Following on from her fine piece yesterday, in which she examined what has made City tick this season, Emma has followed it up with a piece that looks at the same journey but from a statistical angle. Enjoy…
Leeds United was the turning point, it was a shock to the system for the Canaries.
It was also the last time I felt heavily disappointed when we conceded and watched play fall apart in front of me.
Because ever since that all-important international break and Middlesbrough victory, the attitude around Carrow Road has changed and Daniel Farke has proven himself to be able to adapt to the situations English football, and particularly Championship football throws at you.
Over such period (including Boro at home), the Canaries rallied to eight wins, one draw and one loss in the Championship – picking up 25 points out of 30, seeing them exceed the points the club had previously ranked up at the 16-match mark by at least the past four Championship seasons.
Two of the last four games saw them go behind first and turn around a victory by the full-time whistle.
In only two games, had they walked in at half-time in the lead – four times they had been losing.
City have only scored four times this season in the first half, whilst they’ve conceded seven times during the first 45 minutes. 33% of their goals have come after the 75th minute, with 20 goals coming in the second half, conceding 10.
Ten fixtures were decided by a goal margin of just one – how many times have City lost in a tight 1-0 result before?
And as it’s already been revealed, City’s form has meant they are in good company sitting among PSG, Juventus Manchester City, Inter Milan to make up the top five in form teams in Europe – whilst several of the top Premier League teams pop up, it is only a scroll down you find Sunderland (20), Luton Town (23) and Portsmouth (30) to be the first teams mentioned outside the top flight. At rank 44th, Nottingham Forest appear to be first Championship team to be mentioned ahead of Birmingham (46) and QPR (47).
And while towards the beginning of September, our injury list was finally shortening – it was a brief break. From playing every game of the season and becoming a firm fans’ favourite since solidifying City’s defence, it was Grant Hanley who sparked a return of the dreaded feeling as he joined long-serving physio attendees, Kenny McClean and Ben Marshall. And no-one was ready for Onel Hernandez, a player who looked to confirm his ‘Player of the Season’ status from one month alone, to require surgery.
Throw in the consistent “it’ll be a late decision” on the day before the match, whilst being dealt with the blow of Todd Cantwell and Marco Stiepermann both having to miss games despite securing their place in the starting line-up, and Teemu Pukki having to miss out (though with a swift comeback and will now always have to be wrapped up in bubble wrap on international break).
It’s been a rotten few months of injury news but somehow City’s most impressive on the pitch.
And it was probably summed up following City’s exit of the Carabao Cup by talkSPORT’s Natalie Sawyer:
First time watching @NorwichCityFC this season & impressed. Caused Bournemouth a number of problems – only their finishing that let them down & ultimately resulted in the defeat. Remember as well Norwich made 8 changes too so plenty of positives to take for Daniel Farke’s side
— Natalie Sawyer (@nataliesawyer) October 30, 2018
The Cherries had also made their fair share of changes too but on paper, the team Eddie Howe had named still had ranked up 1,506 appearances in the Premier League between them – to make it fair, 495 came from Jermain Defoe alone, but only Marc Pugh (67 appearances) and Diego Rico (3 appearances) had under 100 Premier League appearances.
Only Alex Tettey (71 appearances) and Ivo Pinto (10 appearances) had experience in the top division – both with City.
It was definitely a game for the curious cat to watch and once again, hidden gems (and statistics) stand out.
Probably the most deserving gets the first mention – Mario Vrancic.
Having signed last summer, he’s already had a season to adjust to the demands of English football and grew into things as the season went on. But having featured 35 times during last season, scoring once and assisting twice, he would undoubtedly be wanting more from this season with the departure of James Maddison and the Murphy brothers.
An injury during pre-season has made it a tougher start than the Bosnian had wished for.
Last season, with Maddison operating as a number 10, it was left to Vrancic to usually fill a deeper role – now currently occupied and thriving under the control of Moritz Leitner and Alex Tettey. And with Stiepermann finding his place in the team ever since City’s Carabao Cup Round Two clash with Cardiff City, Vrancic has had to settle for the bench since his return to first team football and has only played 114 minutes.
Nonetheless, the ‘super sub’ (as he’s had to become) scored just five minutes after coming on against Reading to secure all three points, adding another through a penalty against Wigan. Whilst three goals of City’s goals have come after Vrancic entered play – against QPR, Vrancic replaced Emi Buendia in the 68th minute and Teemu Pukki scored just three minutes later, whilst against Nottingham Forest, with play level at 1-1, Vrancic replaced Stiepermann on the 80th minute, whilst Timm Klose got his second and sealed victory just four minutes later.
