Matt Howman: Did Norwich City show enough to fulfil hopes of a revival?
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A battling comeback victory against an organised Millwall side gives Farke cause for quiet satisfaction against critics and offers a glimmer of hope for fans that form could be on the up.
Questions were raised following Farke’s decision to rest six players for Norwich’s visit to struggling minnows Burton Albion, with squad rotation an essential aspect to the frantic Christmas period. A decision which seemingly furthered the divide between the Farke in and out camps between supporters. This hard-fought victory will serve to placate the ‘Farke out’ fans, but did Norwich really show enough promise over the festive period to give fans hope of a new year revival?
There were plenty of positives to take from the win against Millwall; Tom Trybull ran the game efficiently, complementing the defensive ball-winning nature of Alex Tettey with the ease and fluidity of varied passing to keep the game ticking over. Jamal Lewis put in a home debut performance which looked at ease at this level and the ever-effective James Maddison worked tirelessly with Alex Pritchard to unlock the flat back-four of a resolute Millwall defence.
Norwich’s problems, however, seem to stem from tactical setup, pace of attack and decision-making in key areas on the pitch. Countless times this season we have witnessed goals conceded from a breakdown in play in the opposition third and Norwich are quickly opened up by fast counter-attacking football – a lesson we’ve yet to learn from and employ for ourselves. The best goal I’ve seen this season was the goal conceded to Barnsley at home – we really should’ve taken note of that one.
Our approach this season has been a slow, lethargic, calculated build-up in play irrespective of whether we win the ball high up the pitch, or most commonly trading off possession between our two centre-backs.
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This style of play isn’t conducive to winning Championship football matches. The lack of width and resistance to crossing the ball leaves us continually probing through the centre of the pitch, meaning that when we lose the ball we are more susceptible to a dangerous counter-attack.
However, do I think Norwich should replace Daniel Farke? Not for me. When you listen to his breakdown of each performance, his post-match interviews are packed with snippets that offer a glimpse of the level of detail the backroom staff go into to prepare for each match. He is working in a tough environment whereby the Premiership money has been run dry and the club are back looking for much cheaper replacements in playing staff.
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There’s no doubt his understanding of the game has allowed him to employ a system whereby Norwich dominate the majority of the fixtures in the calendar. However, converting that dominance into goals, momentum and points has been the missing piece in the jigsaw.
Have the players let him down? Absolutely. Players such as Josh Murphy and Nelson Oliveira should be regular match winners at this level; it has been their lack of presence and impact which has been a big factor in leaving us a good 10 points off where we should have been at this point in the season.
Looking back at the Burton game, six changes may have been criticised, but Oliveira was still in the starting line-up – a player who has been linked with a transfer to Wolves in January, he should be relishing the opportunity to notch up his goal tally against the likes of Burton Albion.
Norwich move into the second half of the season as the fourth lowest scoring team in the division. January will prove to be difficult to recruit a proven goalscorer unless the departures of Steven Naismith and others free up enough funds, but without a new face coming in to lead the line there is little chance of Norwich threatening a run at the play-offs.