Melissa Rudd: Good to see a Norwich City side that refuses to give up a cause
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In a season of transition, and a week where Norwich City made it past the third round of the League Cup for only the fourth time in 21 seasons, it only feels right to draw on the positives of a second successive Carrow Road stalemate.
The Championship’s highest scorers prior to Saturday were restricted to three shots on target, in what proved another resolute defensive display against statistically the best attack City’s back-line have faced. Bristol City hadn’t lost in eight games in all competitions and had failed to score just once in the league this season.
Keeping a fourth clean sheet in as many Championship games underlined just how well Daniel Farke’s initially experimental defensive unit has gelled in a matter of weeks. In complete contrast to performances prior to this current unbeaten run, it’s clear that every player on the pitch is now absolutely aware of his duties when the opposition are in possession and works tirelessly to fulfil them.
None more so than Tom Trybull, who seemed to cover every blade of grass yet again in his midfield role and looked as energetic in the 90th minute as he did after the first 90 seconds. The German has been terrific since that debut goal against Charlton in the cup several weeks ago, adapting so well to the cut and thrust of the Championship in his first season in England.
Watching a City team who seem desperate to win the ball back each time it’s lost and busting a gut to close down shots and crosses perhaps isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as sumptuous attacking play, but it’s proving mightily effective and was again universally appreciated by the home supporters.
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After five games unbeaten and conceding just one goal in the Carabao Cup, it’s safe to say that Farke has built the foundations of a team that has become hard to beat. What he must do now is work on sculpting a side as adept in the attacking third as it has been in the defensive one.
That’s where the frustration now lies following another Carrow Road fixture without scoring, although it’s important to point out that this goalless draw bore little resemblance to the one against Burton. City at least created chances to win the game this time, it was converting them (and staying onside) that was the problem.
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Marco Steipermann’s swing and miss from yards out with the goal gaping in the first half sticks in the memory the most, although Mario Vrancic would have been wheeling away in celebration of his third goal in two games had his effort rolled a few centimetres to the right.
More worrying is that for the second time at home Norwich failed to test the visiting goalkeeper, even if Cameron Jerome had the ball past him for his goal that was ruled offside. Nelson Oliveira’s injury means Farke has no one to turn to on the bench for changing things up top.
Jerome’s effort couldn’t be faulted on Saturday, and he was the provider of both those chances that should have been put away. But he is not a target man in the sense that he will hold the ball up and bring others into play, and too often found himself having to come out wide to get the ball to feet.
Improving the defence was the priority in a transfer window where it’s clear there was a small budget to play with, but failing to allocate some of those funds for a striker deemed first-team ready seems like a costly oversight.
Tuesday night’s fixture, though, is likely to be more of a test of City’s new-found solidity than an opportunity to truly measure their attacking prowess. Middlesbrough have dropped only two points at home thus far and it’ll take another colossal away effort to add to that statistic.