Given that Daniel Farke had barely a day to work with his players since the capitulation to Watford, it should come as no surprise to any Canary fan that, once again, there was a familiar theme to this defeat. The Sky commentator summed it up in eight words. Too porous at the back. Too blunt up front.
Farke switched to three central defenders, but it only took Liverpool four minutes to demonstrate that you can have as many back there as you like, in none of them attack the ball, it doesn’t matter.
For the whole game, Liverpool targeted City’s zonal marking with looping corners. Only the first was successful but it was enough. Origi beat three players in yellow to the ball. Minamino was too quick with the turn and shot.
City had a chance to hit straight back with a quick counter. Gilmour made a good run to play in Tzolis but the subsequent cross was frustratingly too heavy for Idah.
There then followed a period where, despite some good work in midfield, City just couldn’t get a toe hold on the game. After 15 minutes, it was 65 per cent possession to the visitors but City began to grow into the game, having more success beating the press.
Rupp was neat and industrious whilst Tzolis was battling well and at the centre of some good City moves. Gilmour was also displaying some of the qualities that made Webber so keen to secure his services.
On 26 minutes, City were pinned in at the back. Giannoulis cut inside with a pacy run but was fouled. Hanley played the free-kick to Gilmour and the young scot found Tzolis in space on the left. His final ball didn’t match the rest of the move. Minutes later, Giannoulis played a great ball to his international colleague, but his shot hit the side netting.
Liverpool were always dangerous in possession, targeting the gap between the three City defenders and the wing-backs, particularly Bali Mumba. On 33. Gomez played Tsimikas in but Omobamidele did well to recover and block the shot.
On 41 minutes came City’s big chance. A ball out of defence found Mumba on the right. His turn and flick found Gilmour who made a surging run before he found Tzolis. The young Greek hit a stinging shot that Kelleher could only palm away. Giannoulis, rushing onto it, cleverly got his body between ball and defender drawing the foul. Penalty.
Tzolis stepped up and hit it firmly down the middle. Too firmly as it hit the legs of the diving Kelleher. Idah’s follow up was blocked. Chance gone.
City were unchanged in the second half. By this I don’t mean the 11 on the pitch even though there were no substitutions. Unchanged in that it took just four minutes to succumb to Liverpool. This time it was that ball again, between the back three and the wing-backs. Mumba was left with two players and was unable to stop the cross.
This time, Origi found the space between centre backs and nodded home.
From thereon in, Liverpool took the sting out of the game, and City were unable to force the issue.
On 68 minutes, Pukki replaced Tzolis and Rashica replaced Mumba, who had had a quiet game and emphasised how much of a hole will be left when Max Aarons eventually departs NR1.
The two substitutes combined immediately but Pukki’s ball wide to Idah was too firm and went out of play. On 76, Dowell replaced Pierre Lees-Melou.
City huffed and puffed but were unable to carve out a dangerous chance. Pukki scuffed wide, Idah hit a speculative overhead kick weakly, then hit a further good chance straight at the keeper when a ball to Pukki looked a better option.
It was all over on 79 minutes. City battled well to win possession from a Liverpool throw-in deep in City territory, only for Giannoulis to give the ball away. Minamino somehow skipped and tripped his way through the City defence and scuffed the ball past Gunn.
And that, as they say, was all folks. A really mixed night.
While the three at the back solved precisely nothing for City’s current defensive woes, pushing the wingbacks forward made the midfield trio look like the most balanced solution so far. Rupp tidying, turning and giving, Gilmour moving the ball well and Lees-Melou adding muscle and attacking intent.
Up front, Tzolis added some welcome energy and put the Liverpool defence under pressure and intercepted a number of loose balls. Ultimately his final ball was lacking and if only hie penalty had gone in. There were glimpses of his chemistry with Giannoulis – who had a reasonable game, let down by the mistake for the final goal.
We are told that those at Colney really rate Adam Idah. Tonight just wasn’t his night. He battled and harried but ultimately nothing fell for him. He combined well with Pukki in the final minutes though, showing that an attacking axis of Idah, Pukki and Sargent may offer something for opponents to think about.
So back to the elephant in the stadium. That central defence.
The defenders all played well individually, but as a unit they were some way short of par. On a number of occasions, a single player won the ball in the air from three, four and once, even five City defenders.
If Farke can just sort this out, then it will make a vast difference to the results. From his pre-match presser, it sounds like he knows this.