There appeared to be a fair bit of ambivalence surrounding Norwich City’s Carabao Cup tie with Premier League side Bournemouth ahead of this fixture.
Some supporters saw this game as an excellent opportunity to build upon the momentum which has been harnessed in the club’s league campaign of late and ensure that winning feeling didn’t disappear.
Keep the good times rolling, that was the message from those who occupied that stance.
On the other side of the debate were those who witnessed this game from the perspective of it being little more than an unwanted distraction from league matters.
No Norwich supporter will have wanted to lose this fixture but being cautious surrounding upsetting the momentum and derailing the positivity that is being felt around NR1 at present was on their minds.
Spinning statistics to match your narrative can be done in football, and for those who suggest that Wednesday night against Arsenal derailed Norwich’s season last year seem to forget the reverse effect that win in Wales over Cardiff City had to their season this time around.
To suggest that one fixture can have ramifications on the overall complexion of a season is naïve, but in the short term, it can cause unnecessary fatigue and knock confidence.
Last season, Norwich faced Arsenal after a one-day rest period following the physical and emotional intensity of an East Anglian Derby. Then, they were forced to play 120 minutes against a superior opposition before facing Derby County on the Saturday.
The situation surrounding this fixture was radically different.
Norwich hadn’t lost away from home since August, the concept of extra time has been scrapped by the EFL and they now bode a deeper, more balanced squad equipped with dealing with the load.
It’s all swings and roundabouts.
Whatever side of the debate you occupy, few could have argued that a potential quarter final under the lights at Carrow Road would have made for a mouth-watering prospect had Norwich of negotiated this tie successfully.
Merely consuming Eddie Howe’s complimentary quotes regarding Norwich’s application and performance paints a picture within itself.
Enjoyment surrounding consuming Norwich City operate has returned within the terraces.
Long suffering travelling contingents of supporters have been subject to apathetic performances resulting in defeats. Although Norwich couldn’t record victory tonight, the aesthetically pleasing nature of their football is becoming glorious for supporters to immerse themselves within but also to support.
Being pretty on the eye is one thing, but is it effective possession that is supported with end product?
On the graphic evidence provided by this latest showing, the answer to that is a resounding yes.
Norwich displayed tonight they can compete against Premier League outfits. Admittedly, they didn’t convert some gilt-edged opportunities, but they missed them in a cup fixture rather than a league one. That must be the positive angle taken by fans.
Performance wise, this was as good as Norwich as been away from home this season.
They controlled prolonged periods of this fixture, which, when considering the calibre of the opposition they were up against, is incredibly impressive.
Philosophy is a buzzword that has married itself to this project instigated by Stuart Webber and then installed by Daniel Farke. Consistently, this philosophy is becoming all the more recognisable with every passing fixture.
Last season was about construction and development, whereas this season has been about progression and improvement.
Pride needs to be the overarching emotion from this game.
Norwich went toe-to-toe with a respected Premier League outfit who boast supreme talent among their ranks. Everything they could have given, they did. It was all left on the pitch and had the quality of their finishing of been higher, then they would be preparing for a League Cup quarter final.
Anybody within English football would name Jermain Defoe as one of the best English strikers of the last decade, so its testament to Norwich for chaperoning him for the majority of the evening. Beyond an early strike, Defoe didn’t threaten, albeit he played a significant role in the opening goal for the hosts.
Therein lies the difference between the upper reaches of the Championship and the Premier League; the ability to take your opportunities in front of goal.
Bournemouth punished Norwich for mistakes positionally by Ivo Pinto and then their inability to clear a set piece with two clinical finishes. Norwich wasted several, most noticeably through Dennis Srbeny and Jordan Rhodes.
Srbeny was always going to arrive with a seismic amount of risk given the level at which he came from. Although operators like Christoph Zimmermann have made their mark from a tier lower, Srbeny is struggling to make the cut at Norwich.
Raw materials admittedly, but a pertinent lack of end product.
This game illustrates why is he currently third in the pecking order, despite holding the ball up and acting as a connective source between the midfield phase and the final third, his lack of composure in front of goal is a concern.
Patience was always going to be needed with Srbeny and improvements to his all round game have been seen, but he needs to add goals. Chances won’t manufacture themselves in the manner they did tonight on most occasions.
Rhodes is another culprit however.
After snatching the headlines with his contributions against Aston Villa a week previous, forgiveness for his missed penalty will be granted. He now needs to overcome two huge mental hurdles, he was visibly frustrated at his failure to dispatch the penalty, but now the glaring miss seen at Dean Court will only compile his feeling of regret.
What’s more, he has time to stew on those misses, his response will be intriguing.
Mario Vrancic is a man who continues to impress this season. He was somewhat of an enigma last campaign, but since Norwich have discovered an equilibrium within their side, he has been able to assert his technical quality over proceedings magically.
Inclusion into the first team seems to be but a stone throws away, and he could even enhance the quality of Norwich’s play in the final third.
To retain that fluidity and high standard despite opting to make numerous changes is a credit to Daniel Farke and the way he is installing his philosophy. Brandished as ‘Farke Ball’ by supporters, Norwich have found a method of delivering both results and attractive, entertaining football fans can get behind.
It’s just a shame that football won’t be played within the backdrop of a quarter final.
Next up, Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, a ground at which Norwich have lost their last two fixtures 5-1. Let’s hope for a much better return this time out, shall we?
Header photo – Jake Mann