seasons ago. He struck it well but put too much power behind the shot and it kissed the top of the net on its way over.
Vrancic's pass for Josh Martin oozed quality and resembled his assist for Teemu Pukki when City overcame Millwall 4-3 at Carrow Road in that epic encounter back in November 2018.
The Bosnian spotted the teenager on the move before threading a perfectly weighted pass into his path. Martin latched onto the ball ahead of Joe Wildsmith to equalise for the Canaries. It was a moment of quality befitting the return of supporters.
Replays showed that Vrancic had slotted the pass between the legs of Wednesday defender Tom Lees.
Soon after, Vrancic had another assist to his name as Max Aarons bagged the winner to restore the Canaries position at the summit of the Championship table.
The 31-year-old made a darting run to escape the attention of Wednesday defender Julian Borner before receiving a pass from Aarons, who continued his ascent into the penalty area.
Vrancic was heading away from goal but cutely backheeled it into the path of the right-back who finished with aplomb to net the winner for the Canaries. Within three minutes, City had scored two goals and flipped the game on its head courtesy of two excellent pieces of skill from their midfielder.
There was concern for Vrancic though after he limped off clutching his hamstring. Farke revealed post-match that was likely to be cramp and the Bosnian wouldn't be out for a prolonged period of time.
Given Wednesday's game will see them face another organised side in Nottingham Forest, City supporters will be hoping he can reproduce his exploits in this performance to carry the Canaries over the line again.
VERDICT: The matchwinner. The Bosnian is at his best when tasked with a defensively organised side to unpick. His quality meant City recorded three points, and he once again proved why he is perfectly suited to games where the Canaries dominate possession.