Six things you might have missed following City’s crucial win over Bournemouth
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After a pressure relieving win, David Freezer looks at six things you might have missed following Norwich City’s crucial victory over Bournemouth.
1 - Long wait ends for home fans
The relief was palpable as the Carrow Road faithful savoured the agonising wait for another home victory coming to a conclusion.
The first since that joyous victory over Manchester City in September and a first home clean sheet of the campaign was just the tonic needed to breathe belief into this fight for survival.
It also avoided equalling a club record in the top flight, of nine games without a win, which was endured during the 1972-73 season - the club's first in the English top tier.
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However, yet again it should have been much more comfortable, with Teemu Pukki, Emi Buendia and Ondrej Duda all failing to convert big chances to give the scoreline a more accurate reflection of the display.
Daniel Farke's team are averaging just under five shots on target in home games - just six teams have a better average in the Premier League so far this season. So while home results have been disappointing, Carrow Road performances remain strong.
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2 - Midfield balance improved
Duda deserves a great deal of credit for his fine debut display however, making a real impact - despite having barely played for a month.
Fans were keen for the loan signing to be pitched straight into battle and Farke agreed, despite the loanee's last game being for Hertha Berlin's second team on December 14, playing all of a 3-1 defeat at Energie Cottbus in the fourth tier in Germany.
Falling out of favour at his parent club had added fuel to the fire for Duda though, putting in a committed effort full of class touches, sharp passing and attempts to offer close support to Pukki.
The Slovakia international took the place of the absent Mario Vrancic, with Kenny McLean dropping deeper and battling hard to form a shield alongside Alex Tettey.
McLean's passing game was strong, he made the most interceptions (four) and his aerial efforts could well have finally allowed City a strong base which allows the front four the attacking freedom which they thrive upon.
3 - Pukki hits the big 40 for City
It all came down to a penalty though, City's first in the league since McLean saw one saved during the 4-0 triumph at Bolton in February of last year.
The Canaries missed six of seven last season, with only Vrancic a successful taker, during a 1-0 home win over Wigan in the Championship in November 2018 - although Adam Idah did score one in the FA Cup recently as well.
For Pukki it brings an end to a month of waiting, since scoring his ninth of the campaign at Leicester, with toe and hamstring injury issues since that away draw.
That 10th of the season was calmly dispatched by the Finland star though, taking him to 40 overall for the club - in just his 68th match.
Pukki becomes just the 37th player to score 40 goals for the Canaries, tying him in 34th place with Phil Boyer, Justin Fashanu and Paul McVeigh. But his current superb ratio of 0.59 goals per game is better than any of the players to score 40 who played in the top two tiers.
4 - Godfrey's impact on passing
Ben Godfrey doesn't need to be told that he made a big error for the clumsy tackle which earned him a red card - thwarting a remarkable personal renaissance.
The 22-year-old's rapid return from a knee injury saw Farke opt to reunite him with Christoph Zimmermann immediately and it was clear to see why, with the Cherries pressing City hard and really testing the passing ability of the home defenders.
That was until Steve Cook decided to try his hand as a goalkeeper to deny Duda, get sent off and hand Pukki the penalty the hosts needed.
That may account partly for a season high of 635 passes, of which Godfrey was responsible for the most (70), in spite of being sent off in the 77th minute, with his pass success rate at 95pc.
Judging Grant Hanley's passing stats in comparison, amid the nerves and chaos of the closing stages would be unfair. But the Scot now has to show he can tick that box as well, while Godfrey serves his three-game ban.
5 - Byram has become fan favourite
Few Canaries fans would have expected Jamal Lewis to be out of the team for an extended length of time this season but Sam Byram is looking like more of a bargain buy as each Premier League match passes.
Despite being naturally a right-back, the 26-year-old is becoming something of a fan favourite on the left, getting stuck in and playing with real determination.
That was typified in the 90th minute when he strained every sinew to win a loose high ball on halfway, winning the header bravely to huge cheers, allowing Josip Drmic to set Todd Cantwell away on the left, leading to two corners in quick succession relieving some pressure.
The £750,000 signing won seven aerial duels, more than any City player and only McLean and Hanley average higher than his 2.4 per game.
While only Tom Trybull (2.6) and Emi Buendia (2.5) average more than his 2.4 tackles per game - explaining why he has started 10 of the last 11 league matches.
6 - Time for awful run to finish
London's calling - which may well prompt a groan from the Canaries' regular away supporters.
City head to Tottenham Hotspur's grand new stadium on Wednesday not only looking to add some bonus points to their survival scrap, but to end a long wait for top-flight success in the capital for the club.
You have to go back almost eight years for the last Premier League win in London, to the 2-1 win at Spurs in April 2012, earned by Elliott Bennett's strike.
Since then City have played 21, lost 15, drawn six, scored 11 and conceded 42 - a truly miserable record.
This season has seen 2-0 defeats at West Ham and Crystal Palace already, but could this be a good time to play Spurs, particularly with Harry Kane injured? With one win in their last six, no goals scored in their last three and City unlucky not to beat them at Carrow Road less than a month ago, there really is no reason to travel in fear on this occasion.