Robin Sainty: Normann could solve City's weak points
- Credit: Tony Thrussell
Inevitably the loss at Arsenal has once again raised the question of whether Norwich City are going to fall victim to the same failings as two seasons ago.
It was always going to be the case that Arsenal would make a fast start given the pressure on Mikel Arteta and so it proved, but City dealt with that pressure competently, with Brandon Williams, having been beaten to the byline by Pepe early on, then proceeding to tame the Ivorian to such an extent that he never looked likely to do so again.
Grant Hanley and Andrew Omobamidele, hardly looking like a youngster making his Premier League debut, were solid in the middle of defence while the central midfield trio of Pierre Lees-Melou, Lukas Rupp and Kenny McLean were industrious and used what possession was available to them well.
By half-time City were looking composed and appeared to have built a base from which to push on. However, as the second half developed things changed. Having previously looked comfortable in possession, City started to make unforced errors, with Tim Krul, normally so composed with the ball at his feet, particularly culpable, and his lack of composure seemed to spread to those in front of him as more and more passes went astray, allowing Arsenal to create real pressure for the first time since the opening minutes.
Whilst their goal owed a huge amount to luck, it stemmed from a poor ball from Krul that Max Aarons was unable to control as City once again became the architects of their own downfall.
That is a too familiar occurrence and horribly reminiscent of two seasons ago, as was the fact that having gone behind, City seemed incapable of upping the tempo to exploit Arsenal’s inevitable anxiety to get their first win over the line.
Ponderous passing across the back allowed the hosts ample time to drop into formation, and with no further need to press they were happy to sit back and capitalise on the errors that came with depressing regularity.
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However, while there are certainly worrying undertones of 2019/20 and fans have a right to feel concerned, there are also plenty of reasons to keep the faith at this early stage.
With Matthias Normann and Ozan Kabak yet to appear in City colours, and other new signings still finding their feet at the club, no one should be writing the Canaries off, particularly given the tough run of early fixtures.
Of course, there will be those who will query whether Arsenal away falls into that category this season, but it’s a fact that despite their poor start they have spent £150m this summer and their team on Saturday was packed with quality players.
Nevertheless, there are clearly problems that Daniel Farke needs to resolve. The first of these is the fact that while City are struggling to stretch opponents with their current system, they themselves are being stretched, with Aarons regularly finding himself pulled inside to cover Omobamidele on Saturday allowing Kieran Tierney the run of Arsenal’s left flank.
Part of that is down to how slowly City sometimes move the ball in transition, but it’s also because their full-backs are getting less support from midfield than last season.
The second big issue is finding ways to provide more support for Teemu Pukki. Once again at The Emirates the Finn ran himself into the ground, but received minimal service in the areas where he could have hurt Arsenal, while Christos Tzolis rarely received the ball early enough to be able to face up his marker in a one-on-one situation.
Hopefully, Normann will prove to be a solution to both problems. While his defensive work will be key, his recent games for Norway demonstrated that he has excellent vision and is happy to release long passes, which could be just the variation in attacking dynamic that is missing with City currently looking rather one dimensional.