Premier League points have been hard to come by so far for City and if the last couple of months have taught us anything, it’s that each and every precious Premier League point must be cherished.
The mood in the Norwich camp was certainly buoyed by Saturday’s 2-0 win at Goodison, with the players deservedly celebrating at Hyde Parks’ Winter Wonderland post-match. There was some top tier fancy dress on show, but it did beg the question, who was Buzz Lightyear? (anyone know? – Ed)
On to more pressing matters and City’s first Premier League away goal(s) since the opening day of the season, and a first away win of the season coincided with the return of Christoph Zimmermann.
Just a coincidence?
In all honesty, I didn’t expect Zimbo to make that much of a difference. I thought, and said as much, that too much pressure had been put on his return from injury and an upturn in City’s fortunes would require a lot more than just his return to full fitness.
I was wrong, to a certain extent. I think we were all expecting City’s defensive unit to look more organised and functional once Zimbo was back and that much was evident, with both Ben Godfrey and Max Aarons looking more assured alongside Mein Kapitan.
Sam Byram deserves praise too having been asked to do a job at left back – a job he did superbly – and he could have grabbed a goal, having headed wide after a sumptuous free-kick from Mayor McLean.
But it’s not just the defensive solidity that Zimmermann offers. He is also confident in pinging a ball over the top to bypass the midfield, as we saw for Todd Cantwell’s goal at the weekend. Having both Christoph and Godfrey able to do so offers the team more dynamism going forward and allows City to adapt their approach throughout games.
However, attributing the weekends result solely to Zimmermann’s return would be wrong – the whole team were immense. After much debate amongst the several Norwich fan channels about whether City should field both Tettey and Trybull in front of the back four, Farke opted to test out the theory and the whole defensive unit looked more assured as a result.
City faced numerous efforts on goal during that second half at Goodison Park, mainly from Gylfi Sigurdsson and each time the shot was met by a block from Godfrey, Tettey or Trybull. If the ball found its way past the last man, Krul was there to save. It was a resolute defensive performance, City totally deserving of the three points by the time the full-time whistle sounded.
Interestingly, Kenny McLean was deployed in the 10 role, something I thought we would have seen sooner having played there at Aberdeen and also shown a respectable goalscoring return from midfield while in a Norwich shirt. However, I didn’t expect him to be quite so effective in the air, troubling Mason Holgate all afternoon; the Cantwell goal coming about as a result of that exact duel, Kenny winning the flick-on to set Teemu Pukki away.
That first goal is an important one for me. It’s not the type of goal you usually associate with this Norwich team, but it highlighted that we can affect games with a different style, a more direct approach that will be required at times this season.
The other big talking point was the decision to drop Emi Buendia to the bench, opting for Todd in his place. Both Cantwell and Onel Hernandez offered their full-back more protection on Saturday, noticeably defending from a wider position than we have seen in recent weeks.
This was a welcome sight after the free-roaming approach Buendia took during the Watford game. More defensive discipline is required at the top level and the Dereham Deco duly delivered.
Aside from his goal that he took wonderfully – one touch and a calm assured finish – Cantwell had a very impressive afternoon, having a decent effort deflected over the bar in the first half, tracking back and dispossessing Everton midfielders on several occasions and generally providing a reminder of just how far he has come in a year.
City were excellent, but Everton were poor, as a result ‘relegation six-pointer’ has been bandied about since the close of play on Saturday and that could well be right looking at Everton’s upcoming fixtures.
However, it was only two weeks ago that Watford dismantled us at home and so as much as I would like to say City have turned a corner, I am cautious in doing so after just one game against poor opposition, at least on the day.
As I’ve already alluded to, the win deserved, but when Dennis Srbeny tucked the second in, in the 92nd minute the whole afternoon and result became that more surreal. I really didn’t expect to see a saluting Srbeny in front of the travelling fans. Fair play to him – he got his chance and took it with aplomb.
Arsenal at home is up next. I expect we’ll see an unchanged team and rightly so. If we can perform as we did at Goodison Park and not afford Arsenal the respect shown to Manchester United, Canary fans could well be treated to a good one at Carrow Road.