I think that’s what you call “coming down to earth with a bump.”
The euphoria of last week’s frankly astonishing win over Manchester City was wiped out by a well-drilled Burnley side that, lest we forget, are no strangers to the Premier League and it’s annual optimistic new-comers.
Buoyed by that win over the Champions of England, the Canary faithful travelled to the North West full of hope and expectations. What they ended up getting was a reminder that the game of football played in the top flight, despite having the same rules as every other league in every other country, can be a very cruel mistress.
Norwich were behind as early as the 10th minute when Ashley Westwood pinged a corner to the front post under the bar and Chris Wood nodded home.
Those Westwood passes and set-pieces would become a troublesome theme throughout but it looked like a failure of zonal marking to me, as to how Wood, Burnley’s biggest aerial threat, was allowed to rise virtually unchallenged.
Just four minutes later and the second goal was scored and Wood had doubled his tally. Dwight McNeil was allowed to cross from the left wing and Wood simply side-footed the ball past an again helpless Tim Krul.
Prior to the first goal and despite the home side’s early intensity, Teemu Pukki had an excellent chance when he stole the ball from James Tarkowski and ran through on goal. Only the outstretched foot of Nick Pope in the Claret’s goal stopped Pukki adding to his goal tally.
City lost Alex Tettey just after conceding the first goal to what looks like a hamstring injury, meaning that Mo Leitner had to come on in the 13th minute. Tettey’s right thigh/hamstring was later seen heavily bandaged, which doesn’t sound good.
With Wood scoring his second on 14 minutes, the hosts had a chance to sit back and take stock, allowing Norwich to play the ball around in their defensive and midfield areas. However, when they did come forwards the Burnley pressure on the ball increased dramatically, forcing error after error in the Norwich passing game, resulting in the Claret’s usually winning the ball back.
The home side also used the long ball to good effect with Wood always a focal point. I lost count of the times that he was able to control big, booming, long balls and then play in Ashley Barnes.
Leitner did so nearly pull one back when he hit a 25-yard shot against the post with Pope clutching at thin air but that was about as good as it got for City.
The second half saw Burnley mostly in the ascendency and despite City playing well in spells, they couldn’t test Pope anywhere near as much as a team who’d just scored three goals against Manchester City ought to have done. To be fair, Krul didn’t have a lot to do after conceding twice either.
Burnley play 4-4-2 and that is unusual in itself in the top flight. Sean Dyche doesn’t do zonal marking either. You can call it old school but it works for them and they were usually first to second balls too.
Their forward players pressured City and rarely allowed Krul to play out from the back, often forcing the City keeper to kick it long, which almost always seemed to mean we conceded possession straight back to Burnley. That does look like a valid tactic when playing Norwich these days.
The last 15 minutes and the arrival of Drmic for Stiepermann, prompted a sense of urgency in Norwich but the excellently organised Burnley defence reduced the visitors to a few edge of the area shots that were wide.
Cantwell and Buendia weren’t allowed to get into the game in any meaningful way and Pukki was often an isolated figure. The 90th minute introduction of Patrick Roberts was also far too late. City played better than they did against West Ham a few weeks ago but they didn’t offer anywhere near the sort of threat going forward that we became used to last season.
As I said at the top, these Premier League teams know what they’re doing.
Daniel Farke won’t want his side to become “home specialists” and points on the road will be crucial to staying in the league. At home, as we saw against Newcastle, Chelsea and Manchester City, with that ferocious Carrow Road crowd behind them, the Canaries look capable of giving anyone a game but it’s away from home that points, even if they’re drawn points, will need to be collected.
The Burnley pair of Wood and Ashley Barnes link up well and will cause more expensively assembled teams than Norwich a problem this season but City definitely have a problem in defence.
The Canaries have conceded 14 goals in their first six Premier League games this season. That is a worrying trend and cannot be allowed to continue at this pace, although the calibre of opposition we have also played needs to be taken into account. With the return to fitness of Grant Hanley, coupled with the injury to Alex Tettey, I wonder if Daniel Farke might be tempted to play Amadou in defensive midfield to add some protection to the back four and get Hanley back alongside Ben Godfrey?
We face another tough looking game at Crystal Palace next week but it’s an away game at Selhurst Park, not The Etihad, where a more threatening Norwich City must reappear if we’re going to start picking up away points.