Coincidence, maybe. But by delving further into his statistics, Vrancic is an impressive sub.
This season, 61.5% of his shots were on target, whilst against Bournemouth alone, four of his five shots were on target (although his expected goals percentage was low at 0.39).
He has an expected goals totals above 0.60 three times (against Sheffield Wednesday, Wycombe Wanderers and his penalty against Wigan Athletic) and he has contributed to 13 shot assists this campaign (seven against Bournemouth).
He has a pass accuracy of 82.4%, over half of his through passes were accurate whilst according to his expected assists, he was awarded a deserved assist against Wednesday, while missed out against Bournemouth. 76% of his long passes are accurate too.
His dribble statistics are possibly one of the standouts, with only one of his 15 dribbles being unsuccessful, meaning all eight of his dribbles against Bournemouth were successful.
With 72% of his passes to the final third being accurate, including that more than impressive through ball to Dennis Srbeny in the final stages on Saturday as Craig Dawson gifted the ball to the midfielder, Vrancic has proved to be a threat going forward.
But fans should and will feel reassured with his defensive play – on the occasions Vrancic does play a backwards pass, only once has it been inaccurate, whilst nearly 60% of the time, his recoveries occur in the opposite half. Exactly half of his offensive duels are won, including nine of his 13 offensive duels against Bournemouth.
He makes a good case for needing 12 players on the pitch at any given time.
Whilst another player who had to spend his fair share of minutes warming the bench waiting for his opportunity to come goes by the name of ‘Christoph Zimmermann’. With Timm Klose and Grant Hanley forming what we would perhaps call the ‘formidable centre-back pairing’, it was harsh on Zimmermann, who had done zero, zip, zilch, nada, absolutely nothing wrong. He had already proved to be more than a “third tier German player”.
And whilst Hanley’s injury concerned many, the 25-year-old has stepped up and also supported Ben Godfrey against Bournemouth, despite still learning himself. For a 6ft4 giant, he may not win a huge amount of aerial duels (56%) but he’d rather hassle and use his strength and build to his advantage, whilst he has made 87 interceptions this season and 54 clearances across the season so far.
Though for the foreseeable future, it will be that ball to Max Aarons under pressure, which saw Pukki claim his second of the game against Sheffield Wednesday which will be remembered.
Dennis Srbeny is probably the other remaining name left to be mentioned after the past week – whether that was the “hallelujah’s” of a goal or disgruntled sounds wishing for the comeback of Pukki and Jordan Rhodes.
He is still a long way off from the Pukki’s and Rhodes’ who reside in the forefront of Farke’s brain. And he has openly admitted to the German papers the challenge of “the league, language, club and level” – saying “most of our [Championship] clubs could compete in the first Bundesliga”. And whilst he’ll have to sit on the sidelines for the most part and rely on cup runs to develop properly given his limited game time, questions have been raised whether a loan spell in English football could help him, but it will remain a matter of patience and trust in Farke.
But last week suggested he’s encouraging and learning yet unfortunate.
Expected goals (xG) give a good indication as to how good a chance is and on how many occasions would a player had scored such chance. His total is currently 3.32, meaning he should have scored around three (which he has). But two of those goals came from City’s match against Cardiff City, where his total is 0.92, suggesting both of his goals were actually technically harder to score on a number of probabilities. Against Bournemouth, where he has six shots but only one on target, his total xG was 0.52 – which is fairly low for a total.
Away from the goal element, Srbeny’s hold up play and contributions to the team has seemingly improved or at least have become more noticeable. 18 of his 22 dribbles (81.8%) were successful, whilst he has assisted shots seven times this season and has made 12 progressive runs, including three against Bournemouth. Whilst his statistics for winning aerial duels and offensive duels aren’t the highest at 27.4% and 53%, it does prove he is a willing participant to hold up play by shielding the ball and using his height to his advantage.
It’s worthy of at least a mention.
For a team to thrive when odds are against them, when they are hit hard by injuries of their best players and things still need ironing out, it takes courage and a special team – and for Farke to trust his instinct in trusting inexperienced, young players in the division (including Max Aarons who has since flourished at just 18-years-old), it’s risky but it’s also an indescribable feeling when it pays off.
It’s proof Farke has found a way to instil his methodology and allow it to flow throughout the club and somehow work in any situation that is thrown at us (for the time being).
In the same way I ended after City’s victory against Middlesbrough (with a tweak):
Things have clicked and will hopefully continue to keep clicking but maybe that’ll be the beauty of this season.