Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 3-0 friendly defeat against Newcastle

 Pierre Lees-Melou had Norwich City's best chance in a 3-0 friendly defeat at Newcastle United

Pierre Lees-Melou had Norwich City's best chance in a 3-0 friendly defeat at Newcastle United - Credit: PA

Paddy Davitt delivers his Newcastle verdict after Norwich City's 3-0 friendly defeat.

1. Food for thought

If Daniel Farke was not keen to 'over-interpret' a one-sided midweek win against League One opponents he is unlikely to place too much store by a first pre-season loss in their summer finale against Newcastle United. Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle twice cashed in on defensive hesitancy mixed with sloppiness in possession. It was a brutal reminder of the intensity and the pace that is the Premier League.

Norwich started the brighter but Newcastle's physical intent and the spark provided by the arrival of Alain Saint-Maximin appeared to sap their energy and endeavour.

Newcastle's two yellow cards in the second half underlined the urgency they set about the task in front of their home supporters. Beyond the defensive errors in the decisive moments what may irk Farke more is the inability to test Freddie Woodman enough, beyond two first half strikes from Pierre Lees-Melou. 

There was much to admire from the Canaries on their previous Premier League tour under Farke but ultimately they did not carry enough of an attacking threat, after summer turned to autumn, and they were too porous at the back.
Both of those traits were on show in the north-east. But given the injury absence of Todd Cantwell and the absence of six first teamers still to complete their Covid related periods of self-isolation later this weekend, and the on going work in the transfer market, there should be no temptation to judge. Or predict another descent is inevitable. 

Farke will have learnt much more from this outing about his current group than he will have done in the previous victories over lesser opposition.

2. Numbers game

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Plenty will be made of Farke opting for a defensive three again to finish pre-season as he started it at King's Lynn Town. Ben Gibson and Andrew Omobamidele flanked Christoph Zimmermann in a real test against Newcastle's mobile attacking forces. Supplemented by the half-time arrival of their current star, Saint-Maximin. 

But what that defensive formation allows is a far more advanced deployment for Max Aarons and Dimitris Giannoulis. So much so that at times they resembled wingers with Kieran Dowell and Lukas Rupp tucking inside to support Adam Idah. 

City were able to flood that final third in their best early spells with a number of 'flourescent coral' shirts.

There is no doubt such a system can aid their quest for genuine Premier League productivity. The disadvantage is a susceptibility to the quick turnovers and rapid counters of sides like Newcastle. 

On more than one occasion Gibson and his pals were in danger of being over-run. That is the risk and reward that will be stamped through Norwich's attempt to bridge the divide this season. 

3. Levels 

Talking of Saint-Maximin there was a definite spike in the quality of Newcastle's attacking urges when he emerged to a huge ovation at the interval. Lees-Melou's former Nice team mate spread panic through the City ranks when he was able to get on the turn and move through the gears. Tim Krul unwisely tried to halt him well outside his penalty area, but Norwich had the numbers back.

It was another visible reminder of what the Championship winners have left behind. And what is to come on an almost weekly basis. Saint-Maximin has been tipped with a £50m exit this summer, after his eye-catching impact over the past two seasons. That is more than Norwich's total close season outlay, including the upgrades to sign Gibson and Giannoulis permanently and if you add the expected incomings of Sargent and Tzolis to that tally. 

Norwich know they simply cannot compete on a financial footing in the Premier League. But there remains, for all the disruption to their pre-season planning and this sour friendly result, a belief inside the camp things can be different this time under Farke at the top table.

Gibson bullishly declared earlier this summer the Canaries will stay up. They will need every last drop of that confidence.

4. Running man Rupp 

The German midfielder has probably come to despise the word 'versatility' since arriving in England. That was a verbal stick used to beat him with in the opening period of his Norwich career. Not quite one thing or the other as Farke sought for the elusive answers during that Project Restart era which sealed their Premier League fate previously. Last season, before injury intervened, Rupp had emerged as a reliable figure alongside Olly Skipp. 

His tenacity and his athletic surges up the park brought a new found appreciation perhaps for the experienced former Bundesliga operator.

But there has been more experimentation in this pre-season, which continued in the north-east. Rupp has deployed further forward the counter balance alongside Dowell behind Idah from the kick-off. A few days earlier he was in tandem with Lees-Melou as a protective shield either side of Billy Gilmour in the Gillingham romp.

Rupp never quite made the most of his greater attacking licence on Tyneside before what looked a pre-planned departure on the hour mark; albeit he was holding his side as he departed after a heavy landing. But it was another insight into Farke's thinking. 

With Milot Rashica in the building and hopefully Josh Sargent and Christos Tzolis not far behind, that vacancy on the left of an attacking mix may prove temporary. But what this pre-season has shown again is the value and trust Farke places on his compatriot.

Rupp was recruited to help keep Norwich in the Premier League last time around. Now he gets a second chance.

5. Let the games begin

The manner of this defeat, albeit in friendly surroundings, may sting for a day or two but all that matters now is come next Saturday evening Norwich are ready to harness that excitement and enthusiasm to prove why they deserve a place at the top table against the former champions.

Key to any hope of a pulling off what outside of Norfolk would be a shock result against the Reds is the Carrow Road crowd. It might just take the frenzied levels they reached in that never to be forgotten win over Manchester City. Should it be a full house the anticipation, after so long away, will be at fever pitch come kick-off.

Then it will be over to those Farke entrusts to at the very least offer enough compelling evidence they can be far more competitive than two seasons ago.

The head coach has already predicted a 'bumpy' start to the new campaign. He really needs a 'bouncing' one on and off the park next weekend.  
 

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