Six things after the conclusion of City's superb season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Following the conclusion of Norwich City's Championship title triumph, David Freezer takes a look at six things you might have missed following the champions' 2-2 draw at Barnsley.
1 – One last party
Alex Tettey holding back the tears, Mario Vrancic keeping his cool, Daniel Farke’s bromance with Valerien Ismael, Adam Idah getting back onto the goal trail – this was not a boring dead rubber.
With the rain falling at an almost empty Oakwell, it proved a fitting setting for the conclusion of a surreal and gruelling season.
City’s players looked ready for their well-earned break, with short but sweet celebrations as they lifted the Championship trophy, popping Champagne corks for the cameras for the third time in three weeks, with national flags draped proudly around some.
The enthusiasm may have been slightly tempered by the sight of the walking wounded. Kenny McLean was on crutches and sporting a knee brace, putting his summer with Scotland in doubt.
Ben Gibson, Oliver Skipp and Teemu Pukki were all sporting protective boots too - although encouragingly for Finland, Pukki appeared to be walking well.
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2 – Buendia's brilliance
One last goal brought Emi Buendia’s outstanding personal haul to 15 goals and 16 assists for the season, from 39 league appearances. His intelligent cross to find Todd Cantwell was also a key part of Idah making it 2-2.
The 24-year-old became a father for the second time in March and has truly matured into a player ready to prove that he belongs in the Premier League, learning from his two naïve red cards.
Compare that to the inspired season from James Maddison for City in 2017-18, contributing 14 goals and eight assists from 44 league games, for a mid-table team. Maddison has gone on to be a top-flight star and international calibre footballer.
If City can somehow manage to keep hold of the Championship’s outstanding player it will be fascinating if he can maintain his prolific improvement but if a huge bid arrives from one of the big boys, there will be little surprise.
3 – Every goal matters
There may have been little riding on the outcome at Oakwell but you could have thought otherwise as City furiously protested Barnsley’s opener.
A bit of hesitance from youngster Andrew Omobamidele was seized upon by former Norwich striker Carlton Morris, who clearly had a handful of the defender’s shirt as he muscled his way onto the ball and squared for Cauley Woodrow to score in the 24th minute.
The Irish teen dropped to his knees in disbelief as Tim Krul charged after the referee with Alex Tettey in support, and with no VAR to help out, it proved a harsh lesson for the youngster about men’s football.
The champions responded with a classy counter-attack equaliser within two minutes, with steam still coming out of Daniel Farke’s ears.
The Tykes had seven shots on target to City’s two though, so deserved at least a point to maintain some momentum for the play-offs and to avoid Brentford in the semi-finals.
4 – Total dominance
The champions eventually finished six points clear of Watford and 10 ahead of Brentford in third.
Throughout the campaign, Daniel Farke’s squad have topped various Championship statistic charts and now the regular season is completed their dominance is clear.
According to WhoScored.com, City attempted 25,223 passes, over 4,600 more than the team ranked second, Brentford, and over 13,000 more than the lowest, relegated Wycombe – with a division high accuracy percentage of 82.8 per cent.
The Canaries had 89 more shots at goal (716) than any of their rivals and nine more on target (238) than Blackburn, although Brentford actually scored four more goals (79).
All while committing the fewest fouls (487), although somehow just Rotherham and Coventry (five) had more red cards.
Only Watford (30) conceded fewer than City’s 36 goals but the keepers of just seven teams made more saves than the 118 that Krul, Michael McGovern and Daniel Barden were needed for.
5 – Max impact
Statistics only tell part of the story though, as shown by Max Aarons’ personal figures of two goals and two assists from 47 games.
That doesn’t include two penalties that his pace won and an own goal that he forced at Rotherham with fine play though.
Saturday was a good example, as his lovely cross for Buendia’s goal claimed an assist but his burst of pace to round Callum Styles and set Buendia clear ahead of the second equaliser, showed what Aarons is all about.
The 21-year-old consistently feeds City’s creative star and gets forward to play his part in the build-up to attacks.
Buendia tops the division for ‘key passes’ with 122, which is 37 more than any other player. Aarons, as a right-back, ranks 16th with 61 to his name. The majority of players ahead of him are creative midfielders. A star man indeed.
6 – Case for the defence
Despite conceding eight goals during the final five games of the campaign, the Canaries class of 2020-21 can still bask in the glory of the best defensive record in the club’s history.
Only once before has a City team conceded just 36 goals in a season but the second-tier title winners of 1971-72 did so during four fewer games, giving the current crop precedence.
It’s three fewer than the previous record over 46 matches, which was Nigel Worthington’s champions of 2003-04 conceding 39.
Add to that a club record points haul of 97, the best away record (15 wins and 49 points) and becoming the only Norwich team to win nine consecutive matches in all competitions, and it has truly been an exceptional campaign.
We’ll never know if it would have been different with supporters in stadiums but the only thing that matters now is that Canaries fans can look forward to returning to Carrow Road where they left it; in the Premier League.