Six things you might have missed after Vrancic rescued Norwich City again
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Following a third win on the spin, David Freezer assesses how Norwich City are developing as a 2-1 home victory over Wycombe lifts the Canaries to fifth in the early Championship table.
1 - Clubs on different journeys
At times Saturday’s match felt more like a home game for Wycombe, such was the noise generated by the proud visiting directors, coaching staff and players.
That it wasn’t matched by the home equivalents tells its own story, as a desperate and spirited newly-promoted team looking for their first point felt hard done by - as Norwich found a late winner for a third match on the spin.
Clearly that demonstrates character and will to win from the Canaries but had Mario Vrancic not come up trumps in the last two games, it would have been a very different mood at Colney for the players this morning.
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Ben Gibson was lucky not to concede a penalty and pick up a second yellow soon after the leveller and Emi Buendia was fortunate to not be booked on two occasions, leaving Wycombe furious.
Yet the sheer volume of chances and possession show it was City who deserved to take the points in the end, regardless of style and differing expectation levels.
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2 - Another high for the Farke era
The difference in quality on the ball was stark, with the visitors unable to compete in terms of quality - and looking well on the way to a good hiding early on.
City clocked up 76 percent of possession in a league game for the first time since Daniel Farke took charge in 2017, the highest since a 0-0 draw with Bolton in February 2018 which became symbolic of the frustrations of that transitional season.
They’ve also only notched 25 attempts at goal just twice before in the league during the Farke era, matching a 1-1 home draw with Hull in 2017 but not quite reaching the 27 of the chaotic 3-3 draw with Forest on Boxing Day 2018.
The difference being that on this occasion the Canaries found the winner their play deserved, despite desperate defending from the visitors.
After an encouraging spell of intensity in the first half, Wycombe struggled to get out of their half after the break, as they clung on to thwart a host of City opportunities which needed calm minds.
3 - Start must be close for Mario
Eventually it was the man for the big moment showing that cool under pressure, as Vrancic curled in a free-kick to match his famous finish against Wednesday in 2019.
After two match-winning moments in the space of five days, the classy midfielder is pushing hard for a return to Farke’s starting line-up, but where does he fit in?
The 31-year-old has been able to pull the strings when Birmingham and Wycombe were tiring, after the well balanced pairing of Oliver Skipp and Lukas Rupp had provided a solid platform.
Vrancic and Rupp were Bundesliga team-mates at Paderborn so know each others’ games well. Yet if it were youngster Skipp who was dipped out during a busy period, Rupp would have to focus on defensive duties.
Otherwise, the most likely option would be for Teemu Pukki to return to the lead striker role with Vrancic as chief support in attack. Just two starts in the last 22 league games has clearly left him hungry for more action.
4 - Seeing red so costly for Idah
Adam Idah may well have cost himself a starting role at Brentford with a totally unnecessary moment of anger in injury-time.
The Irishman had made a real impact after replacing Jordan Hugill up front in the 58th minute, showing his pace, power and skill to pull the Wycombe defence out of shape and create space.
Unfortunately he saw red in more ways than one, for a split second as he shoved Joe Jacobson after a tangle as he was tackled, earning himself an early shower.
Idah forced one good save with a powerful effort and injected urgency, after Hugill had struggled to get into the game, heading a corner wide in the first half and twice seeing low Pukki crosses cut out by defenders.
Now that Idah is facing a three-game ban, the summer signing could well get more time to work on his new partnership with Pukki. He must show better ball control and movement though, to complement his aerial ability and determination.
5 - Duo still shaking off some rust
The goal which sparked the regression and gave Wycombe a lift was little short of bizarre however.
A collective dozy moment saw Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley fail to react and left Tim Krul caught in No Man’s Land. The reaction of disbelief summed up the moment, with complacency perhaps brought about by the utter dominance City had enjoyed up to that point.
It was frustratingly similar to the concession during the win at Rotherham and Hanley will not need to be reminded as he searches for full match sharpness after a six-month absence.
Across the division - of those to have played at least three games this season - only three players average more than Hanley’s 10 successful aerial duels per 90 minutes, while no player can match Ben Gibson’s average of 85.8 passes per 90 minutes.
Their partnership is still showing encouraging signs and Hanley will surely score soon, after coming so close in the last two matches.
6 - Defining fortnight looming?
All of which tees up a spell which could well decide which direction this season is truly heading in.
While Brentford have slipped to 11th after a 3-2 defeat at Stoke the beaten play-off finalists clearly remain dangerous as they adjust to life without Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma.
Then it’s three teams currently also in the top seven in Bristol City, Millwall and Swansea. Emerge from that run still in the top six and Farke will be a very happy head coach, as he plots a route through the chaotic couple of months which follow the final international break of this strange year.
Despite frustrations and some stutters, City have 13 points from seven games to sit fifth and just a point off second - a strong foundation to build on at the very least.
Will more ambitious teams mean more space for the likes of Buendia and Todd Cantwell to thrive? That will only matter if the defence can hold firm as the quality of the opposition increases.
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- The 2020 edition of the Official Norwich City Sticker Book is available to order now from PinkUnShop.co.uk ahead of stickers being released in November