Norwich City’s flaws have been exposed by numerous critics this season.
A lack of offensive fluidity and tempo whilst attacking was pertinent once again at Deepdale. The fact they failed to manage a single shot on target graphically illustrates the need to improve at the top end of the pitch.
The fitful offensive phases and lack of end product are a nagging and unwanted sub-plot that Daniel Farke will be desperate to discover a remedy for.
This time out however, the emphasis must be on the defensive resolution Norwich displayed in Lancashire. As the game developed, Preston probed with greater intent, the directness of their play increased and the supporters became increasingly desperate. Despite these potentially distracting factors, their two defensive warriors headed, kicked and clearer everything away.
Grant Hanley and Timm Klose stood as imposing figures, admittedly Preston were wasteful but Norwich’s solidity, even as Preston moved through the gears, is admirable. Considering Preston’s current fortunes coupled with the fact Norwich’s season has all but concluded in name, they should be applauded.
Harrison Reed’s future will be a hot topic come the summer.
The likelihood of his loan being extended depends on Southampton’s future. Reed has undoubtedly stamped a positive mark on Norwich’s season as both a central midfielder and occupying the right back role as an understudy.
Reed looks an assured and viable option in that position. Yet, Alex Neil’s men tested him with an abundance of diagonal balls and he was non-committal in possession. What is evident is the need to acquire a right back, with Reed returning to the South Coast and Pinto’s contract expiring in 2019, it will be a position high on Farke’s agenda for the summer.
Despite the positive facets, issues surrounding Farke’s philosophy remains.
Any success hinges upon harvesting technically proficient footballers who can move the ball with limited touches, at present, Norwich don’t distribute the ball with enough decisiveness and are sloppy when they attempt to move it in fewer touches.
They don’t displace sides, nor do they move through the thirds of the pitch with enough intensity. If Norwich want to progress and be an upwardly mobile outfit, Farke needs to revise his style of play on the ball.
Aesthetically, it’s admirable but this lack of productivity is becoming an alarming normality. Possession is meaningless if it isn’t productive. Norwich’s first half display was lackadaisical, with a sloppy and toothless performance.
Norwich need to recruit adaptable resources to compliment the technically minded midfield they possess to reduce the raiding opponents turning over the play and ensure they have a foundation for these technical operators to command possession and dictate the rhythm of games.
Question marks remain surrounding City’s ability to contend with physically effective sides, the capitulation of Easter Monday remains fresh. That memory makes this performance appear more pleasing.
Intrinsic to their success is their capability to defend resolutely and withstand varying kinds of offensive threats. Norwich have Grant Hanley, Timm Klose and Sean Raggett, three imposing figures but they require more operators who can successfully do the ugly side of the game.
Many supporters will be expecting to see a fully functioning and play-off challenging outfit next season.
Neil’s Preston displayed energy and dynamism which increased as they became more desperate. Those supporters who travel in their droves along with a capacity crowd at Carrow Road will expect these characteristics to be connected with their side next season.
They have faced numerous outfits contending for promotion of late, with varying degrees of success. Against Aston Villa, Norwich were electric, but fell short against high flying Cardiff and the impressive Fulham.
Norwich have remained in those aforementioned games against those promotion hopefuls for lengthy spells. That must be used as proof they can compete. Evidently this side requires refinement but with another summer of squad construction beckoning, it remains to be seen how effective Norwich will be next season.
With two games to play and the season limping to finalisation, the emphasis shifts rapidly onto the summer transfer window and expectations begin to manifest themselves within supporters again. For the most part, the custodians call for patience has been received but they will need to display progressive characteristics if this is to be observed for a lengthier period.
A sense of equilibrium needs to be created on the pitch.
There are definitely shoots sprouting but all too often Norwich are devoid of offensive self belief and spark they so desperately need to propel them up the table. They require a natural width and more dynamic personnel to operate in Farke’s desired philosophy in order to make it test the rigours of the division.
Most supporters will be pleased to see the back of a season which has been tainted with underwhelm and frustration. Whilst they are willing to wait beyond the summer for success, improvements must be visible come August.