It’s said that you can’t have everything in life. The same seems to be true of Norwich City under Daniel Farke. Attacking lineups bring goals but concessions. Defensive performances clean sheets but no scores. There’s no denying it’s a work in progress, but so far there’s been more questions than answers from Farke’s side.
There are some certainties though…
Certainty 1: Norwich v Burton on a wet night wasn’t going to be pretty
As Norwich fans we’ve been there before. A struggling team comes to Carrow Road to play under the lights ✔️ City end up being frustrated ✔️ Struggling team leaves Norfolk with at least a point ✔️
Given the fact Burton came into this game on the back of a mauling away to Leeds at the weekend. And given Norwich have employed a more defensive approach following horror shows at Villa and Millwall, a bore draw was probably inevitable at Carrow Road last night.
Sticking with virtually the same side – Wes for Maddison apart – that defeated Birmingham, City never really got into their stride against an organised if limited Burton side.
Whereas an early goal against Birmingham forced the visitors to at least try to attack occasionally, the sluggish start against Burton meant the away side were able to dig in, time waste, and – with a little help from the referee – generally spoil any chance of a football match breaking out.
That City did actually manage to breach a determined back line on more than one occasion is easy to forget, as poor performances from Murphy, Oliveira and Vrancic meant they were unable to take advantage of some pretty promising positions.
Had the final ball been more precise, or one of the chances taken – and Josh Murphy really, really should have done better with his – we’d have been looking at at least a 1-0 win and another three points.
As it was though, it was two points dropped. And many questions, and eyebrows were raised.
Certainty 2: It’s a game of opinions
Did Norwich need to line up with two defensive midfielders against one of the league’s bottom sides? No. Could you blame Daniel Farke with maintaining the status quo after a solid win against Birmingham? No.
Did Norwich need to line up with two defensive midfielders against one of the league’s bottom sides? Yes. Could you blame Daniel Farke with maintaining the status quo after a solid win against Birmingham? Yes.
You could make a case for both sides of the above arguments.
I know this because my Barclay End neighbours and I did. We also debated Nelson Oliveira v Cameron Jerome. The Portuguese didn’t score, so of course CamJam was the better option. A couple of weeks ago Nelson was the golden boy. Fickle much. Thankfully we all agreed that while Yanic Wildschut is a solution, he’s not the solution.
[Knowing the views of the bloke who sits in front of me about Wes Hoolahan I do sometimes wonder about their football knowledge. He wasn’t there last night. The bloke. Not Wes. He was there. Though not at his best. The bloke would have loved that. But anyway…]
Following the defensive shambles that had occurred in Birmingham and south London, it’s no surprise the Head Coach stuck with a formation that had performed effectively if not entirely efficiently against the blue side from Birmingham on Saturday.
Given that a second consecutive clean sheet was achieved it could be said the plan worked. To an extent. Given both shutouts were against teams in the bottom three, the argument that the Canaries have solved their defensive woes is yet to be conclusively proven.
Come through a difficult looking October unscathed and it could be claimed that the confidence gained by these two clean sheets will have been worth it.
Lose at newly promoted Sheffield United on Saturday and it won’t have been.
Indeed, to only concede three shots on target in two games is actually quite impressive. Only scoring one goal less so. Depending on your outlook this defensive approach is a sign of the Head Coach learning and adapting his team accordingly, or just not being able to manage in the Championship.
Certainty 3: There are no easy games
It annoys me that there’s still a belief this Norwich side should roll over the likes of Burton. The Premier League Norwich, with the likes of Nathan Redmond, Robert Snodgrass, John Ruddy (pre-injury) and Seb Bassong (pre-losing the plot), maybe.
But a Norwich team featuring a host of new players, many of whom are young, many of whom have never played in England before, six games into a season in which they’ve conceded 4 goals twice and 3 once? No. I’m not having it.
If Burton should have been low on confidence following a 5-0 defeat, then why shouldn’t Norwich following 8 recent concessions on the road?
Gone are the days of just being able to turn up and beat teams. Just ask England. Iceland are no Zaire circa 1971. Burton not Stockport circa 2002. Teams are just not completely incapable anymore.
Burton aren’t a bad team. They’re just not very good.
Unfortunately, yesterday neither were Norwich.
But another clean sheet could mean we’re now starting to see a stronger, tighter defence.
Or it may not.