Robin Sainty: How Canaries' new boys are settling in at Carrow Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
With this week set aside for an FA Cup competition that is likely to be even more farcical than usual, we at last get some relief from the relentless grind of two league games a week which has continued virtually without a break for the last two months, and it provides an opportunity to review how City’s newcomers to have done so far.
Whilst Saturday’s match offers an opportunity to give some game time to players returning from injury and a chance for some of City’s youngsters to make a statement, I’m sure that Daniel Farke will be keen to ensure that most of last Saturday’s starters have a well-earned rest.
They certainly earned it against a Barnsley side that actually turned up at Carrow Road with the intention of playing attacking football rather than simply getting as many players as possible behind the ball, and as a result we saw one of the more attractive games that City have been involved in this season.
Whilst they were once again worryingly wasteful in front of goal and ended up having to survive a last-minute scare in a game they should have killed off much earlier, there was a solidity about their defending that has been missing recently, perhaps best illustrated by that late chance for the visitors.
Whereas in a similar situation at Watford, Jacob Sorensen had found himself trailing in the wake of the scorer, Ben Gibson ensured that he got himself in front of Michal Helik, which was just enough to make it harder for him to score.
Gibson's experience, mobility and quality on the ball alongside a fully-fit Grant Hanley has made City’s defence look more reliable than at any point during Farke’s tenure and with Tim Krul also returning that augurs well for the second half of the season.
- 1 'Blown away' - Gibson reveals how City wooed him for Premier League push
- 2 MATCHDAY RECAP: Hornets frustrate City in title tussle
- 3 City ace Krul reflects on Premier League interest
- 4 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-0 defeat against Watford
- 5 Webber reveals he turned down 'massive job' to stay at City
- 6 City lose Giannoulis appeal; three-game ban stands
- 7 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 1-0 Watford defeat
- 8 Farke laments 'average' City display in Watford defeat
- 9 Norwich City v Watford: everything you need to know
- 10 Spurs loanee Skipp discusses his future and potential of Canaries return
One of the many reasons for City’s quick return to the Championship was the fact that last season’s signings failed to make very much impact, but it’s a different story this time around, with Gibson the first of a trio of success stories.
The second of these is Jacob Sorensen who, despite playing in a totally unfamiliar position, has looked extremely classy, and despite being regularly targeted by opponents has rarely let City down defensively. He has demonstrated one of the best tackling techniques in the squad and that has helped him overcome the fact that he is a right-footed player playing on the left.
The third is undoubtedly Oliver Skipp, who has replaced the defensive steel of Alex Tettey while adding greater mobility and passing ability and has made himself a key component of City’s midfield.
As for the other newcomers, injury has, to varying degrees, meant that the jury is still out to some extent. Xavi Quintilla certainly looked the part before his extended spell on the sidelines, particularly in terms of his crossing ability, while Kieran Dowell has shown some great touches in his cameos since returning and may well have a major part to play in the run-in.
Przemyslaw Placheta has been something of an enigma. His pace gets him into really promising positions, but his final ball too often lets him down, although if he can improve that aspect of his game, he could become a formidable weapon.
Bali Mumba was hugely unfortunate to pick up a long-term injury within a week of making a very impressive substitute appearance, which leaves Jordan Hugill, who has yet to provide convincing evidence that he can offer an effective striking alternative to Teemu Pukki’s clever movement.
There is no doubting his character and enthusiasm, but whilst his opportunities have been somewhat limited, he has thus far failed to grasp them and will undoubtedly be keen to make a mark against Coventry.
However, if he can do so, then the availability of a viable Plan B can only help City’s promotion push.