Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s brave 1-1 Championship draw against Brentford
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict from Griffin Park
1. Decisions, decisions
In the final analysis, Daniel Farke may well point to the ground gained on Leeds and West Brom, who both slipped on the opening day of 2019.
But until Jordan Rhodes was the second injury replacement and a change of shape at Griffin Park, Farke looked set for some searing questions over his unchanged 18. Hindsight may not be available to the head coach but a fourth festive game in 11 days stuck even more miles on the clock. Not to mention asking the same XI to go again in the midst of that epic Derby disappointment.
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Brentford were quicker, sharper and exuded far more energy in the opening period. Norwich ended with three of the back four on yellow cards at the interval and a bedraggled, laboured look to their work. They deserve immense credit for the fightback and Timm Klose's equalising goal. But Farke may reflect when the dust settled this was a day for renewal.
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2. Time for a new extension on the sick bay
All the more so, given both Marco Stiepermann and Alex Tettey departed with what looked muscular injuries. Much will be made of the fatigue factor as a contributory element.
That is one for the sports scientists to respond. It may be a day or two before the full extent of both layoffs become clearer.
But with fellow midfielders Emi Buendia and Moritz Leitner out until January and Kenny McLean and Louis Thompson still on the comeback trail, City's depleted resources are being ravaged every 90 minutes.
Farke will be thankful for a cup date next to refresh. The bigger question is what detrimental lasting impact losing key personnel may have on stunting their promotion surge. Perhaps January's transfer window will not be a watching brief.
3. All about the levels?
The glass half empty merchants could point to one win in the last five now and downplay the significance of injuries to suggest City are perhaps slipping away from such a long period of over-achievement to a more realistic benchmark.
That may be a touch harsh given the spirited comeback at Griffin Park.
But it may be no bad thing just to puncture some of the wilder optimism regarding what is possible over the second part of the campaign.
Norwich, as Frank Lamaprd made clear in his post-match media briefing at Carrow Road on Saturday, will not go away quietly you suspect in the months ahead. But whether it is realistic to think in terms of a top six push rather than automatic promotion depends perhaps on the sustainability within Farke's squad.
4. Corner crimes
Klose may have bundled home Mario Vrancic's delivery to salvage a point but in the first half that same goal in front of the travelling support bulged when Julian Jeanvier became the latest opposition player in the Championship to profit far too easily at Norwich's expense from a corner.
There really was nothing clever or cunning about the Brentford goal. A corner whipped to the near post where Jeanvier jumped without any real pressure from a white shirt. This really is in danger of becoming far more than an irritation.
It threatens to check Norwich's promotion push. Farke knows it in the manner he spoke about wanting players willing to put bodies on the line to sense danger.
But again there was precious little evidence in such a key moment. It has to be eradicated.
5. FA Cup breather
Touched on earlier but Portsmouth's visit to Carrow Road this weekend must really now be a chance for the outer fringes of Farke's squad to strut their stuff.
This is not a slight on the cup competition, but a dawning realisation just what is possible in the league this season. That has to be the only priority and the only guiding principle when Farke looks to shuffle his pack.
His room for manoeuvre may have contracted again with fresh injuries but with McLean desperate for a game and some talented youngsters below the first team group why not roll the dice? What happens at Carrow Road this weekend will not define the season.