David Freezer: Norwich City must show they can handle the ugly side of Premier League battle
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It’s time for Norwich City to get angry.
Not the Emi Buendia tackle against QPR type of angry which risks red cards, of course, but angry enough to prove that they are not Premier League pushovers.
That there is technical ability in this Canaries squad and that Daniel Farke can get a team playing attractive, attacking football is not really in doubt.
Can they add a bit of fire and brimstone to the mix though, that desperate desire to not let an opposition attacker to get goal-side of them.
To put it in Farke speak: to win their individual duels.
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It was something Tim Krul highlighted when I spoke to him after the hard fought and valuable 0-0 draw at Bournemouth just over a month ago, the only clean sheet of City's season so far.
The experienced goalkeeper - who is recovering his Premier League poise as each game passes - was pleased with the 'tactical fouls' which denied Eddie Howe's impressive side, keeping them at arm's length for a decent amount of the battle.
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A tactical foul was sadly lacking during the disastrous start against Watford which left us all with a damaging 2-0 home defeat to dwell on during the break though. One way or another Gerard Deulofeu had to be halted, but Buendia and tom Trybull missed their chances and the Belgian danced his way through to begin the misery instead.
It reminded me of the harsh lesson Alex Tettey was taught back in January 2013, when Chris Hughton's top-flight team were leading Tottenham 1-0 at Carrow Road in the 80th minute.
Future Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale picked up possession in his own half that day but had a tenacious Norwich midfielder closing in on him as he charged across the halfway line - only for Tettey to pull out of the tackle.
A few seconds later Bale was tucking home the equaliser with Tettey trailing in his wake and with head in hands, as Spurs found an equaliser.
It's not pretty, it's not how you want to win games but that is football, a contact sport where tackling is part of the game, as long as it is firm but fair.
Had Buendia or Trybull sensed the danger unfolding and made sure Deulofeu could not puncture hopes inside 90 seconds, the international break could well have been far more bearable.
That's gone now though and lessons have to be learned, starting away to an undoubtedly dangerous Everton.
They may have had a disjointed season but have spent plenty of money in recent years and have top players: superb defenders Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne, attacking midfield talents in Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi, determined forwards in Richarlison and Cenk Tosun, all of them internationals.
If the Toffees aren't knocked backwards early on and can get up a head of steam, they are capable of beating anyone in the Premier League on their day.
If Norwich aren't strong enough to do that, the chances of them being able to use their own attacking talents are very slim.
I remember so many City fans loving that they had a team with a tough streak during the Paul Lambert days, an uncompromising approach and an honest belief that they had to work harder and run further than their opponents to have any chance of top-flight points. The underdog spirit Farke says he wants was clearly evident in that Canaries vintage.
There has been much pondering over what Sheffield United are getting right in comparison and - with the obvious compensation for City's injuries - it's clear to see that Chris Wilder's team are ticking all of those boxes.
You have to fight for the right to play good football, at any level. Farke's team are bottom and their form is terrible. It's time to get angry and show they can handle the ugly side of the game as well.
Don't forget that the surge of eight straight wins which teed up the title last season included narrow victories at Rotherham and Middlesbrough, and home wins over Bristol City, Swansea and Hull - all of them hard fought and by just one goal.
That's the determination which is needed to salvage this season.
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