Michael Bailey: Prized pair, pass marks, Tim’s gap and Rhodes flap – Six things learned from Norwich City’s Bees bonus
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Another one bites the dust as Norwich City find new ways to impress – MICHAEL BAILEY delivers his six of the best from the Canaries' Brentford win.
1 – It's not so easy to stop them
First, there was the anecdotal evidence. For so long under Daniel Farke, it seemed a bit of homework and setting up to spoil Norwich's ideas and ideals was all it took to take something off them.
That is why Saturday's win for me, was so eye-catching. Brentford had it nailed. Flood the flanks when City had the ball, suffocate the full-backs, force Moritz Leitner deep and break when you inevitably win the ball back. In so many ways, it worked.
But now City have found a way to mix up their game so they can still achieve their aim – see their winning goal – and that really does bode well for the months ahead.
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In City's last three wins they've played significantly more long passes (15, 18 and 22pc of their total) than their season's average (13pc) – but still a long way off the likes of Ipswich, for the record.
They also played 22pc fewer passes backwards than in the same fixture last season. And watching City, it feels like it too.
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2 – A pairing in every sense
It started with an almighty bear hug between the two before kick-off. A symbol and signal of the intensions from Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmermann for the next 90 minutes.
It didn't all go swimmingly. There were mistakes from both centre-backs – but in turn, what followed was generally the sort of endeavour and team work that always made up for them.
A big case in point came in the second half, as Klose gave away the ball and Maupay found himself through on goal – before Zimmermann did a superb job of shepherding the division's leading scorer to a wide angle and blocking his shot. By which time Klose had recovered to take the ball and win a throw.
While dips in form and injuries are Championship mainstays, the pair are cemented in Farke's starting XI at the moment – and justifiably so.
Grant Hanley is now back in training but much like this time last year, he may have a wait on his hands.
3 – Tim is passing Krul tests
I'll be honest, I'm not sure he's quite there yet – and maybe that's a good thing. If Tim Krul still thinks there is a gap to bridge and more to come, he has the character and drive to deliver it.
The odd low shot still looks threatening and he got away with one parry back into a dangerous area on Saturday, thanks to Maupay's wayward radar.
But what Krul has earned is the faith and patience that over the course of the season, his may well prove as astute as any deal done ahead of this Championship campaign.
The mistakes of the early exchanges now feel a fair way back in time, while the protection Krul is getting from those in front of him is on a different level. Likewise Krul's own form has improved – and will only continue to do so as he follows the last stages of his rehabilitation path.
But it's the character that's key: relishing his role as a senior figure, brushing off those errors and coming good again. Here's to more of the same.
4 – They are Rhodes to ruin
There were exclaims in the press box before he took it: at least he won't do the same thing as last time. Surely?
Jordan Rhodes is a genuinely top man. Having spoken to him a few times now, you get a feel for what makes him tick and likewise, why he has proven to be such a wonderful, instinctive finisher at a number of clubs.
And he has also proven able to score from 12 yards. The internet says (never a good start to a sentence) Rhodes had dispatched 16 of 20 career penalties before signing on loan for Norwich.
But that's little comfort given he's now missed two from two in yellow and green – the sole consolation this time being it only cost him a feeling in the pit of his stomach, and not City points.
Rhodes has shown he can be a matchwinner this season for his new club and his warm words of enjoyment at his new home in midweek said a lot. But given he can't play against his parent club next weekend, a bit of penalty coaching might be a good way to spend the free time.
5 – They can have a Bee for effort
So much of what Brentford did on Saturday worked well – well enough to suggest their current run of bad form and sticky 16th position in the league won't be sliding any further.
But football is rarely so simple and that Neal Maupay's finishing let them down at Carrow Road underlines their reliance on the young Frenchman, who has scored almost half their Championship goals so far this term.
Maupay is one of the reasons why clubs – including Norwich – look at what Brentford have done and want to follow suit: smart, imaginative recruitment proven to involve solid judgement and bare fruit on and off the pitch.
Dean Smith's departure was a clear blow but the Bees' poor form extents just as much into the end of his reign as when Thomas Frank took charge.
And he will be hoping Brentford can rediscover their touch before they feel the need to look elsewhere.
6 – Bosses remain a rare breed
The plight of Frank is the plight of the football manager (or head coach). The confidence, self-belief and football intelligence to make a man-management job in football a success requires something special.
Frank's assertion that Saturday's game featured the two best sides in the Championship was a nice soundbite – but a little separated from the reality Brentford fans may have felt they were in at 5pm.
Farke has had it far from easy along his own road at Carrow Road – where a phenomenal amount of early good will unravelled at about this time last year, and he is still yet to get it all back; that said, the tide does feel like it is starting to turn.
But there's a real chance now for some repayment after last season. The sight of a plan and philosophy being tweaked, rather than started. A side well coached and looking it.
As a certain former boss starts out again down south, it's a serious head start.
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