Norwich City looking for right formula in front of goal
It's been the perfect pre-season in some respects for the Canaries.
The squad has come through the summer relatively unscathed in terms of injuries while new manager Chris Hughton has added some of his own signings to hopefully complement what the club did in the Premier League last season.
The club's friendly opposition has steadily got more difficult as pre-season unfolded, culminating in a 2-0 defeat to a Borussia Monchengladbach side who are just one win away from operating in the Champions League group stages next season.
There's just one problem…failure to score against the German side was City's third blank in a row.
So is there anything for City fans to genuinely worry about?
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If Grant Holt pops up in the first minute to net against Fulham next weekend then it will once again prove there is very little to glean from pre-season friendlies other than players gaining match fitness.
But, for the moment, Hughton's men are struggling in front of goal. The former Birmingham boss stuck with the same starting XI that drew 0-0 with Hull in midweek, which meant another chance to see if Robert Snodgrass could provide the bullets for Holt to fire by playing just off the City skipper.
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Unfortunately, for long spells in the first period, City had very little of the ball as the Norwich midfield chased a technically superior Monchengladbach side.
Snodgrass and Holt could be seen in deep conversation at several points in the first period as the pair tried to communicate exactly what they expect from one another. While their partnership may be a work in progress, it was clear from the occasions when Snodgrass did get the ball that there is a talent there that could pave the way for another goal laden season for Holt. Whether that will come from Snodgrass playing 'in the hole' against Premier League defences is open to question. The �3m signing from Leeds earned his move to the top flight by tearing apart defences from the right flank.
Hughton summed up his Snodgrass/Holt experiment with 'some good, some bad' but what is certain is there are only a handful of Premier League sides that could hold a candle to Monchengladbach's brand of possession football. The warning signs were there for City in the 12th minute when Juan Arango's free-kick from 25 yards had John Ruddy scrambling to his left as the ball flew just wide of his post.
But five minutes later Monchengladbach had the lead their start deserved although it was very preventable from a City point of view. The sprightly Belgian full-back Filip Daems got in behind the Norwich back four and his cross should have been cut out by Michael Turner but, in hanging out a leg, the former Sunderland man could only deflect the ball into the path of Igor De Camargo, who controlled before firing the ball home through the legs of Ruddy.
The goal appeared to jolt City out of their slumber and they started to play some pretty football of their own. A lovely move down the left flank almost brought City back on terms as Anthony Pilkington and Snodgrass combined to release Bradley Johnson. The midfielder proceeded to roll a clever ball across the six-yard area but no City player had gambled and Daems managed to hack clear.
Johnson, who was the more progressive player in his central midfield partnership with Jonny Howson, got forward to good effect on several occasions and his excellent cross in the 27th minute should have brought the Canaries back on terms.
His delicious left-footed centre looked tailor-made for Holt to head home but the cult hero's effort was tame and easily saved by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
City should have drawn level again just before the hour-mark when for once Monchengladbach were careless in possession. Havard Nordtveit played a poor backpass which allowed Snodgrass a free run on goal. The former Leeds man was clipped as he went round the keeper but admirably decided to stay on his feet.
He jinked back inside on to his left foot and rolled the ball across the penalty area to the on-rushing Howson, who looked all set to restore parity. However, Tony Jantschke on the line had other ideas, launching himself at the midfielder and deflecting his effort over the bar. That was to be City's last genuine opportunity of the afternoon despite Hughton throwing on Steve Morison to partner Holt and withdrawing Snodgrass to the right flank.
Monchengladbach grabbed the second goal their overall play had merited in the last minute when Lukas Rupp split the City back four allowing Branimir Hrgota to round Ruddy and finish confidently.
City fans will be hoping their side can show such composure in front of goal when they travel to Craven Cottage next weekend.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Ruddy, R Martin, Turner, R Bennett (Barnett 85), Tierney, E Bennett (Surman 66), Johnson, Howson (Jackson 85), Pilkington (Morison 66), Snodgrass, Holt. Subs not used: Rudd, Vaughan, C Martin, K Smith, Lappin, Francomb.
Borussia Monchengladbach (4-4-2): Ter Stegen, Jantschke, Dominguez, Stranzl (Brouwers 79), Daems (Wendt 72), Herrmann (Ring 63), Nordtveit (Cigerci 63), Xkaka, Arango (Rupp 72), De Camargo (Hanke 36), De Jong (Hrgota 79). Subs not used: Heimeroth.
Referee: Howard Webb (Yorkshire)