Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's painful 1-1 Premier League draw against Crystal Palace
PUBLISHED: 23:40 01 January 2020 | UPDATED: 23:49 01 January 2020
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Crystal Palace verdict after the Canaries' 1-1 Premier League draw
1. A game of inches
Norwich have had to come back from some heavy blows already in the Premier League. It might need the 10 days or so either side of an FA Cup trip to Preston to get this one out of the system.
City struck early with Todd Cantwell's sixth Premier League goal of the season. Then they dug in. Kenny McLean smashed a rising strike against the underside of the bar and back into play. That might have been enough.
The hosts work was not pretty, it was certainly not the Canaries at their free-flowing best, but it was effective until another VAR intervention.
The assistant adjudged Connor Wickham was marginally offside when he turned home Wilfried Zaha's cross-shot. But those television screens and thick pens Daniel Farke spoke about recently illustrated otherwise.
Home fans who have voiced their disapproval regarding a number of perceived VAR injustices were stunned into virtual silence. The air was sucked out of Carrow Road. It might also have punctured the belief they can pull off a great escape.
2. Leading from the front
Set aside any hard luck stories, Norwich have now taken the lead in seven of the past nine contests and only prevailed at Everton.
That speaks volumes about City's ability to compete and perhaps in the final analysis to resist. At this level, opponents are relentless and have the quality to cash in on tired limbs and tired minds.
Crystal Palace were decidedly average for the most part but in Zaha they have an X-factor player who by his sheer pace and potent threat makes things happen. But that is the case more often than not at this highest level.
Norwich have took often on this winless run managed to open the door, but to paraphrase Farke's advice to budding footballers, they have routinely failed to walk through and slam it shut. One win in 16 says it all.
3. Aarons v Zaha
It was the battle within the battle. Norwich's England Under-21 international full-back gave as good as he got for all bar that one frustrating burst of pace from Zaha and cross slotted by Wickham.
It was rough on Aarons, who perhaps had at the back of his mind the fact he was already on a yellow as Zaha squared him up and drove to the byline. You could visibly see Zaha's frustration at the manner of Aarons' policing job with a prolonged verbal joust between the pair in the final quarter.
Eagles' chief Roy Hodgson was minded to tell his star man to cool it. Zaha may feel he finished with the upper hand but Aarons more than held his own against a player who on his day is widely regarded as one of the Premier League's best attacking talents.
4. Clever Cantwell
Norwich's final destination may be a swift return to the Football League. But with each passing week at this level, Cantwell looks a perfect Premier League player.
There was a composure and a quality to how he gathered a spinning ricochet from Emi Buendia's intended pass and calmly slipped in past the advancing Vicente Guaita. Inside the penalty box at this level he looks so at home.
There was plenty of eye-catching flourishes prior to the interval, before City were pinned back and the emphasis was on defensive resolution.
Alas, he if maintains this trajectory there will be plenty of takers willing to offer him a rapid escape route back to the big time shoul Norwich come up short.
5. Preston pause
Given Alex Neil's side have started to hit reverse in their Championship promotion quest, it would take some guesswork to have a punt at the respective line ups for Saturday's FA Cup third round tie at Deepdale.
Neither club in truth need the distraction. Expect Farke to say the right things, and his approach to the cups in England is beyond reproach. But none of City's frontline operators are likely to be on show in the north-west.
The question is how far down the batting order he goes and whether those given the weekend off can come back firing at Manchester United of all places when the Premier League resumes. That is the game in the north-west that really matters.