Michael Bailey: Norwich City fuses, changes, a podium place and Lampard love-in – Six things learned from Derby defeat
There was so much going on it blew a fuse... Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey dishes out his six things learned from the Canaries’ 2018 send-off and Derby defeat.
1 – It’s been a top-three of a 2018
Yes, I’m starting with a positive. Having dared predict nothing more than some sort of improvement in the summer, it’s fitting.
The 2018 Championship calendar table – also 46 games – sees Norwich City finish third with 77 points and a positive goal-difference from 1.67 points per game (PPG), behind Aston Villa (79) and Middlesbrough (80).
Imagine suggesting that as City picked up a 0-0 at Burton this time in 2017, in the worst game of professional football I have ever seen?
As with all calendar stats, there are imperfections – but they are of use too. All three promoted sides (from 21 games) plus West Brom (25) had a better PPG than Norwich; Fulham’s was actually the highest at a phenomenal 2.45 for the second half of last season – and they still needed the play-offs to earn promotion.
That’s the thing with averages – you will go above and below them. City’s impressive tally over an entire year is still some feat.
2 – Fuses can be really expensive
No doubt City’s defending after that blown floodlight fuse was why they lost – but the further away from the game we get, the more it feels like that fuse cost City so dearly.
It is incredible that to the very second of Teemu Pukki’s 81st minute strike, a power surge knocked out the pylon. The more you think about the ensuing delay, the more it feels like it played into Derby’s hands – both managers admitted as much in their post-match chats.
There are several facets that made certain things avoidable – sadly including the length of the delay. And in all honesty, how is your luck when something like this happens?
But ultimately if there is a residual sense of anger or annoyance, it should prove useful when getting back on a football pitch and responding to a first defeat in 13 league games.
If it now takes something like that to beat Norwich, it bodes exceptionally well for the rest of the season.
3 – Marginal losses also exist
To both continue and contradict the theme, power surges seem particularly unfortunate. Likewise the width of the bar, which was all that kept Jordan Rhodes from piling another combustible contribution on to City’s raging drama fire.
For all the talk of City’s marginal gains, it does appear to work the other way – adding in little things like Ben Godfrey’s left leg shaking with cramp and the same bar allowing Fikayo Tomori’s rocket to enter the net via the ground.
Perhaps City’s real issue has been tempting fate. The excitement and late drama is exhilarating – but the more you play with fire, the more likely it is you get burned.
I got some stick for my tweet as City went 2-0 up, that all I wanted until the break was a clean sheet. It wasn’t tempting fate; just a hope.
It seems Norwich now have a unique trade in being able to offer too much entertainment – not a complaint, but certainly something to consider.
4 – Change is an act of balance
Whether it’s a lesson from last season or just a change in approach, there has been a recurring theme with Daniel Farke this season – to make as few team changes as possible.
It hit its peak on Saturday with Ben Godfrey’s arrival as a left-back – I’d argue effectively to make one team change in place of the injured Jamal Lewis, rather than switching Max Aarons from his right-back berth and being forced into two.
That decision was part of Saturday’s make-up but ultimately caused no profound, decisive issue – and that is a huge compliment to Godfrey.
But with the injuries and fixtures mounting, the perceived need for changes is going to grow. I can hear Grant Hanley’s teeth gnawing from my desk.
Farke must now be at his astute best: keeping City’s flow, style and supreme progress – alongside the right changes to freshen and invigorate. This is where he earns his money.
5 – Rams raids could yet be a weapon
There has always been something about Frank Lampard that screams managerial success. He speaks so well, garners good will and you imagine his players love playing for him. I certainly got the impression the officials were enjoying officiating for him on Saturday.
The Rams do also have an inexperienced boss and a fair few inexperienced players, but boy is there some superb talent at their disposal too.
Away from focusing on all things yellow, at times Derby threatened to rip Norwich apart with the sort of quality not many sides at this level possess – in fairness, most aren’t Derby players either but that happens.
Derby actually beat West Brom 4-1 at The Hawthorns back in October, and have now scored four at Carrow Road. The next top-three side they will play away from Pride Park is Leeds on Friday week – when another four-goal win would be welcome.
You wouldn’t back against them getting it either.
6 – Bees test is as big as they come
So here we are then, at the dawn of 2019 – a new year when all we want to see is a repeat of the form, style and swagger that said goodbye to its predecessor.
For my money and without wishing to add undue pressure – they say they don’t feel it so that shouldn’t be an issue – the New Year’s Day trip to west London is the biggest game of City’s season so far.
West Brom, Birmingham, Sheffield United, Leeds and the derby against Ipswich all follow. All will be enthralling, important, draining – but going into that run with a response to Saturday’s loss is key; especially with so many injuries being dealt with.
There is also the wider perception. Quest’s TV highlights floated City’s upcoming games with a glint in their eye that this is where the surprise package unravels.
And yet, so much this season has said one jolt won’t stop the juggernaut; that the belief of fans and players runs deeper than one scar. Here’s to proving just that.
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