When the dust settles, rationality returns and City fans finally reflect back on this hectic Carrow Road encounter, we will surely all be united in the sense that the positives we witnessed far outweighed the negativity which manifests in the score line.
Yes, we lost 4-3. Yes, we conceded four goals at home to a West Bromwich Albion side void of a win in their opening two Championship fixtures.
Yes, some of the defending was dire. However, what we were treated to at times – particularly during the first half – was a sumptuous attacking display characterised by purpose, tempo and dynamism, traits that this side lacked so conspicuously throughout last year’s underwhelming campaign.
On balance, however, City were by far the better side.
But the reality is we lost. This was a day where individual errors cost Farke’s side, a performance not so much lacking in enterprise but instead being blighted by a series of defensive calamities and an inability to be clinical in front of Scott Johnstone’s goal.
Tim Krul, Alex Tettey and Jordan Rhodes may take a while to get over this one.
It was West Brom’s second goal that functioned as the hammer blow to City. There was a genuine buzz around the ground at half-time, a sense of collective satisfaction that us faithful were finally being delivered the progressive, high-tempo and forward-thinking football that Farke had promised us at the beginning of his tenure.
Moritz Leitner and Kenny McClean were superb, receiving possession, dictating play and casting a shadow over the experienced Chris Brunt and England international Jake Livermore. Timm Klose was excellent, winning headers, making tackles and calmly facilitating Ivo Pinto’s cameo in the makeshift left-back role. Teemu Pukki and Rhodes were lively, making runs and darting around. Onel Hernandez, once again, was talismanic.
Yet City went into the break at 1-1, an eventful half that consisted of two penalties and a guilt-edged miss from our new striker.
Farke’s men were dominant prior to Rhodes’ opener, with protagonists Leitner, McClean, Pukki and Hernandez linking up fluidly and moving the ball with pace. It was Hernandez who posed City’s greatest threat, taking visible confidence from his late heroics at St Andrew’s the weekend before and willingly running at West Brom’s defence.
Can’t believe West Brom’s third goal yesterday wasn’t ruled out for offside. Dwight Gayle is clearly in front of Tim Krul as the shot is taken and therefore interfering with play. Poor from the lino not to spot it #ncfc pic.twitter.com/dwioaAofxJ
— Dave Clarke (@clarkedp) August 12, 2018
The first half represented exactly the sort of football the Carrow Road faithful expected our German coach to instil upon his arrival in NR1: crisp, slick passing on the ball in tandem with intelligent movement and penetrative runs off it.
Leitner was terrific, continually seeking possession and cleverly redistributing it with an unerring degree of quality. Such a showing fully legitimated Farke’s and Stuart Webber’s fervent desires to sign the midfielder throughout the summer months.
The pressing issue now is whether or not this evolving City side will be able to sustain such quality across a gruelling forty-six game Championship season.
Once everything is ironed out and individual errors are turned away #NCFC are gonna be challenging top six.
We have creative minds and an excellent presence in front of goal, Pukki instrumental.
Defence will strengthen over time, especially with reintroduction of Lewis etc…
— cam (@_cxmdoran_) August 12, 2018
Although the result failed to go Norwich’s way yesterday afternoon, the performance we witnessed for large parts of the game unequivocally represented more change than continuity from last season, with Farke’s possession-based philosophy becoming increasingly direct, slicker and penetrative.
At times, it really was refreshing to watch.
All those present at a sun-baked Carrow Road were surely delighted to see Rhodes get off the mark to give City the lead, a poacher-like finish that demonstrated exactly why he was once such a feared striker in this league.
Despite his spurned one-on-one with Johnstone and subsequent missed penalty, Rhodes had a good half, making runs into the channels and posing a consistent threat to Albion’s defence. If such movement continues – and City’s playmakers succeed in providing him with service – he will have a profitable season in yellow and green.
But cue the exhibition of individual incompetence.
Shoot me down but I was impressed, good build up play ,chances created ,goals scored, good energy ,never gave up , not every game we’ll concede penalties as bad as that , miss penalties like that or have keeper make mistakes like that , #ncfc far more good than bad
— deggzy (@derekwear) August 11, 2018
First was Ben Marshall, who has started promisingly in a City shirt but failed to register the presence of the menacing Dwight Gayle behind him in the build-up to Albion’s equaliser. Then came Krul, impetuously rushing out from his goal in front of the Barclay end and fouling the striker. Jay Rodriguez did the rest, and City – despite their overwhelming dominance in the contest – saw their lead somewhat unjustly eradicated.
But it was Albion’s second that really hurt City. Tettey dithered in possession, Livermore robbed the ball off him and Krul – whose handling was flawless in the West Midlands last weekend – failed to parry Rodriguez’s powerful albeit firmly central shot.
Such an error rendered the absence of Angus Gunn in the City goal all the more palpable, a mistake that Krul visibly acknowledged but one that he must seek to eradicate from his game if this Norwich side are going to possess any chance of mounting a play-off push this season.
In an instant, all that half-type hype had been ruthlessly extinguished.
Still trying to make sense of that game. Lots of positives in the first half, but good work undermined by individual errors. And not enough resilience when things went against us. But real attacking potential; will win plenty if we repeat that first half #ncfc
— Stewart Lewis (@StewartLewis2) August 11, 2018
While the second-half provided considerable drama, what City fans should take from it was the fervent resolve, resilience and tenacity delineated by Farke’s players.
Even at 3-1 down, heads failed to drop and Norwich continued to adhere to their principles, a sense of collective fight that should stand this group of players in good stead for the season ahead.
Despite the goals from Pukki and Grant Hanley – who has had a slow and less than convincing start to his campaign as club captain – City failed to attain anything from what was a truly chaotic game.
But we must take the positives.
Granted, conceding four goals at home is way short of the standard expected of these players. However, as we witnessed last season, Farke as a coach is more than capable of tightening up his defence and instilling it with a revived sense of solidity.
That, combined with the fluid, slick and genuinely high-tempo passing football we saw in the first half, could be a potent and considerably effective combination.
So onto Bramall Lane next week for what appears to be a game that Norwich could really do with attaining something from.
We can all assume City will complete Tuesday night’s formalities against Stevenage, so next Saturday functions as the next serious test this side will face.
If they combine the brand of football on show during large parts of the game yesterday with the boldness and character they showed in South Yorkshire last September, they have every chance of success.