There were far more positives on display for Norwich at Watford last night, even though the Canaries lost yet again. That is now their sixth defeat since the re-start in a row and it’s seven when you count the 1-0 loss at Bramall Lane to Sheffield United in the final game before the break, last March.
There has been plenty of criticism flying around and this site has not been excluded from that with a lack of acceptable performances being my biggest bug bear. There were more team changes for Watford though with a couple of them being enforced on Daniel Farke.
Todd Cantwell’s tight hamstring and the current relentless schedule saw him dip out, hopefully available again for the visit of West Ham on Saturday, a defeat in that one would see the Canaries’ relegation confirmed. Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean were also slight pre-match doubts with the former’s knees pulling him through, while McLean started from the stands.
Mario Vrancic partnered Tettey in the centre and Marco Stiepermann played behind Teemu Pukki, both in familiar yet rare roles for the pair this season. Vrancic’s return was welcome and I thought his passing almost immediately set the tone for a better all-round performance. With four minutes on the clock, City had the lead and Emi Buendia finally had a Premier League goal.
A direct run by Onel Hernandez found Buendia and the little playmaker cut back onto his left foot in the area, sending Adam Marina for a hotdog. He fired an excellent strike past Ben Foster in the Watford goal and City were ahead.
It only last six minutes though before Craig Dawson equalised from a free-kick conceded by Jamal Lewis, who along with Max Aarons had an uncomfortable game. Lewis allowed Dawson to run off him, getting a run on Alex Tettey and then nodding the ball past Tim Krul from close-range.
Throughout the game, Both Aarons and Lewis were caught out of position up the field, giving space on the flanks, leaving Norwich wide-open. If I were an opposition coach at the moment then I would definitely use it as a tactic. “Whenever the full-back goes forward, someone just needs to move into the vacated space and wait for a long clearance in your general direction.“
It won’t work every time but it is a genuine option. That can only be a team tactic from Farke and it’s a simple one to defeat.
The game was eventually settled by an overhead worldie of a strike from Danny Welbeck, his first Premier League goal for eighteen months – Of course it was.
Tettey had to be replaced by McLean and he was immediately brushed aside by Sarr, whose cross was deflected via a poor Aarons attempt at a clearance, falling nicely for Welbeck to show that he’s still got it.
For all their possession, especially in the second-half, City were unable to fashion another goal and that was that, another defeat.
So much about this season has been could’ve, would’ve, should’ve but the bottom line is that we have been too open at the back and not clinical enough up front. This was a better performance though and City looked the equal of their hosts on the night. As I mentioned earlier, our two young full-backs were made to look fairly ordinary and especially, Lewis, who was given a torrid time by Ismaila Sarr, who to be fair, did cost the Hornets £30m. The fact that they are both still learning was heavily underlined here.
Vrancic’s passing range was very welcome and he showed me why he should play next to Tettey in the centre. I know he’s had injury issues at times and that Kenny McLean is clearly a Farke favourite but I believe that Mario offers a lot more going forwards in games.
Marco Stiepermann harried the Hornets’ defence and the odd pass misplaced, which I can forgive due to the amount of time he’s been watching from the sidelines, wasn’t a huge problem in a decent enough performance. The future does look to be Adam Idah though and he almost scored when a Drmic flick-on somehow evaded his out-stretched boot. An equaliser then would’ve been a fair result.
Yet again though, a Norwich player should’ve but he didn’t…