Frustration was the overriding emotion in a tough afternoon for Norwich City.
Prior to this fixture, Norwich were eight unbeaten and sitting within the upper reaches of the table. There was a genuine sense of optimism which had been discovered as supporters were beginning to believe this group of players could achieve something this season.
That optimism should be retained, based on performance, this was certainly one to feel positive about as for long spells, Norwich were dominant.
Simply, Norwich didn’t score when they were in the ascendancy. In the opening period, they had a spell of complete dominance whereby they produced everything but a finish. Small margins dictate outcomes of football matches, and had Marco Stiepermann of converted his chance, then the complexion of the match could have been vastly different.
The rendition of ‘On the Ball, City’ that met the final whistle spoke volumes as to how the punters felt regarding the performance. A standing ovation from all four corners of Carrow Road painted the picture of Norwich’s performance, they deserved more.
They’ve experienced the rub of the green during their resurgent run but this time out, it appears the footballing gods weren’t shining down on them.
Despite a high number of crosses being put into the area, the majority of the deliveries didn’t find anyone donning yellow and green.
Norwich lacked punch, that cannot be denied, despite the high percentage of possession they achieved, they simply weren’t good enough in the final third.
They need to display more cutting edge if they possess genuine ambitions of hunting for a playoff position, their possession needs to be effective in the opposition’s half. They didn’t force the issue enough and failed to connect the thirds in the manner witnessed during the unbeaten run.
Credit needs to be handed to Stoke City.
Purposely, Gary Rowett changed his formation to cater for Norwich’s threats. It was a classic away performance and one which could breathe life into a Stoke side who have suffered an enduring start to the campaign.
They were compact and resilient, not providing Norwich with any concessions. Their defensive shape was excellent, they were organised and restricted Norwich space in central areas. Norwich’s central midfield has been a major factor to their newfound recipe for winning yet Stoke overloaded this area and forced them wide.
Rowett deserves credit for his tactical reshuffle and his players application of the system proved effective.
A glance only needs to taken at their squad list to appreciate the depth of quality they possess.
An England goalkeeper between the sticks, a £12m winger and a proven Championship goal scorer, this Stoke side is full to the brim with quality and know how. That was a win crafted from the training pitch and hours of rehearsed defensive shaping.
Norwich will play worse than that this season and manage to find themselves on the right side of the score line.
Fatigue has manifested itself within the squad after a relentless run of games. Daniel Farke named an unchanged side for the fifth game in a row, perhaps a surprise considering the congested schedule and evident struggle for some players at the end of that midweek fixture against Derby County.
Teemu Pukki has been one of Norwich’s shining lights thus far this season.
The Finnish internationals role has evolved, seeing him become a more conventional striker rather than the number ten role he was operating in at the beginning of the season. Thus far, his work rate has been phenomenal, chasing lost causes, working in the channels and taking his moments in front of goal.
Pukki had an off day this time out.
He had a excellent game, still think he could've been more positive in final 3rd, passed it a couple of times when he's got the ability to do it himself https://t.co/phbyNDjm4b
— Darren Huckerby (@hucks6dh6) October 6, 2018
Norwich’s youngsters once again proved the doubters wrong. There were questions marks surrounding whether they had the mental strength to go again.
Todd Cantwell justified getting his man of the match award, Max Aarons belied his stature by nullifying the experienced James McClean and Jamal Lewis put in some devilish crosses throughout the game.
Cantwell needs to be more expressive in the final third. Currently, the shackles are on and he is determined to play safe. He has the capability to turn defenders with ease coupled with his supreme technical ability, Cantwell needs to trust his ability, when he does, Norwich will have a player capable of winning football matches with moments of individual quality.
He has maturity and composure on the football, now he needs to add self confidence and trust in his ability into his game.
Stoke City had the lowest share of possession (31.1%) of any victorious away team at Carrow Road since possession stats began.
Their two shots on target was also the fewest any winning away team has had at Norwich City since Manchester United in May 2016 #ncfc pic.twitter.com/Z8YdqyDhD0
— NCFC Numbers (@ncfcnumbers) October 6, 2018
Moritz Leitner displayed a masterclass in possession of the football. The German has fully adapted to the rigours of the league and is looking resembling the player supporters had seen glimpses of on a more consistent basis.
Losing a game was always going to be inevitable, but the response will now be intriguing.
If Norwich can dust themselves off and take the positives of this performance whilst working on offensive productivity, they can push on at Nottingham Forest after the international break. However, the crushing nature of that equaliser at Pride Park and the frustrating nature of this defeat.
It feels like Farke has got the vast majority of #ncfc fans back on side again. We are a good team; young, vibrant and fun. But top six is still a big ask and there’s no shame in that.
— Das Finz (@JamesFinbow) October 6, 2018
Response will prove pivotal.
Belief will be enhanced if Norwich can continue to operate at this high level of performance. They currently stand at a crossroads which will determine whether this has simply been a positive run of form or whether Norwich do possess the capabilities to mount a challenge.
Right now, there are plenty of reasons to be an excited Norwich supporter. Daniel Farke has constructed a vibrant, energetic and likeable side that supporters can really get behind. It’s an enjoyable period following Norwich at present.
But now, time to see how James Maddison gets on for England.