David Hannant: My festive wish list to Farke Christmas
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When we turn the calendar over on Friday and pinch punch our way around our friends and family, we will officially be into December.
Just where does the time go?
With this in mind, we already have Christmas lights switched on, the (brilliant) John Lewis advert is doing the rounds and no doubt, youngsters will be thinking about penning their wish lists to Father Christmas himself.
In this week’s column, I’m going to do exactly the same, though mine is not penned to Father Christmas, but Farke Christmas.
Since the Derby, it would be fair to say things haven’t exactly been going well - but with frustratingly fine margins. There have been no real ‘Millwalls’ as such, so while I’m nowhere near complete panic mode, there are a few tweaks I wish to see made, which will make up my Christmas wish list.
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I am, however, very impatient, so if these could come true sooner, rather than later, then great.
• Wish one: Quit the corner congestion
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This is something that never fails to frustrate me about how City have been trying to defend corners. Why, why, why, why, why have every player back for them?
It beggars belief for me that generally the furthest player forward when the opposition has a corner is - at best - on the edge of our own penalty box.
There is no logical reason to do this for me and if anything, it causes the box to be overly congested and leave people in yellow shirts almost falling over each other.
Firstly, it invites pressure - if the ball is cleared quickly it gives the opposition ample opportunity to mount another attack.
Secondly, if Angus Gunn collects the ball, he can’t release it quickly and launch a counter attack.
When you have a player with the pace of somebody like Josh Murphy, leave him on the halfway line. The opposition would be forced to leave at least two men back to deal with any potential break for a start, and it wouldn’t weaken us one bit at the back.
• Wish two: Lose zonal marking for corners
While we are on the subject of corners, the other thing City seem to be doing that clearly is not working, is marking zonally.
I’ve briefly touched on this point before, so I won’t go too overboard with it this time, but it never fails to frustrate me, as unless I’m mistaken, it feels as though City are leaking a worrying amount of goals from corners. The biggest danger of zonal marking for me is that it takes away culpability.
When marking man-to-man, there is no hiding. It is as simple as “that is your man, if he does not score, you have done your job”.
Everyone knows their job, what they have to do and who they have to stop. If you lose your man and he scores, you know you are to blame, so you don’t do it twice.
A zone is ambiguous in the heat of the moment - a man isn’t.
• Wish three: Give Wildschut his chance
Whenever Yanic Wildschut has come from the bench, he has offered something different - something more direct.
I’ve been really impressed with his work ethic when he has featured and he looks like he has a desire to try and get in behind defences, which is one thing we haven’t really been doing.
I’d like to see the Dutchman given his first proper run in the starting line-up since arriving in January. He could be a big player.
Obviously that would mean losing either one of Wes Hoolahan, Josh Murphy, or James Maddison from starting berth. This, of course, can’t be Maddison, but I don’t feel either Wes or Josh are at the very top of their games at the moment, so I’d pick Yanic over either of them for tomorrow night’s Welsh trip.
• Wish four: Ditch the second holding midfielder at home
I understand playing two holding midfielders away from home - it’s a formula that has worked and was probably a big part of the record run of clean sheets earlier in the season.
However, adopting the same system at home, for me, could also be the very same reason Carrow Road has become - as my column colleague excellently put it - more mattress than fortress.
It’s a sad fact of football, that teams do approach games differently depending on whether they are home or away.
As we have seen, at Carrow Road teams are far more happy to sit back and allow City to have the lion’s share of the ball.
This means we have to force the issue and break down other sides, which we just aren’t doing.
Lose the second holding midfielder and adding either another creative midfielder - or even a second striker - and I feel this could go a long way to solving the problem of City’s home sickness.
We miss Alex Tettey
I eagerly await the return to fitness of Alex Tettey.
With certain players, you truly do not realise just how much of a difference they make until they are gone, and the Norwegian is one of these.
Tettey has made six league appearances this season - four of which were clean sheets, with only one ending in a loss.
In the run of clean sheets, Alex looked back to his athletic best - full of running, filling in gaps and almost looking like our N’Golo Kante.
Since he has been out injured, City have managed just one victory - against a side who we could’ve beaten with myself in centre mid, and I’m neither a professional footballer, or in any kind of physical condition whatsoever.
In the weeks he has been out, his absence has been glaringly noticeable - he and Tom Trybull looked to be a rock solid partnership. With both these guys missing, City’s midfield defensive behaviour is a bit limp.
I’m not 100pc certain when Tettey is due to return, but hopefully it is sooner rather than later.
Saturday’s late shenanigans meant a generally pretty forgettable match will have its place in the history books for years to come.
Few will forget the comical image of David ‘Spud’ Thornhill holding aloft the board in his jeans.
However, I will go away with a different comedic memory, one that went unnoticed.
While the referee was consulting Daniel Farke and Alex Neil, and confusion rained down, there was quite a hilarious exchange between James Maddison and a few of the Preston players.
We were all waiting for a set piece, in almost an identical position to the one Maddison converted in the first half.
It was tough to tell whether Maddison was trying to steal a yard, or the defenders were trying to edge the ball into a less useful place, but it was fun to watch regardless.
At one point - before the players were called over - a Preston player actually had the ball under his shirt. On returning, Madders ran straight to the ball and did the same. Comedy gold.