Norwich City 1-3 Sunderland: Michael Bailey brings his six things learned from the Canaries’ Sunderland sting
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There’s now no hiding behind the size of the work in progress – Michael Bailey brings his six things learned from Norwich City’s sobering Sunderland Sunday.
1 – The digging in didn’t last long
It was one of the big plus points from that opening draw at Fulham – City didn’t go a second goal behind. And they certainly could have done. Instead, they really showed guts.
The problem is this weekend, while City didn’t really lose their composure they did look a little lost in trying to find a way back into the game. And that was an ugly trait from last season, if not so much at Carrow Road.
The problem is, this defeat makes you think about the fact City could’ve been two or three down at Fulham – despite their missed chances, and thanks to some good character and good fortune.
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So we’ve now had one example of each. I’m not sure we’re any the wiser where this now heads for Norwich City in the short term, but it’s one of the biggest questions they need to answer.
And there really is no avoiding that it will take some patience getting to it.
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2 – The odds should’ve been short
A caveat: this comes from someone who always liked Lewis Grabban. Maybe he’s one of those strikers who looks like he is putting in less effort in than he is, but there’s no denying that at this level he will prove very useful for Sunderland.
And yes, he was always bound to score on Sunday – unlike James Vaughan, who instead was a tormentor in the air and with his work rate.
What the pair did do is prove two up top can work, and they did it much more effectively than either of City’s combinations.
There was some slight mickey-taking before kick-off after Simon Grayson admitted his mystery over how City might line up, yet the former Preston boss could prove an astute appointment for a Sunderland side in need of rebuilding – especially it still remembers what Sam Allardyce taught them.
And City better hope his side are better than average for the Championship this season.
3 – City can’t rely on Wes again
This is tricky given the horrible news that Alex Pritchard is going to be sidelined for another three months – and that blow with come into stark focus if City do struggle for early successes this season.
But while the sight of Wes Hoolahan coming off the bench and offering a real impact has been great in the last two games, it does raise a question that seems to have been on our lips for years: what happens when he’s gone?
That’s clearly overdramatic given the quality and options City have in Wes’ position are more than anywhere else on the pitch.
But this season – out of all of them – really needs to be the one where City can break down teams and look incisive whether Hoolahan is on the pitch or not.
Still, while the recovery time gets longer and his appearances will become fewer, there’s no doubt his magic will always shine.
4 – Cul-de-sacs get frustrating
Fans wanted change and it’s arrived on a sizeable scale. What comes with the implementation of the Canaries’ new identity is hard work to make it a success – not changing it to help them improve.
The reality is not that City played a philosophy against Sunderland and it didn’t work, therefore it now needs changing again. It’s that they didn’t play it well – and that caused them issues.
Their passing wasn’t crisp, they didn’t move Sunderland around and there was far too little movement. Dead ends were the result, making City look easy to deal with.
Fewer things are as frustrating – but one is: City’s defending. Regardless of what they’re trying to do with the ball, Norwich cannot defend as they have and expect anything other than defeats.
What we find out from here is whether the players trying to do all this can rise to the challenge, or whether there are more fundamental issues to deal with.
5 – Yanic can count himself unfortunate
City have tried to mix things up in both Championship games so far, with varying degrees of success – and both times, there has been one man to make way.
There is no doubt Yanic Wildschut is currently a square peg playing in a round hole. His wing-back role is giving him a real spur when City attack, but there are some issues going the other way.
And even on the front foot, I wouldn’t be so sure the winger is making the decisions Farke would hope for.
But still, Wildschut has really put in the effort and was as lively as anyone else in a yellow shirt on Sunday – off the back of offering the most attacking intent when he was on the pitch at Craven Cottage.
Ivo Pinto seems destined for his 50th City appearance on Wednesday night. Wildschut has done a decent job of setting the bar high.
6 – Carrow Road really did turn up
Maybe it’s the City fan in me; the one that’s followed this club since I was six. But what should’ve been – and was – hugely impressive, then had me concerned.
The summer worked. Even before City’s new stars ran out and Farke sat in his dugout, Carrow Road was rocking. The noise outweighed anything since Wembley.
Harrison Reed said it gave him goosebumps. I’d be amazed if he was the only one.
Much like City’s finances – when they spend a lot of money, history says it generally doesn’t work – sadly sometimes when Carrow Road gets in a frenzy, the eventual result is more of a damp squib.
It is far too early to offer solid judgment on City’s prospects from here. So the one thing Carrow Road should take away from Sunday, is the need to make sure their noise and support isn’t a one-off. Just like their players digging in at Fulham.