Michael Bailey: Dizziness, diving and thank you John – Six things learned from City’s Brewers draw
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
A rum old way for Norwich City to end the year, MICHAEL BAILEY digs out a seasonal six things learned from the Canaries' 2017 finalé and a goalless draw with Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
1 – Rotation can leave you dizzy
It's not like it hasn't been done before. Even the rare moments Paul Lambert was criticised tended to come from his team tinkering.
However, the Scot's surprises would generally be backed in tactical thoughts and shapes adapted as games ticked by.
What we had from Daniel Farke was the butchering of an XI he played in victory at Birmingham, later explained as due to the nature of the challenge at Burton and the prospect of a fresher Millwall at Carrow Road in two days' time.
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Farke even called it a risk and a gamble – albeit not in his native language, which should be a caveat in placing too much emphasis on the words he chooses.
For me, Farke's real error was making too many changes. Bringing in out-of-form or practice players for the likes of Josh Murphy, who could have easily continued his good work from Birmingham – all of which ultimately led to an out-of-form performance and a solitary point.
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2 – Priority view adds to the pressure
A similar line of questioning but another point to make, as continental drift takes hold: City aren't focusing on one game at a time.
I've asked the same question many times of managers before really busy periods: does it alter your team for the first game? And the same answer arrived: no.
The logic is clear. You go to win the first game and then only after that, worry about the next one. Maybe it's a British view, muddling through without planning.
But with Farke, we've seen something idealistically pragmatic – effectively trying to see what team he could get away with at Burton, before taking on the open priority of Millwall at home.
I don't know if it's a priority because of the defeat in August, the need for a good performance at Carrow Road before season ticket prices are announced, or that recovery disadvantage City have. But from Boxing Day positivity, the pressure is on again – and Farke cannot afford to have got it wrong.
3 – Diving is an art form
In real time, I thought it was a penalty. I've watched the replays repeatedly, and I'm still not convinced Sean Scannell didn't put out a reactive arm that gave James Husband the thought to go down – with such a glorious shooting chance sat in front of him.
He should have tried everything to stay on his feet. Husband appeared to know instantly he'd made the wrong call and on a day when both he and Marley Watkins looked so out of form, it clearly did him few favours.
However, I'm not sure that is the bit currently sitting most uncomfortably from the Pirelli episode.
Opinions on the incident may have been more mixed had it not been for Wes Hoolahan's immediate angst at his team-mate for going down, before gesturing to the dugout it was a dive.
Maybe Wes' view was best. Maybe he was right. But I can't help feel that such open criticism of a team-mate on the pitch might not happen in a happier camp.
4 – Even they knew it was wrong
It was the fourth official's attempt at easing tension on the sidelines, and it worked – given Daniel Farke and Nigel Clough then laughed at his colleagues' incompetency.
All he said was 'He knows'. As in the referee and linesman, that a howler had just been committed.
Basically as Norwich started to press, the ball came out to Ivo Pinto who typically knocked the ball on and ran. Nothing surprising there, until the linesman flagged for an offside.
Short of abysmal judgment over Mario Vrancic possibly interfering with play, the moment is set to go down in infamy – but the frustrating part is that all the officials were openly admitting they had got it wrong, even though the game hadn't restarted with said incorrect free kick.
The continuation of officiating that revolves around getting decisions blatantly wrong and hoping no one notices will forever be the EFL's bane – until someone's allowed to check the TV. Just bring it in.
5 – Not all cup games are in the cup
Someone associated with Norwich City Football Club told me they had never seen a good game of football at the Pirelli Stadium. Neither have I, although I've only had the 'pleasure' of two.
I was at the Canaries' FA Cup tie with Paulton Rovers several years ago, and I've had the same feelings each time at the Pirelli.
The Burton story is phenomenal. Everything about the club – fan base, finances, wage bill, stadium – says they shouldn't be a Championship club. Yet they are, and have every chance of surviving again if they show the same aggression, work rate and determination they managed on Saturday.
But as a game of football, it was woeful. No rhythm, regular fouls, smash and grab in all senses that don't include scoring a goal.
Burton take on every game like underdogs in a cup tie. There is often a visible gap in quality they're having to make up. However long it works for them, it will still be a football miracle.
6 – Thank you for the insight John
Forget football. The saddest thing I learned this week was the death of former Norwich City assistant manager to Mike Walker, John Faulkner.
I first knew him as dad to one of my best friends at high school – at an age where I never fully appreciated the career Faulkner enjoyed for Luton, nor the role he played at the club I supported.
Those were the years I really got back into watching live football at Carrow Road.
Not only that. With Ben and his knowledgeable, accommodating dad, I got to talk to him about the game, see how wins and losses affected those involved and even wander around the corridors of Colney trying to talk to senior and academy players – long before me doing so instigated terror in those wondering how I got in.
That I get to do this job now owes so much to John and Ben, while the tributes from those he worked with show just how highly regarded he was as a coach and as a man. Rest in peace John, and thank you.
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