Cult heroes, flashes of genius and an olive branch – Six things learned from City’s victory at Brentford
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Following Norwich City’s win at Brentford, David Freezer takes a closer look at some of the Canaries’ wider issues.
1 – Enjoy the magic of Maddison
Whether it comes before the transfer window deadline of 11pm on Wednesday, or in the summer, it seems certain that James Maddison is going to outgrow City.
Of course that is frustrating but in the meantime, just enjoy a talented player who seems destined for bigger things – and who will generate a huge amount of money once one of the big boys decides to stump up enough to tempt the Canaries into selling.
When the ball broke to him in the fifth minute at Griffin Park the 21-year-old already had the situation assessed and his move planned. The classy nutmeg which allowed him to thump the ball into the top-right corner from 25 yards was pure class – and another memorable moment.
His fourth goal in a 1-0 away win and ninth of the season in all competitions – eight of which have come during victories.
The superb statistics keep piling up for City’s prized asset – a player destined to play at the very top.
2 – Big Zimm goes on a rampage
Christoph Zimmermann is already something of a City cult hero and Daniel Farke’s 3-4-3 formation is cementing that status.
The German centre-back had already won back the ball to allow Maddison to blast the Canaries in front at Griffin Park, before lashing a Harrison Reed cross just wide in the 23rd minute.
He threw himself bravely in front of a powerful shot from Kamohelo Mokotjo in the 39th minute, before going off on an adventure in first half injury-time.
The 25-year-old former Borussia Dortmund U23s defender drew one of the biggest cheers from the away end of the afternoon after beating two men and charging forward, a stray touch thwarted him but Zimmermann wasn’t finished, completing his run by closing down keeper Dan Bentley and forcing a wayward kick.
The levels of commitment and determination on show are exactly why his contract was extended last month.
3 – Reed adds new string to his bow
Harrison Reed will always remember his 23rd birthday – fondly, thankfully.
The Southampton loanee was asked to step in as emergency cover at right wing-back for injured skipper Ivo Pinto at Brentford. His broad grin when speaking to the media after full-time spoke volumes for how it went.
It wasn’t necessarily a vintage performance but the attitude, tenacity and dogged determination on display were out of the top drawer.
Experienced centre-back Grant Hanley worked hard to help his young team-mate deal with the threats of Ollie Watkins and Yoann Barbet, with Reed thwarting plenty of attempts to get past him, if not all.
He also contributed going forward, crossing to allow Zimmermann to lash a shot wide in the first half and playing Josh Murphy clean through and seeing his own shot roll across the face of goal after the break. Earned a big slice of birthday cake and can stay on the right, if needed again.
4 – Away days have been great fun
It’s been a strange season, hasn’t it?
While Daniel Farke’s side have won just two of their last 11 league games at Carrow Road, four of which have been defeats, they are now unbeaten in four away – winning three and not conceding a goal.
Just four teams have picked up more points on the road than the 23 City have so far and all of those teams are in the play-off places.
The latest win was helped by Lasse Vibe and Romaine Sawyers, the duo who combined for both goals as the Bees won 2-1 at Carrow Road last month, both missing out. It also owed a lot to the Canaries digging in defensively and frustrating the hosts, as Angus Gunn kept the 11th clean sheet of his loan spell – bettered by only three keepers in the Championship.
Nelson Oliveira and Josh Murphy both worked hard to create openings but left the pitch with shoulders slumped and that has to change if City are to also improve at home.
5 – Glimpse of Leitner’s potential
Three of City’s new signings made the trip to Brentford but only one made his debut.
Former Borussia Dortmund and Germany prospect Moritz Leitner has been on the bench for a Champions League final and picked up a Bundeslia winners’ medal.
It was in the 79th minute at Griffin Park, just two days after his loan from Augsburg was confirmed, where the attacking midfielder began what he and Farke will hope is the start of his revival.
The pace seemed to catch him out initially, after being put on with City clinging on to their three points already, failing to stop a Nico Yennaris cross from coming in from the right.
His hesitancy also caused Grant Hanley to concede a dangerous free-kick deep into injury-time but in between those two was a flash of what could be to come, playing a perfectly-weighted into the left channel to Maddison that the playmaker just couldn’t quite control well enough. A flash of potential genius, will more follow though?
6 – An olive branch for Watkins?
After a three-game exile Marley Watkins was back in the City squad.
The Wales international was publicly admonished by his head coach for not meeting the required standards in training or games and left out completely recently.
After news of a bid from Bristol City filtered through during the week, it seemed the summer signing from Barnsley could be on way out. Yet on Friday it emerged that Farke felt he had seen a response on the training pitches from the 27-year-old and on Saturday he came on for Nelson Oliveira in the 82nd minute.
With Brentford piling forward and City hanging on, it was a short shift as much about defending as trying to lead the line, but it seemed an olive branch was being offered by Farke, with new striker Dnnis Srbeny also on the bench.
Bristol may yet come back with an offer to tempt City before the transfer deadline but it seems, for now, that Watkins has a second chance.