Melissa Rudd: Canaries’ lack of firepower is becoming a big worry
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A derby clash at Portman Road and a cup tie at Arsenal followed by two home games against tough opposition, all in the space of 10 days. This run of fixtures was always going to test both the depth and character of Norwich City’s squad.
The fact that Daniel Farke put out a full strength team who ended up playing in excess of 120 minutes in the heartbreaking defeat at The Emirates was always going to make Saturday’s game against Derby more difficult.
The Canaries’ cause wasn’t helped of course by another poor refereeing decision that denied what many thought should have been a penalty, after a similar call in London on Tuesday evening.
Given the pattern of Norwich’s two league wins at Carrow Road this season, if they had gone ahead then it would most likely have changed the course of the game entirely.
Yet however hard done by the home side may have felt after Scott Carson hauled down Josh Murphy, as on Tuesday they only had themselves to blame for not already being in the lead. Marco Stiepermann’s effort that crashed against the bar and then bounced out without crossing the line may have seemed like hard luck but from that distance, with only the goalkeeper to beat, it was a huge missed opportunity.
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It was the same story against the might of Arsenal. As great as the performance was, chances went begging and in truth City should have put the game to bed long before the introduction of 18-year-old substitute Eddie Nketiah, who turned it on its head.
Norwich’s lack of goals has been a problem at home all season, and with Nelson Oliveira’s injury woes it’s reasonable to be questioning where they are going to come from if his absence becomes a recurring theme. Six goals in seven league games at Carrow Road means only Reading, Birmingham and Bolton have managed fewer on home turf this campaign.
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It is testament to the Canaries’ defensive resolve in that eight-game unbeaten run that somehow prior to Saturday’s defeat they had risen to sixth and still had a goal difference of minus two. The bigger picture though remains a worrying one. Norwich are yet to win a league game at Carrow Road this season when the opposition have scored and have only managed two goals in 90 minutes once. Farke’s charges have often become victims of the same tactics they deploy against opposition teams on the road.
While Saturday’s result was disappointing, City have played worse against inferior visiting teams. This was a well-organised Derby outfit who sensed a result given the exploits of the previous six days. It doesn’t change the fact however that it’s now four home games without a win for the first time in the Championship since 2014.
Without Oliveira, Norwich’s striking options are so limited. The Portuguese averages a goal every 89 minutes he’s played in all competitions this season while in comparison Cameron Jerome has scored once every 473 and Marley Watkins has only netted in the Carabao Cup.
James Maddison has conjured up three goals in recent weeks but Farke needs to find a way of releasing the rest of the midfield so that they are able to contribute much more in the final third.
Now the unbeaten run is over it’s all about how City respond in tomorrow’s fixture against Wolves, who suffered a shock defeat at QPR at the weekend. Like Norwich, perhaps their Carabao Cup adventures at Premier League giants last week played a part.
Under head coach Nuno Espirito Santo and the influence of Jorge Mendes, the super agent of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wolves have been able to attract star players such as Championship top scorer Leo Bonatini and the sought after Portuguese duo of Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves. They’ve helped lift the club to second in the table with many bookmakers pricing them as favourites to win the division.
It makes tomorrow night a serious test of Norwich’s promotion credentials against a team with an away record as good as City’s. Upsetting that trend would give Farke and his side a much needed kick-start to their Carrow Road form.