Four points from four games for City looks, on the face of it, a poor return but there are some caveats.
While Daniel Farke is fully aware of his brief, the frustration reverberating around Colney is understandable due to the unyielding transfer rumours.
This evidently has had an impact on his approach to games.
In addition to the rumours, Kieran Dowell’s long-term injury has also exacerbated issues around the team’s base formation. With Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia both recently omitted from selection and subject to media criticism from Farke, Norwich’s lack of a natural Number 10 has impacted his decision making.
City appear to be deviating away from their accustomed 4-2-3-1 into more of a 4-1-4-1, with Oliver Skipp noticeably dropping in between the centre-backs during build-up play.
Such movement allows for City’s midfielders to drop deeper into pockets of space they can receive possession in. A process which is made all the smoother with the introduction of Ben Gibson – Farke’s first left-footed centre-back during his time at the club.
This brings me on to my first section…
What I found most pleasing about City’s performance against Derby was their play through the thirds, most pertinently Gibson’s introduction into the team.
I’ve spoken a lot about my wish for a left-footed centre-back in the side, and while at risk of sounding like a broken record, in laymen terms the benefits it provides are two-fold – body positioning and pass trajectory.
Essentially, it’s harder for opposition players to intercept a pass when the trajectory of the ball is away from them, as opposed to towards them.
Evidence of this was seen early on in the game when Gibson played a pass into Marco Stiepermann’s feet. Its trajectory meant the path of the ball is curving away from the Derby midfielder.
If Ben Godfrey was in the same position, the pass would have probably been played out wide, not allowing the quick interchange of passing triangles through the midfield third.
On a side note, notice how much space all three of City’s midfield have, but that’s something I’ll discuss in more detail at a later date.
Gibson’s influence is felt during the phase of play which culminates in them winning a penalty (more on that, later).
This time, the pass is fizzed into Emi Buendia, who takes up the place in-between the two Derby midfielders (again, note the space City’s midfielders have).
Norwich’s combination play within the midfield third results in them winning a penalty. None of this would have happened without Gibson as, again, the ball would have gone out wide.
But Gibson isn’t going to get in the side solely by being left-footed. He positively impacted the defensive structure too, winning 100% of his aerial duels and making four clearances.
Ultimately there isn’t another player who provides Farke with this attribute and I fully expect the ex-Middlesbrough defender to be an important facet this season.
From one left-footed defender to another. Loan signing Xavi Quintilla has been a standout performer thus far but, despite some pleasing performances, the attention surrounding the Spaniard is largely around the novelty factor of having a wide player capable of excellent delivery.
This is an aspect seldom seen is City sides of recent years. City’s wingbacks have predominantly been placed out wide to create more space for the central midfield to operate in, whether this is by overlapping runs or pulling defenders out of position, the main requirement has not been to deliver teasing crosses onto the head of a target man.
The decision to recruit Przemyslaw Placheta and Jordan Hugill, as well as the further integration of Adam Idah suggests City will be tempted to incorporate differing patterns of play to utilise the strengths of the aforementioned players.
My criticism of this particular aspect of play comes with the personnel, as opposed to the additional strand City are attempting to incorporate.
We’re all aware of Teemu Pukki’s strengths – heading is not one.
The Finn’s goal against Preston shouldn’t affect this. He was massively helped by Norfolkonian Declan Rudd’s calamitous goalkeeping.
By all means, utilise Quintilla’s strengths by a proliferation of crosses, but Hugill and Idah simply need more minutes to take advantage of those deliveries. Pukki quite simply isn’t that player.
Quintilla attempted 13 crosses, with only two being successful.
For me, it highlights wider issues of Norwich’s current plan. They’re stuck between reverting back to what worked in 2018/19 and their new, revised philosophy.
Incorporating fresh patterns of play will make City more versatile in attack, but relying on a player who has scored two headed goals in 85 City appearances is wishful thinking.
While we’re on the topic of the Finnish forward, I want to talk about the lack of success from the penalty spot.
This part of the article isn’t supposed to be about what went well or wrong. Sometimes in football, things just happen but Pukki’s slip, unfortunately, personifies the last 12 months for City.
Does it raise a bigger point about Pukki’s confidence? Potentially. But unfortunately for City, it was just one of those days.
I was angered by the post-match analysis from Sky’s media team on Saturday.
Ultimately if Pukki doesn’t slip, the whole game is flipped on his head. You’re no longer talking about the defensive nous of Derby, but how Teemu Pukki is back after two goals in three games.
And that my friends, is football.
Billy is ½ of NCFC podcast The Revere End. You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook @therevereend and listen to their podcast on Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts.
Find links to our socials and podcast content here: https://linktr.ee/therevereend