Michael Bailey: Mario, Nelson’s county, the sight of Slutksy and the lack of Tettey – Six Things we learned from City’s Hull draw
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
One Hull of a draw? MICHAEL BAILEY puts together six lessons learned from Norwich City’s Saturday salvage job.
1 – That will do – at least for now
No wonder everyone was jumping around in rapture at Nelson Oliveira’s equaliser – it had been almost four and a half hours since Carrow Road had seen a Norwich goal.
Clearly everyone of a City persuasion beforehand wanted three points but in many ways, to immediately belittle the impact of such a late equaliser can be to forget the impact previous late goals have had on entire seasons of action.
The simple result of City remaining unbeaten could yet prove a big deal – providing they heed one or two warnings served by Hull.
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It looks a straight split between City appearing imperious on the road, while unable to break sides down at home. That is certainly the hard way of doing things and puts a fair amount of pressure on their travels.
But Saturday owed more to their one defensive slip and the change in dynamic that brought – the big reminder City have to take on board for the tough month ahead.
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2 – It’s getting close to bare bones
There is a greater worry with that goal City conceded – that Alex Tettey may have stopped it.
The midfielder was key to City’s September renaissance – and Saturday leaves the niggle that his absence could be more keenly felt than some realised. Especially if it lasts the worst case scenario of two months.
While City have players who can fill in such as Harrison Reed, they are certainly short of ones who can sense defensive danger in the way Tettey does. It makes it even more of a shame that Louis Thompson isn’t fit and available this season.
Let’s be clear – it was great to see Todd Cantwell on the bench and the young man clearly deserves to be closing in on the first team. Likewise it will do his morale the power of good.
But to get to the point where City are so short of natural defensive midfield cover means Farke’s squad will find themselves digging in again, just like they did throughout last month.
3 – Mario is tied to City’s progress
First things first, Mario Vrancic is a good player. In fact, he’s having a good season. Stats (don’t sigh) providers WhoScored have the Bosnian midfielder in City’s top four performers so far this season.
Yes I do watch the games, I do see a player in Vrancic who glides around – and yes, that just as easily makes him look like he doesn’t run and can only do things at one pace.
Some no doubt feel it’s time Mario got some stick. In actual fact, for me the next stage of City’s work in progress is intrinsically linked to Vrancic’s own development in this team. If Farke gets it right, it will almost certainly allow Vrancic to shine brighter.
This could be a tough month for Mario, given he needs defensive energy around him – and Tettey won’t be around.
But Vrancic has already proven he can make things happen in any game at the drop of a hat. It’s something worth bearing in mind if things do get more difficult.
4 – This really is Nelson’s county
Some post-match interviews just nail the general feeling, and Nelson Oliveira did that on Saturday.
From his belief to keep going, to relief he didn’t feel his groin injury, his contentment in being at Norwich City plus a little stirring of the water ahead of the derby.
Add an injury-time equaliser, and it’s hard to think how the Portuguese striker could have made City supporters love him any more than he managed.
Oliveira is leading City’s late show, given his almost infamous equaliser at Fulham – it’s a happy knack to get into. But while Cameron Jerome is working and running hard, City’s hopes this season really do rely on a fit and firing number nine that now has 17 goals from his 39 City appearances to date.
It’s the perfect platform for Oliveira’s first East Anglian derby outing on Sunday. Some players are made to make derby impacts. You wonder if Nelson is one.
5 – Slutsky is a touchline marvel
It was mentioned to me beforehand, but it took from kick-off to fully appreciate what I had been told – Leonid Slutsky at work on the touchline really is a sight to behold.
The Russian switched from prowling to bemused, rubbing his head in his hands to looking like he was about to cry. Admittedly come the 95th minute, everyone in the Hull dugout was in that last state.
Slutsky was top-class entertainment and equally spoke well after the game. Indeed, he is a very decent boss and also looks a decent fit for the Tigers.
But there are a fair few signs that suggest Hull will do well to be anywhere near the Championship play-off picture come spring.
Perhaps this is partly in reaction to the fact Hull didn’t end their 14-month wait for an away win at Carrow Road – having ended a similar run at the same venue back in 2010; a fifth late concession this term to send Slutsky to the floor.
6 – It’s going to be a long week
There were a few songs at Carrow Road. The fans’ attentions were already switching. I’ve mentioned Oliveira’s quotes – they will get repeated. It must be derby week.
Of course, City have timed this part of their run quite well given they have overtaken Ipswich Town in the Championship table only this weekend.
At this point it’s worth thinking about the times Norwich have gone into derbies when you weren’t sure about the character of the group, or whether the players even cared that much.
Then think about how much City kept pushing for the equaliser on Saturday. How hard they celebrated it. How together they have been – even coming through such a downcast August. Or simply the sight of Daniel Farke leaping in the air on 96 minutes, heading towards his players’ celebrations.
For City fans and players to once again be heading south in such a collective mood, is exactly where they need to be.