Oh, Josh 🙁
For all the whys and wherefores of team selections, formations and substitutions that did or didn’t happen, the main reason we’re not dissecting our first win of the season this morning is that poor ol’ Josh, when faced with an open goal from 25 yards, horribly under-hit it.
He’ll not forget that one for a while, probably never, but luckily professional footballers are made of sterner stuff than yours truly, who can still recall in vivid detail misses for Wenhaston Reserves, aged 16, Estudiantes (from Beccles, not Argentina), aged 18, and Intachem (Lowestoft Sunday League), aged 34.
There were others in between, no doubt, but those are the three I’ve never forgotten. But I digress. The point is, they stay with you, regardless of whether you’re playing in front of 27,000 or three people and a dog,
It was no coincidence that Sargent, when presented with another good opportunity early in the second half, after being put through by Teemu Pukki, took a poor first touch that spared him another chance to shoot.
Such was the magnitude and significance of that miss, I really hope he is on the receiving end of some soothing words at Colney. What he doesn’t need is people writing about it. I’ll shush.
There were other chances of course but this worrying dearth of composure in front of goal is only going to end once City can finally hit the net. Even Pukki, fresh from breaking international scoring records, is showing an unusual degree of hesitancy in front of goal when wearing a yellow shirt.
I guess it’s all part of the bottom-of-the-table-with-no-wins effect.
The upside was obviously the much improved defensive solidity that produced that very un-Norwich City-like concept of two consecutive clean sheets. Even in the Championship that was a rarely experienced phenomenon.
So fair play to Daniel Farke for finding a solution to the first part of the conundrum around making us better. The second part, the trickier part, comes with finding a way to retain that solidity and that resilience while also carrying a consistent threat going forward.
As things stand, the chances we create come via persistence, hard work and scrapping but it helps to have in the locker the ability to create opportunities via some fluidity, or a flash of genius, or a well-worked move. Just like we did in the heady days of 2018-19 and 2020-21.
The difficulty for Farke is finding the right combo of midfielders and attackers among the current group who can provide that missing edge.
At the moment the chosen three of Lees-Melou, Normann and McLean are doing everything asked of them in terms of proving a protective barrier in front of Kabak, Hanley and Gibson, but of the three midfielders, only the Norwegian looks capable of picking a pass if given the time.
That’s not say there weren’t some good performances in that area of the pitch yesterday. Both Normann and his French colleague had their best games for City, with the former having an outstanding afternoon against his former club until cramp robbed him of the ability to even walk.
Against a Brighton midfield that was very comfortable in possession and, at times, slick in the way they shifted the ball, Normann more than matched them both in and out of possession. While his range of passing and a tendency to look for a longer pass has taken us away from the version of Farkeball we’re most familiar with, it has added a new dimension.
The crux is finding a way to best use it and finding the mix of attackers who will best benefit from it. Currently, we’re still searching but with a mixed bag of options available I remain hopeful this is another conundrum for which Team Farke will eventually find a solution.
Time, of course, is a rare commodity in the Premier League and to think we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the season already is a scary thought when you’re still scratching around for your first win and when your next game is Chelsea away.
A point against a thoroughly decent Brighton side was okay though, and had we have been in mid-table is just the type of result we would have accepted and moved on. But the fact we’re looking so perilous and win-less at the foot of the table just heightens the disappointment, especially as it was accompanied by so many what-if moments.
Until that first win arrives we’re likely to remain a nervy, tetchy, niggly bunch.
But move on we must although away trips to the current European champions do tend to come with a health warning. Now that will be a proper test of our newfound resilience.
The critics are out in force on social media this morning, and I get that. Teams that are bottom of the league and without a win are fair game and, obviously, there are still plenty of things that need to be improved upon, but I see enough signs to suggest we will get better and more competitive in the coming weeks and months.
Whether that improvement will be enough to see us kick on or even up is another matter. That’s for another day. Right now, I’d just take a win.