If Norwich City’s season was to be presented with an epitaph, it would contain the words ‘frustration’ and ‘lack of offensive threat’.
This was a repetition of Good Friday’s encounter against Fulham. Despite conjuring up numerous opportunities, the outcome became increasingly inevitable as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes. Against a Cardiff City side orchestrated by Neil Warnock, all the ingredients were once again visible but the output was a frustrating similarity for those inside Carrow Road.
Cardiff possessed nous and bellicous in abundance.
The camaraderie and discipline seemingly makes up for a severe lack of technical skill. Warnock is a master operator at this level. Aesthetic comes second to result. That explains Cardiff’s league position, as a squad, they wear their hearts on their sleeve and operate efficiently as a unit. They embody the key characteristics of their manager, streetwise and provocative.
In comparison to Norwich, Cardiff were second best in regards to aesthetic, but they became more desperate and driven as the game progressed. Their offensive play contained a self belief which is associated with teams who are used to winning and contesting promotion.
The difference between the sides in both boxes was pertinent.
Inside Cardiff’s, Norwich failed to leave a mark. Beyond Dennis Srbeny’s gilt edged chances, Norwich didn’t threaten Neil Etheridge’s goal. They were the victims of their own downfall, seemingly in command of the fixture but a lapse of concentration in the second phase of a free kick following a wonderful Angus Gunn save proved the difference.
In the second tier of English football, fine margins are often decisive. Junior Holiett proved his quality for the entirety of the game, being Cardiff’s key protagonist offensively. Holiett proved a constant threat throughout the game, but his strike twisted the knife and underlined his quality.
There was undoubtedly slickness to Norwich’s possession at points, with a more varied speed and more movement off the ball but once again, that failure to discover a remedy to the toothless offensive side of the game remained.
The build up play often progresses too far onto the pitch and becomes stodgy in certain areas. Aesthetically pleasing, admittedly, but not productive in regards to output. Norwich’s failure to work clear cut shooting opportunities is becoming increasingly frustrating.
The inclusion of Moritz Leitner seems to aid this improved swagger on the ball. At points, City probed with intent and moved the ball with intensity and purpose as opposed to the lateral and laboured style seen earlier in the season.
In that regard, Norwich have progressed in their approach on the ball.
The simply reality is this, Norwich are patient but not potent. Relying upon a defensive solidity to win points is unsustainable, Norwich need to possess a threat at the top end of the pitch if they hold aspirations of challenging next campaign.
At present, there are shoots that give the impression of a bright future but within that, are symptoms of stagnation and regression. The unpredictability remains a scary concept for supporters. This is a big step into the unknown and some supporters are beginning to feel homesick.
What Warnock brought to Carrow Road was a style which appeared almost anti football. His style will always have a place in contemporary football ,which is desperate to emphasise the technical elements over physical power.
The gulf noticeable against Wolves and Fulham wasn’t evident here; this was a competitive and enthralling encounter.
The overriding emotion is that of frustration as Norwich continually command and dictate the rhythm of the game but lack a killing edge. This is becoming exposed, particularly at home. Srbeny is improving at linking the game and appears less lost within games, but that still needs to be converted into goals if Norwich are to seriously rely upon the German.
Srbeny possesses raw ingredients and Farke must refine him into a more polished entity who supplies a constant output if he is to become the starting striker.
It’s hard to imagine Norwich without seeing Alex Tettey within the side.
He was imperious in this encounter. In the first half, he was Norwich’s best operator, his nous and ability to recognise potentially dangerous situations is commendable. He will take some replacing; his positional awareness is up there with anyone in the division.
As Norwich seek to create a technically minded team however, wage demands could become the deciding factor. Norwich would like to retain Tettey’s services, but with blossoming talent in the form of Ben Godfrey emerging, it could see the experienced Norwegian depart NR1.
Harrison Reed is a player supporters have taken too. His tenacity and work rate are evident for all to see, any deal hinges on Southampton’s potential relegation and with tough fixtures approaching, seeing Reed as a permanent Norwich player is dwindling.
This season is limping to a underwhelming conclusion, for many, the opportunity to reflect and rest after a season which promised so much and delivered so little will be prominent. For others, the World Cup can’t come soon enough, but one thing is for sure, Norwich need to be a more coherent outfit in the next campaign.