Paddy Davitt verdict: Brutal? More like treading water
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The only thing brutal about Norwich City's anaemic offering was Daniel Farke's post-match debrief.
Farke routinely implores his stuttering squad to be more clinical, more ruthless, to halt a slide that has sucked much of the positivity out of an uplifting spurt.
Implicit in his focus on Norwich's lack of quality in possession against the Reds was criticism of a midfield which has largely escaped the searing analysis reserved for a backline exuding distress signals and a toothless attack.
Barnsley served as a fresh reminder City at present lack the creativity to punish rivals or the resolve to shut them out.
They can do. We have seen it at Sheffield United, at Middlesbrough and at Ipswich.
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We are not seeing it now.
James Maddison's heavy workload appears to have caught up with him, after the 20-year-old effectively carried the burden during Norwich's unbeaten surge.
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Shorn of Alex Tettey as a minder, Tom Trybull looks far less assured and exposed when City turn over possession; as they did here on numerous occasions, against a youthful, energetic, cohesive Barnsley.
Mario Vrancic is lightweight.
The technical ability to manipulate a ball is not in doubt, but the failure to impose his influence on games at Championship level a worry to all concerned.
Josh Murphy continues to frustrate; a wonderful talent capable of sublime goals, like his chip at Arsenal, but prone to the wrong decision at the wrong time in positions of promise.
Like Maddison, he is still finding his way as a professional, but the sober reality of Norwich's labours in a post-Premier League era dictates a streamlined squad must punch above its weight.
There remain reasons for optimism. Largely pinned on the return of the likes of Tettey and Alex Pritchard.
The temptation to fast-track a gifted footballer like Pritchard back into the attacking mix to help improve the current slim rations will grow with each frustrating shift.
Farke spoke in broader terms about his players taking risks, forcing the issue rather than waiting for something to happen.
Part of that shift is undoubtedly the draining of confidence and belief since the high point at Ipswich.
One should not underestimate the Carrow Road factor either.
A sixth winless game in front of their own is a major faultline hindering any chance of harnessing fresh momentum.
City's players look inhibited on home soil. There is almost an inevitability to the outcome.
That elusive first goal came courtesy of Murphy's deflected strike, which brushed the Reds' captain Angus MacDonald before deceiving Adam Davies, but it was merely the catalyst for the Tykes to probe with greater urgency before profiting with a devastating counter to restore parity.
Angus Gunn was hardly over-worked, for the most part, but the flow was largely towards his goal in open play.
It was another tough watch for home supporters and prompted a negative reaction from an audible section on the final whistle.
Farke, to his credit, made no attempt to dismiss such concerns when asked for his reaction to the booing. After deftly guiding his troops away from the deep end they are now treading water.
The head coach made five changes to the line up that succumbed at Bolton prior to the international break but the lethargy and the lack of a creative spark remained. City move towards the opposition penalty box in instalments, the play is predictable, the antidote shuffling bodies goal side and waiting for Norwich's intricate patterns to unravel.
You could not even claim on this occasion Barnsley arrived in Norfolk intent on containment and the odd counter-attacking foray.
The Reds dictated the tempo and shaded possession.
That was the scenario Norwich were grinding out wins in their best spell of the campaign. Not right now. It needs a re-boot.
Until Tettey's brand of combative endeavour and Pritchard's panache is available, Farke must find the answers elsewhere.
The manner Trybull exited the action in the second half with a hip problem may force his hand for the midweek trip to Nottingham Forest.
As Farke himself said in his honest dissection before he departed Carrow Road, if you lose the central ground you will struggle to win games.
Marry protection with punch across midfield and the curve can begin to bend upwards again.
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