It’s been a long two weeks.
While the extra seven days spent on the fields of Colney will have hopefully worked well for David Wagner as he looks to embed Wagner-ball in the psyche of his new squad, for the rest of us it’s felt like an age.
Given the excitement generated by the German’s first two league games, tomorrow can’t come soon enough.
Even though 3000 of our own at the CBS Arena and another 1000+ at Deepdale have already sampled it, for those of us who haven’t, the prospect of going to a City game with hope in our hearts feels good.
It’s been too long.
It also happens to be a game against the runaway league leaders who spanked us at their place and who are the benchmark against which all other Championship teams are currently measured. As things stand, other than Sheffield United, the rest are way off.
We think we’ve improved massively since the dawning of the age of Wagner, but this one is a proper yardstick. Especially so after bombing so badly at Turf Moor in October.
Just 1-0 it may have been on the night but it was a whooping by almost every metric going, and on the eye it was as painful as they come. In my post-match piece I bullet-pointed the main traits of City’s performance that evening. For the record…
- No shape
- No confidence
I missed out slow and hesitant.
I’m guessing that as part of his prep for tomorrow’s game, Wagner will have watched and analysed the lowlights of that awful night in Lancashire and, as a result, will have reminded his players this week that that was how not to do it.
While the stats of the game on BBC Sport (below) suggest that we did a decent job defensively, the lack of ambition and the failure, or even willingness, to retain possession of the ball was horrible.
So too the way they kowtowed to a team they should have been able to go toe-to-toe with.
But if there’s one thing we have learned over the last two games, it’s that Wagner will not tolerate the level of half-heartedness we witnessed on October 26.
Win or lose tomorrow, Burnley will face a City side that will play at full throttle and there will be none of the timidity of that Turf Moor performance. Instead, there will be intensity and intent.
Even with the return of Christos Tzolis to the squad and the eleventh-hour addition of Marquinhos, I’m not expecting Wagner to deviate far from the starting XI at the CBS Arena, with – assuming there are no injuries to contend with – a line-up looking something like…
The only possible area of contention could be at left-back where at Coventry, the introduction of Sam McCallum at halftime in place of a struggling Giannoulis had a positive impact. Wagner may, however, hand the stripes back to Giannoulis in an attempt to put that shakey 45 behind him.
For Burnley, who with a weakened team drew 0-0 with Ipswich in the FA Cup last weekend, I expect Vincent Kompany to return to something like the line-up that beat WBA 2-1 a week earlier.
Kompany has tended to switch his line-up around, so it’s far from certain that this will be their starting XI tomorrow, but such is the strength of their squad, any changes made will not weaken them one iota. The Belgian may feel able to field an under-strength team when playing in Suffolk, but not so in Norfolk.
Jay Rodriguez for Ashley Barnes is one possible change – one experienced, grizzled veteran of a striker for another – but both, ominously for City, have successfully made the transition from Dyche-ball to the more sophisticated requirements of Kompany.
The Clarets spent circa £12.5million in the January window on five new faces, with the bulk of it used to bring South African striker Lyle Foster over from KVC Westerlo (Belgian Pro League). Swansea striker Michael Obafemi also arrived on loan, albeit with a view to a permanent move at the end of this campaign.
So… two new strikers, either of whom may be handed the Ashley Barnes role tomorrow.
Burnley are now unrecognisable from the team that got relegated last season and have adapted remarkably well to an ethos far removed from the one that saw them spend six consecutive seasons in the top flight.
They have star names, in Championship terms, all over the pitch but a particular strength is a central midfield trio that contains Josh Brownhill, Josh Cullen and AN Other. They’ll play narrow, allowing their full-backs, Ian Maatsen and Connor Roberts, plenty of space to join in.
So, to give ourselves a chance of winning the game, it’s vital that Kenny McLean and Gabriel Sara, in particular, play well and don’t allow themselves to be overrun and dominated.
But with some wind in our sails at last and with the benefit of some momentum, it feels like anything is possible again. In fact, rightly or wrongly, some of the bookies even have listed City as favourites to win the game.
While that may be pushing it a bit, what I can say with confidence is that pre-Wagner this wouldn’t necessarily have been one to look forward to.
Now it is.
C’MON YOU YELLOWS! 🟨🟩
This should be a good game. It will be a laptop game to me, because Everton-Arsenal is played at the same time. To Burnley surely a draw would be ok result. This game tells a lot more about Wagners Norwich. Our local 1×2 studio didnt have this game analysed because its played earlier, 1×2 studio program here is a high level program. They give interesting information about every team and if I read between lines they dont seem to rate Luton as a playoffs contender. They rate Swansea higher and as a team which have been unlucky so far.
The October game was just awful, I can’t fully remember but have a feeling I started channel hopping during that match, if not I did so the next away game, apathy took over! As many others have stated, it’s a great feeling to be excited about our beloved football team again even though aspects of the non playing side still leave much to be desired.
Win, lose or draw it should be worth the money at last.