Matt Howman: Norwich City’s new approach will take time to settle
PUBLISHED: 20:00 14 August 2017
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Norwich City endured a frustrating afternoon at home to Sunderland in Daniel Farke’s first home league match as City boss.
The first 15 minutes saw City dominate the match, creating chances and absorbing possession every time Sunderland collected the ball and tried to push further up the pitch.
It was familiar defensive frailties however, that resurfaced to give fans cause for concern.
The new, intricate style of play is easy on the eye but the direct and physical tactics of Sunderland proved to be more than a match when Norwich’s defence was caught out a number of times with sloppy passing, before a further defensive lapse led to the first away goal.
At 3-0 down it was a wake up call to the new Farke regime that the possession game isn’t as effective in the Championship as it might be in the Bundesliga II.
The thing is, I listened to the crowd lament every time we made a mistake, but there were glimpses in that game which displayed some of the best passing football we have played in years. Patience is absolutely key to allow Farke and the squad time to get it right and turn that into victories.
The one area which Norwich can improve is the variation in build-up play.
Too often we looked to bounce the ball off the attacking midfielders to draw out the Sunderland defence and create openings. After our initial 15-minute spell, the away side had us figured out and those balls became less and less effective.
Our wing-backs made a number of attacking runs which went largely unnoticed and it was clear Farke didn’t want the central midfielders to play those searching balls into the channel for our wing-backs to run onto.
It was those midfield areas where we showed the most promise.
Defensively we let ourselves down on Sunday and our strikeforce in Cameron Jerome and Marley Watkins didn’t offer the same fluidity that our midfield did, which ultimately saw the breakdown in a lot of our attacking manoeuvres.
The one stand-out player for me was Harrison Reed.
On loan from Southampton he showed all the qualities of a top Premier League player (and dare I say a young Paul Scholes).
Composure, strength and ability in abundance. He is an asset to our team which will allow the likes of James Maddison and Wes Hoolahan the freedom to push forward and link up with our strikers to create opportunities in front of goal.
His influence, along with Maddison and both Hoolahan and Josh Murphy when they came on, showed we have the spine of a creative outfit, which is calling out for a solid defensive structure that they can rely on at the other end of the pitch.
It’s early days but both Christoph Zimmerman and Marcel Franke were both extremely nervous at the back, failing to win headers and clearing their lines.
Fans will need to be patient with the way Farke wants Norwich to play football. When you think back to the drab football Chris Hughton conducted and the desperate long-ball football Alex Neil turned to in his later stages, this style is going to be infinitely more enjoyable but the culture change takes time to embed in the squad.
Sunderland might have won the game with their direct approach but 46 games of watching that will be pretty dismal.
With the new style of play I can see us making plenty of mistakes in the first few games but the reward far outweighs the risk.
This squad has the potential of finishing in the top six and as a fan I want to see us play good football.
Farke’s culture has that in abundance so give it time and Norwich will improve.