Six things following Norwich City’s frustrating setback against Derby
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After another setback for Norwich City’s hopes, David Freezer assesses a 1-0 home loss to Derby with six things you might have missed following the Carrow Road encounter.
1 - Cruel luck but Hugill is pushing
The look on Teemu Pukki’s face summed up the striker’s 2020, as he glared almost disbelievingly at the penalty spot and sighed heavily.
Almost two years ago that same penalty area in front of the Barclay Stand had been his playground. Everything he touched turned to goals - just look back on the winner in the 4-3 epic victory over Millwall which sat up kindly for him amid the chaos.
It should be pointed out that it was raining heavily before and during the early stages of Saturday’s early kick-off at Carrow Road, creating a slick turf from the grey clouds which were appropriate for the mood - and that he had converted his last two spot-kicks for City.
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Yet of players to complete the 90 minutes, he had the fewest touches (23) of anyone on the pitch, up against a three-man defence again.
Pukki is certainly putting in the effort but with Jordan Hugill so unfortunate to see a late header excellently saved, the big man is pushing hard for a start at Rotherham.
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2 - Aarons has embraced situation
The other player to be so crucially denied by David Marshall was Max Aarons.
Barcelona’s interest not bringing an exciting move doesn’t seem to have disrupted the 20-year-old, quite the opposite, it seems to have matured the right-back further and filled him with confidence.
He had the pace to beat his markers and contribute in attack, while staying solid in defence and winning a succession of aerial duels.
Ten minutes before the deciding goal it was Aarons bursting into the box to turn a gorgeous cross from Mario Vrancic goalwards, with former Canaries number one Marshall superbly tipping the shot over as it flew towards the roof of his net.
Aarons goes away with the England Under-21s again with his reputation still growing and with so many years at the top level still ahead of him. City really need to hope he stays with them at least until January, when Sam Byram is hoping to be back in contention.
3 - Smelling danger so important
The game was settled by a moment of class from a legend of English football - but it was utterly avoidable.
It reminded me of the harsh lesson Alex Tettey learned when he didn’t bring down a rampaging Gareth Bale when he had the opportunity, as Spurs grabbed a late Premier League equaliser at Carrow Road in January 2013.
Ben Gibson pushed into space and a poor touch from Adam Idah allowed Derby to counter. Lukas Rupp did eventually take a yellow for the team to stop Jason Knight but was level and close to the Rams midfielder near the centre circle. It’s easy in hindsight but sometimes a tactical foul is needed.
Overall, again, Rupp had a lively game and seems to be forming a tenacious and tidy central midfield partnership with Oliver Skipp but he had to smell the danger sooner.
There was an inevitability about what was to come next, as Rooney curled home a fine free-kick sucker-punch, as a defensive approach earned Derby’s first points.
4 - Gibson has technique to thrive
Gibson may have been part of the failed attack which led to the Rooney free-kick but overall it proved to be an encouraging debut for the Burnley loanee.
With Ben Godfrey putting the finishing touches to his big money move to Everton, the chance finally arrived for the 27-year-old and he proved that he is not just about muscle and aerial strength.
Gibson looks more than capable of matching Timm Klose and Godfrey in the passing stakes as well, with a cultured left foot providing some welcome balance in the centre of defence - making the most accurate passes of anyone on the pitch (100).
He was also vocal, as you would expect of a man who was Boro’s captain in the Premier League and earned an England call-up before his promising career had stalled.
He’ll hope there’s plenty more to come and if City are to have any hope of getting promotion and sealing the permanent signing of the defender, a steady central partnership is needed.
5 - Patience will not be plentiful
While most City fans are willing to give Daniel Farke a bit of leeway, there is only so long that promising hints will be tolerated.
Even with the distractions of the transfer window and of knowing that the Canaries had only won one of their opening six games in 2018-19 before going on to win the Championship title, patience will only stretch so far after the disappointment of last season in the top flight.
Just seven sides have scored fewer than three goals so far, Bristol City and Reading have 100pc records and both Bournemouth and Swansea remain unbeaten.
The indicators are there though. Only Stoke average better than City’s possession of 56.3pc, no-one’s average pass accuracy is better (82.3pc) and only two teams are averaging more shots per game (14).
Those foundations must be built on quickly though, as the words ‘transition’ and ‘rebuild’ are likely to get short shrift in the current behind-closed-doors mood.
6 - Close that window, please!
There’s no denying that the transfer window will now dominate the international break though.
When Godfrey’s exit has been confirmed, following on from the sale of Jamal Lewis, City fans will have no need to panic in the knowledge that Gibson and Xavi Quintilla are already in place.
Losing Aarons would be far more problematic, with only youngster Bali Mumba for cover until Sam Byram is fit in January - although that would mean there is plenty of money in the bank for an established replacement.
Yet with Kieran Dowell out until January, it’s very difficult to see a successful season being possible if both Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell were to be sold.
The European window closes at 11pm tonight and the domestic window at 5pm on Friday, October 16. With no clubs for Mo Leitner, Tom Trybull and Josip Drmic sorted yet and Turkish champions Basaksehir being linked with Onel Hernandez, it could be a decisive 12 days.
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