Michael Bailey: Deadlines, dawdling, Tim spills and stat pills – Six things learned from Norwich City’s Leeds loss
PUBLISHED: 06:42 27 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:22 27 August 2018
A true crash landing against Leeds – PinkUn Show host and Norwich City correspondent MICHAEL BAILEY delivers his six learnings from a painful Saturday at Carrow Road.
1 – Numbers do paint a picture
It’s doesn’t take too many games before you start getting clues about the direction things are heading.
This time last season, the statistics were filtering through offering first instances since 2009 – in other words, back to the last time City were real Championship also-rans.
And here we are, five games into the 2018-19 campaign – with the excellent NCFC Numbers on Twitter confirming Saturday was City’s heaviest home defeat in the Championship since the 4-1 home loss to Burnley back in October 2006.
Not only was that Nigel Worthington’s final game in charge, it was also the last time City conceded four at home in the second tier – until West Brom visited two weeks ago.
Some will already consider City are sailing too close to the wind, while others will see things to build from – but the more stats we get that draw parallels with such difficult times, the harder the current situation will be.
2 – Tim needs to sharpen his gloves
Many felt Tim Krul’s arrival was excellent news – based on his previous form and assured reputation.
City have a superb track record with goalkeepers, even in the simple terms of loaning them in and bringing them on. Krul no doubt felt Norwich would be one hell of an opportunity to rebuild his stalled and injury-hit career.
And of course, it still might be. We are only a few weeks into the new season – and for someone who played just a handful of cup games last term, there is time yet for Krul to prove his worth.
But that is only going to come if things improve, and relatively quickly.
Daniel Farke himself has already stated exactly how important a reliable goalkeeper is to having a successful season – or just as pertinently, not getting embroiled in any relegation issues. Which means for the good of City’s prospects this season and especially to protect City’s defensive confidence, Krul cannot afford to lose any more lives.
3 – The reaction times are slowing down
A discussion on Leeds is coming up but while we’re stuck on Norwich, they too seemed to get stuck during the second half.
Having rather blown up in the first 45 minutes and with the knowledge it’s always hard to know what gear the opposition are playing in, City were offering something akin to mild pressure after the interval – knowing that getting just one goal back could alter the game’s entire dynamic. There was space to exploit, a few tiring legs. It was Emi Buendía ready.
Within 10 minutes of that demand, Leeds had got their third and killed the contest. Emi was introduced eight minutes later.
Farke has actually done a reasonable job of influencing games so far this season, especially at Birmingham and against Preston – albeit both later than desirable.
Saturday was a missed opportunity and too late in coming. For always wanting his side to be the protagonists, Farke still isn’t consistently achieving it with his changes.
4 – It’s nice to see you back Louis
Approaching two years is a long time to wait for your next Championship start. It was just neat that Leeds at Carrow Road was the fixture for both.
First things first, some doubted Louis Thompson would ever get back playing in the second tier – and that includes the man himself, who spoke so frankly about his journey back from two Achilles operations. He deserves huge praise after having to dig so deep.
Thompson’s efforts against Leeds back in November 2016 still shine – a young player finally given a chance, and in a fairly awful team performance he offered a real driving force from a deeper midfield role.
As for his full return and after two career-changing injuries, Thompson this time offered a solid if unspectacular option.
We all hope that drive and athleticism will return and given the strides he has made already, he deserves more time to prove his consistency and show at what level he can now compete.
5 – Marcelo is proving to be Leeds’ magic man
Leeds are now the example of exactly what a head coach can do for a squad.
While we all got excited about double training sessions following Farke’s arrival – which proved enough to end a few senior careers at City – Marcelo Bielsa has been on another level since taking on United.
Triple sessions with man-management akin to absent parenting, demanding every dressing room is left spotless (even pink ones) and extra hours of work on shape with and without the ball.
That is exactly how Bielsa has turned the same bunch of players that admittedly under-achieved last season into an effective, energetic and fluid football machine.
There are weak links that Wolves didn’t have, and Leeds are very good at being their own worst enemy – something that always amuses everyone outside Elland Road. But on the evidence of Saturday, this time it really will take an almighty failure not to go close to a top-flight return.
6 – Remember not to go too soon
Let’s get real. By the end of last season, some had big question marks over Daniel Farke’s ability to raise his game and City’s Championship challenge.
Tactical flexibility, man-management, getting the best out of his players – by May he’d already lost a few supporters; now social media plus anecdotal evidence from the ground says he’s lost a few more since this season kicked off.
Of course, Farke has lost some serious talent in the intervening time – a situation that doesn’t really correlate with expectations City should make a sweeping improvement this term.
Cardiff is neither here nor there, while a derby at Ipswich always has meltdown potential. But for me, it’s mid-September and trips to Reading and QPR in the space of four days.
Whether you’re already prepped to blow or quietly showing patience, that pair is when we will really have a workable answer to deal with.
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