Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 1-0 defeat at Leeds United
PUBLISHED: 00:50 17 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:56 17 December 2017
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict from Elland Road
1. Fine margins - This game was effectively settled when Norwich knocked off at a free kick.
They had been warned. Leeds struck a post minutes before Pontus Jansson glided into space to finish with a fine glancing header.
In essence, there was little to choose between two sides cast from the same mould. Both possessed ball players and a commitment to smooth, considered passing rhythms. City simply failed to find the cutting edge to their play.
James Maddison skied one in the first half, Alex Pritchard was denied by a fine one-handed save from close range and later skimmed the bar. That is the Championship. But it underlined once more defensive resolution must underpin any latent creativity at Daniel Farke’s disposal.
2. Left-hand drive - Marco Stiepermann’s versatility is clearly a desirable trait in a squad which was trimmed dramatically in the summer.
But increasingly that left flank looks vulnerable and ripe for exploitation by Championship rivals.
Leeds probed away in the first half, overloading that wing and profiting when Stiepermann was caught out of position. The German was slow off the mark to track Pontus Jansson for Leeds’ first half goal.
With Jamal Lewis back in the mix and James Husband expected to be fit for the festive run, Farke has to find a reliable option that marries defensive responsibility with attacking flair.
3. Midfield mix - The same applies to what Farke does in that key central battleground.
Harrison Reed and Mario Vrancic retained their places in the deeper-lying roles at Elland Road.
Both have undoubtedly improved in recent times but once again when Leeds broke with pace and intent, the concern grew for an under-protected back four. Now Tom Trybull and Alex Tettey are back and available the temptation must be huge to restore them to the City XI.
The quality passing of Trybull and the combative presence of Tettey looked a perfect double act during Norwich’s best part of this season. With Pritchard and Maddison the creative pivot, Farke needs a formula to maximise City’s midfield productivity.
4. Ivo Pinto. Protected species - Norwich’s captain was again a force of nature with a number of attacking bursts to try and spark a response.
But given Farke revealed on Friday he had missed part of the build up with pain in his hamstring, the sight of the full-back stretched out on the turf requiring treatment to the same part of his body midway through the second half underlined how vital he is and the lack of a suitable like-for-like replacement.
Russell Martin would clearly come back into contention you suspect should Pinto succumb to injury, but the Scottish international is no longer the buccaneering right back who first arrived at Carrow Road.
5. Festive fillip? - Games against Brentford, Birmingham, Burton and Millwall now assume even greater significance.
It may be a stretch to state Norwich’s season hinges on a healthy points haul over the festive period but go into 2018 on the fringes of the top 10, as opposed to listing five or six places lower, then the mood music shifts dramatically.
Norwich want to be looking up not over their shoulder anxiously as they approach the final stretch.
• For the latest Norwich City news and opinion follow Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt on the following channels…