Six things you might have missed from City's encouraging draw with Wolves
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After an encouraging 0-0 draw with high-flying Wolves, David Freezer takes a look at six things you might have missed as the revival of Norwich City's form in the Premier League continued.
1- Sign of progress
The Canaries didn’t manage to go three successive games without defeat in the Premier League during Daniel Farke’s reign but did twice during the top-flight season on Alex Neil’s watch.
The last time City went four unbeaten in the Premier League was under Chris Hughton in February 2013, with plenty of motivation to match that achievement tomorrow night.
Avoid defeat and Newcastle will remain bottom and winless. Eddie Howe’s team will be fired up to get the new manager’s first victory but will be without Jamal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie through suspension.
The first of the current run, of course, was with Farke still at the wheel at Brentford. For Dean Smith to get that third unbeaten game of his reign really would be a feather in his cap though.
If his rejuvenated team can play with such ambition and energy against an in-form Wolves, there’s no reason to take a backward step against Newcastle. A plan is needed for the Magpies’ star man though, with Allan Saint-Maximin proving too hot to handle during pre-season.
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2 - Pressing issues
It was clear to see that City were playing higher up the pitch and pressing with intensity on Saturday, as it was during the second half against Southampton in Smith’s first game. The numbers back up the eye test as well.
FBref.com shows a season-high of Norwich applying pressure successfully on 51 occasions against Wolves, defined as gaining possession within five seconds of applying pressure.
The second-highest (48) was in Smith’s first game and in the 11 games previously under Farke, City were averaging just over 37 per game.
Successfully gaining possession from 51 of 134 attempts brought a 38.1pc success rate, around 10pc up on the Saints game and the highest since 33.6pc during the 3-0 loss to Liverpool during the opening weekend.
It’s a subtle difference but that more efficient pressing illustrates the early work being done on the training pitches, with Wolves managing just 17 touches in the City penalty area – another seasonal best for Norwich.
3 - Wait goes on
He’s getting closer but the pursuit of a first Premier League goal has extended to 49 matches for Max Aarons now.
It would have been a brilliant way to end that top-flight wait if the 21-year-old had grabbed the lead just before the break, with a lovely chop inside and one-two with Lukas Rupp, only for his shot to be smothered by Jose Sa at close quarters.
Aarons has five goals in total from his 143 matches for City but his new boss has spoken about asking his right-back to add a little more pragmatism in the current situation.
The England Under-21 international actually has a divisional high in that respect, blocking 13 crosses so far this season which is three more than his closest rival, Aston Villa left-back Matt Targett on 10.
He was nearly punished for failing to cut out an early cross from Rayan Ait-Nouri on Saturday though, which was poked over by Raul Jimenez, but that situation did owe a lot to a lovely switched pass from Ruben Neves to find the wing-back in space.
4- Rupp’s return
Lukas Rupp marked his 50th City appearance with his best Premier League performance, setting up the game’s best chances but fluffing his opportunity to be the hero.
The 30-year-old former Hoffenheim midfielder has had a rather strange Canaries career, arriving at a time when form was declining and would be made worse by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hamstring problems restricted Rupp to 15 league starts last season, with some excellent displays countered by some mediocre performances.
His energy and adventure dovetailed impressively with Kenny McLean during the second half though, after replacing the injured Mathias Normann in the 35th minute.
The German is approaching the final six months of his contract. Continue in the vein that he finished on Saturday and he won’t be short of offers, if he can find some consistency.
A first league goal for City would help his cause as well, after scuffing Milot Rashica’s cross straight at Sa in the 80th minute with the Barclay ready to roar.
5 – Persistent Pukki
There’s no denying that Teemu Pukki is giving his all for the Canaries cause at the moment but the clinical edge deserted him as he looked to score for a third game on the spin.
Five attempts at goal was a season-high for the Finn and a total he’s bettered just once in his 49 top-flight appearances for City, managing seven during the 3-1 win over Newcastle in August 2019, yielding his memorable hat-trick.
After getting his angles wrong for an early shot that drifted high and wide, hesitation saw a left-footed shot blocked after a Billy Gilmour pass and he couldn’t force in the loose ball after Aarons’ big chance was saved.
The big chance was when being played clean through by Rupp, not realising he had more time, and he couldn’t quite reach a gorgeous cross from Kieran Dowell late on.
As long as those chances keep coming, Pukki should be a good bet to hit double figures again this season.
6 - Milestone passed?
Tim Krul kept his 50th Premier League clean sheet on Saturday, or did he? According to the official Premier League records, the answer is no.
That’s because the Dutchman’s debut in the English top tier hasn’t been counted, despite coming on for the injured Steve Harper in the 35th minute and helping Newcastle to a 1-0 win at Everton in September 2010.
Where better to make sure of his Premier League half-century than St James’ Park, then?
Thanks to a strong performance from his team-mates, Krul actually had a relatively quiet shift against Wolves, although he did have to bail out Grant Hanley for the second game running after an unforced error – something the skipper will know he has to cut out swiftly.
Eight of those 49 official clean sheets have been for Norwich but the other 41 being with Newcastle reminds us of the 33-year-old's experience, with just 30 keepers having made more than his 206 appearances in the Premier League.
- You can listen to the Pink Un Podcast review of the game above or watch Dave's verdict in the video below
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