Michael Bailey: Al-eading light, no kids hiding and penalty posers – six things learned from Norwich City’s Wigan win
Is it just a little case of Norwich City history repeating? MICHAEL BAILEY delivers his six things learned from the Canaries’ home win over Wigan Athletic.
1 – City rule the month of September
Most Norwich City fans probably know the rule by now – don’t go on holiday during September, or you’ll miss the good stuff.
In the last four Septembers the Canaries have played 23 games – and won 17 of them, scoring more than twice as many goals as they have conceded. In fact, they’ve lost only once in the second month of the season since 2014 – that hideous 4-3 defeat at Newcastle, in which Norwich were winning 3-2 come the fifth minute of added time.
Thanks once against to @ncfcnumbers on Twitter for saving me time on turning a hunch into statistics.
So far the current campaign is following very similar progress to that of Daniel Farke’s first in charge except for one key component: so far, it’s all been a little bit better. No major thrashings in August, and now more wins than draws in September.
Of course we all know the trick needed now autumn is truly arriving.
2 – A tale of two penalties
Sometimes you can’t help what pops into your mind – this time triggered by the remarkably honest appraisal from Teemu Pukki that he didn’t fancy taking City’s late penalty as much as he should, allowing Mario Vrancic to be the hero.
From a little tale with a happy ending, I was taken back to September (ironically) 2013 – when Ricky van Wolfswinkel had the ball taken from his hands by Robert Snodgrass, so the winger could be the one to have his spot kick saved by Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan. City lost the game 1-0.
Two examples of how a team could do things; both say hugely different things about the characters involved.
There are issues with it happening at all, of course – and winning is always the best currency for buying a bit of soft focus.
But the honest and grown-up way in which City’s players are starting to take responsibility – in the image of their head coach – could prove a hugely effective trait.
3 – Bad days still count
When you enter the big bad world of first-team football, you have to take the rough with the smooth – and equally count yourself lucky if you get to enjoy a whole load of smooth before the rough comes along.
Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell have done some brilliant things since their respective and well-managed introductions to Championship life by Daniel Farke – but Saturday was a tough day at the office.
It’s perhaps an underplayed factor so far this season that City really do have a decent list of squad options – and the fact both players could be given an early break without a lack of cover bodes well.
Likewise a bad day doesn’t mean slating, criticism or undermining all their previous good work.
Saturday was simply the plight of young players getting their break – it was Todd’s first home league appearance. Neither hid and both will be better players for Saturday’s outing.
4 – It was the best tête-à-Tett
The fact we are now 10 league games and a couple of cup adventures into the season means it’s fair game to wonder about any potential turning points we’ve already witnessed – and one of them stands out like a sore thumb.
Winless in the league and at home to Preston, Alex Tettey was having an absolute nightmare against his former boss – to the point he took out his frustrations on the ball, and scored what may well remain a genuine City goal of the season contender.
The post-match chat I had with him after that game came with the kind of honesty you need to turn your self-titled worst game for the club, into a run of dynamic midfield play alongside filling the leadership hole left by Grant Hanley’s ill-timed injury.
There is a reason Tettey is so popular, six years on from his arrival.
And long may it continue – because few can boast his winning Canaries influence.
5 – Latics lesson has a familiar ring
We here in a Norwich City bubble know what it takes for a newly promoted side to not only thrive in the Championship – but bypass all those perennial hopefuls and take the big prize without stopping by.
That’s why when teams like Wigan rock up, they deserve some serious respect and appreciation both for what they did in League One last term – but also the possibilities and early indications of their second tier return.
Sadly, that’s also why they were something of a disappointment on Saturday; a side that had the perfect game plan to cause City issues in the first half – but lost their way after the break, to the point a draw rapidly became their sole focus.
They were in the play-off places before the start of play at Carrow Road. By the final whistle, they had failed to stick a single shot on target.
Paul Cook enjoyed his Carrow Road return and Wigan will survive – but more much will be a stretch.
6 – From fearful to a fear list
Following on from lesson five is the fact Wigan’s bright start played out at Carrow Road with a side who didn’t really impress – and maybe that’s because City’s own form and presence is starting to carry some weight.
The Championship table is 10 games in and starting to take a bit of shape – it’s supremely close, Ipswich are the only side without a win and no one remains unbeaten.
It’s already looking like a campaign where anyone could do anything, even by Championship standards. And that puts City in a curious position.
There has been a lot of expectation-dampening revolving around City, mostly to counteract the borderline entitlement that comes with a Premier League cash injection.
Now City are doing it a different way – a way that almost garners more pride – and they are yet to come up against anyone to fear. That may change over the coming weeks of course, but it’s a lovely position to be in.
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