Melissa Rudd: We'll find out a lot more about Farke's City in next fortnight
PUBLISHED: 20:24 17 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:37 17 December 2017
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
On the face of it a 1-0 defeat at Elland Road, a place where Norwich City have won just once in the last 23 years, isn't the end of the world.
Actually, Saturday’s loss against play-off chasing Leeds wasn’t a bad performance at all.
It was however another toothless display magnified by the fact that it marks a run of nine league games with only one win.
Leeds suffered a similar sticky patch recently and in a nine-week period in the autumn lost six games out of seven. It happens in this league and their surge towards the play-off places since getting themselves out of a rut is proof of how quickly things can change with a run of momentum.
The hope was that City’s momentum would have kick-started with the win against Sheffield Wednesday but in Yorkshire it was the same old story in front of goal. Enough chances created to at least come away with a point, but none taken.
Daniel Farke explained afterwards that the team had changed from zonal to man-marking to thwart the danger from goalscorer Pontus Jansson at set-pieces. Yet it only took one of those for the defence to switch off momentarily, allowing him to angle an acute header into the net to inflict maximum damage.
That highlights the enormity of the pressure City’s lack of goals is heaping onto the back four in particular. Matches in this league are won and lost on such fine margins and Norwich are badly missing a cutting edge after a slide down the table that has piled pressure on the man in the dugout.
Talking of fine margins, eight weeks have passed since that closely fought 1-0 win at Portman Road. Bar the second half against Wednesday, Norwich haven’t been able to recapture that run of form that ended with them getting one over on their old rivals and a place in the top six.
Since then, City have lost six of their nine games and won five points, a downward spiral that has seen them slip to 16th in the table. Ipswich meanwhile have moved from 11th up to 7th, winning half of their 10 games and scoring 17 goals in the process.
Ahead of that derby two months ago many on this side of the border thought the outcome might hinge on the fitness of Nelson Oliveira. As it happened, he didn’t feature and Norwich still won.
Now it may not be the done thing to compare ourselves to our East Anglian rivals, but in Town’s good run of form strikers Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner have both netted three times each. In contrast, Oliveira has scored once, and that was a penalty. Cameron Jerome on the other hand has barely featured.
That match in October proved there was little between the two sides, and indeed defensively Norwich have conceded 14 goals while Ipswich have let in 15 in that time. What their front players do have though is a killer instinct in front of goal, something which at the moment Norwich’s strikers just do not seem to possess.
It was James Maddison who was guilty of blazing over one of the best chances that fell to him at the weekend, but City can’t rely on a 21-year-old midfielder to dig them out of a hole every time they need a goal.
Coming off the bench, Wes Hoolahan has so often provided the spark to make things happen but at 35 his magic is diminishing. Oliveira simply has to be scoring more goals, whether that is down to the way the midfield feed into him or his own movement Farke has to change something to make him, if not the team without him, more effective.
Norwich are now rooted exactly halfway between the top six and the relegation places, separated from both by 10 points. With festive fixtures against sides all in the bottom half of the table in Brentford, Birmingham, Burton and Millwall the way things go from here, and perhaps Farke’s Carrow Road career, may largely depend on what happens in the next pivotal fortnight.