Penalty woes leave Norwich City searching for new spot-kick hero
After the Norwich City penalty woes continued at Preston, David Freezer takes a closer look at the spot-kick issues which are becoming a costly problem amid the pressure of a Championship promotion push.
The Canaries paid the price for their spot-kick negligence this week, when missing a rather ridiculous fifth penalty of the campaign.
That profligacy from 12 yards reared its ugly head when already trailing 2-0 at Preston on Wednesday night, when Marco Stiepermann opted to fire low towards the bottom-left corner – only to be denied by City academy product Declan Rudd with a good save.
It has become a worrying theme of the season, with Mario Vrancic’s successful late penalty which sealed a 1-0 home win over Wigan in September still the only successful spot-kick for Daniel Farke’s high-flying team.
Only mid-table Stoke can match that level of wastage, missing five of their seven penalties, with Nottingham Forest not far behind having missed four of their seven.
Exactly half of the teams in the division have had no worries from the spot, with Blackburn and West Brom the most clinical, scoring all six of their penalties so far this season.
Preston are not far behind with a perfect record, Paul Gallagher squeezing their latest under Norwich number one Tim Krul on Wednesday to make it five from five for Alex Neil’s team.
Middlesbrough and Reading have scored all three of theirs, Bristol City, Brentford and Millwall have converted both of their opportunities and Leeds, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich have all scored their one spot-kick chance.
The only team not to score a penalty in the league yet this season are City’s next opponents, Bolton, wasting the only one they were awarded – so don’t be surprised if they score from the spot on Saturday.
Here’s where it’s gone wrong for Norwich so far...
Jordan Rhodes (3-4 West Brom – h)
Having already opened the scoring, Rhodes had the chance to put City 2-1 up just four minutes after Dwight Gayle had equalised from the spot for the Baggies. The striker tried to coolly roll the ball into the bottom-right corner but Sam Johnston guessed correctly to fall on the ball easily in the 38th minute and the visitors pushed on for an eventful 4-3 win at Carrow Road.
Jordan Rhodes (1-0 Brentford – h)
A wait of over two months for another penalty came to an end but Rhodes tried the same trick, rolling low towards the bottom-right corner again, with a little more power this time. Bees keeper Dan Bentley had done his homework though and made the save, before jumping up to prevent Rhodes tucking in the rebound. However, Emi Buendia already had City in front and the miss didn’t prove costly.
Mario Vrancic (4-0 Sheff Weds – a)
With Rhodes not eligible against his parent club, it was Vrancic who stepped up after winning the spot-kick himself at 0-0. After running on the spot as a delaying tactic the midfielder also went bottom right, with his trusty left foot which had done the business against Wigan a month earlier, but his soft contact was easy for Cameron Dawson to read and save. Fortunately, City smashed the Owls anyway.
Teemu Pukki (4-3 Millwall – h)
The following week there was another chance, this time coming with the score 1-1 at Carrow Road and Vrancic on the bench, so it was top scorer Pukki who took on the responsibility. After a run up with a delayed step to try and confuse the keeper at the Barclay End, the Finn blasted bottom-left but Ben Amos guessed correctly,
Marco Stiepermann (1-3 Preston – a)
The latest culprit also went towards the bottom-left, with a reasonable amount of power but at a decent height for Rudd to sprawl to his right and keep the ball out – and his team 2-0 in front.
All of which begs the questions, who takes the next penalty?
Top scorer Pukki has to be near the front of the queue despite his miss, having scored a superb 22 goals in all competitions since his summer arrival – in 32 matches, or 25 in 38 when including his Finland action.
Vrancic is out for at least another couple of weeks with ankle ligament damage and Stiepermann may well have blotted his copybook, despite Farke’s insistence that the German has been so good from the spot in training.
Emi Buendia takes a mean corner, could he be the man to step up? The 22-year-old would certainly be keen to make up for the two penalties he has conceded recently, against Sheffield United and Preston.
The main candidate could well be on the verge of a return from injury though: Moritz Leitner.
The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder said he was next in line following Pukki’s miss in November but has been out injured for much of the time since.
“I’ll take it, that’s all I need to say – I think the next one I will take,” the German said after the Millwall game. “In the national (youth) team I took penalties, and I also won the derby against Schalke when we won the Super Cup final (in a shoot out), I scored my one so…”
Whoever it is next, there will undoubtedly now be some added pressure.
City fans will hope to see no silly run-ups or clever finishes though, just power and accuracy, as Billy Sharp demonstrated so emphatically for Sheffield United at Carrow Road last month.
• Who do you think should take City’s next penalty? Cast your vote in the poll above