It’s that most wonderful time of year. Fixtures are coming thick and fast but for Daniel Farke, the next may not come quick enough following the first defeat since October 6th to Frank Lampard’s Derby County.
While Carrow Road brought more relevance to our entrance tune All of the lights, the curtain call may have been for Coldplay’s Nobody said it was easy as Derby did to Norwich what we have done so often to teams this season.
Farke will have re-watched the game back at Colney, wondering how a 2-0 lead ended in a 3-4 defeat and despite an excellent run of form, he will perhaps be looking to change his system to stem the flow of goals conceded in recent weeks.
It will be imperative for Norwich’s hopes of automatic promotion that we regroup and deliver a win away to a Brentford side that, although sit perilously in 18th place, have a good track record of scoring and have only lost four games at home all season.
For Norwich fans, a second defeat on the bounce will be nothing short of a crisis if you read any of the fan forums but either way both West Brom and Sheffield United are hot on our tails and there’s absolutely no room for respite in the Championship.
At 2-0 the game should have been done and dusted. In terms of taking learnings from the game, it’s the period of the game which took us to 2-2 where we should be most concerned. Taking that lead into half-time would have taken the game in a completely different direction and there was a feeling of panic that ran throughout the team at 2-1 which isn’t the characteristic of a team vying to be champions.
Looking ahead to Brentford, Farke shouldn’t have too much to change, but he has to find that balance again between attack and defence. Tettey, for example, offers so much to the team, but in recent weeks his mistakes have been a key part in goals we’ve conceded so that may be the perfect time for Trybull to come in as a holding midfielder alongside Vrancic.
The back four will take most of the criticism for the number of goals conceded in recent weeks, but watching how the games have unfolded what has been evident more than anything was how open we were in midfield after conceding possession.
When we have control of the ball and are dictating the play we are one of the best sides in the league, however without the ball we don’t look at all comfortable – had it not been for that excellent belief instilled by Farke we could be in the same area as Aston Villa, such are the fine margins in football.
Despite all of that, there are plenty of positives to take into the Brentford game. A win keeps us in touching distance of 1st place and our depth in squad leaves us with plenty of options. As a team Brentford are weak defensively and Norwich should be able to create plenty of chances; Pukki has been exposed to a lot of match time in recent weeks it would be good to see Rhodes get 90 minutes again.
Score prediction? 1-1
If Norwich want to secure automatic promotion these fixtures are must-wins. We have the squad depth to deal with our injuries but I can’t see our defensive fragility being solved in a couple of days worth of rest.
If Farke sticks to his usual team sheet I can’t see how we will maintain the level of tempo we’re used to, I think there will be a lot of tired legs.
Marco Stiepermann continues to be one of my picks for player of the season. Every week I’m seeing him become more and more important in how we create opportunities so I’d tip him to be involved with our goal in some way.
Finally, the transfer window speculation
Premier League teams are unsurprisingly circling around Max Aarons and for Norwich City a bid of £15 million plus will be hard to ignore. Hopefully that will involve a majority of the cash up front with further cash in add-ons but it will be hard for Farke to replace him in January unless he’s going to give Passlack a crack at the first-team.
There will undoubtedly be Bundesliga teams looking at players like Stiepermann but if Norwich are serious about a promotion push they should only let one go at most and look to bring in maybe one defensive-minded player to sit alongside Mo Leitner in midfield.