Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 3-0 cup defeat against Liverpool
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Paddy Davitt delivers his Liverpool verdict after Norwich City's 3-0 League Cup third round exit
1. Throw some shapes
Daniel Farke hinted pre-match he would dust off a defensive three plenty of times in the coming weeks and months.
Little did we realise he meant hours, with Ben Gibson and Andrew Omobamidele flanking Grant Hanley in a new look formation, with Bali Mumba and Dimitris Giannoulis hopefully offering attacking threat, rather than pinned into a reinforced backline.
But the ‘base formation’ is essentially an irrelevant discussion point if Norwich remain vulnerable defending set pieces. Or leave strikers like Divock Origi unmarked for free headers. Origi towered above Lukas Rupp at a fourth minute Liverpool corner, and Takumi Minamino reacted quickest to swivel and hit the ball past Angus Gunn.
It was the cheapest of concessions. Then he leisurely rose to glance home the Reds’ second early in the second period, before Hanley and Gibson commenced the latest inquest. Dimitris Giannoulis’ elaborate spin on the edge of his own box sparked Minamino’s second.
All three goals underscored what Farke also went onto say in that discussion on tweaking the shape; there are multiple other factors that City need to try and master if they are to offer more resistance.
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2. Place your bets
On the basis Ozan Kabak comes into Farke’s thoughts for the trip to Everton on Saturday, if the German aims to persist with a defensive three then the question is who drops out?
Omobamidele’s relative youth might suggest he is the likely candidate. Perhaps Gibson, on the basis he made way for the Republic of Ireland international at Arsenal.
But captain Hanley has failed to convince in these past two outings he can offer the same level of protection that came so routinely to the Scot in the Championship procession.
Watford’s opener at the weekend and Origi’s header were remarkably similar concessions. Balls from wide areas that saw Hanley trying and failing to head clear, while the goalscorer appeared from behind. Ismaila Sarr’s first goal for the Hornets was another that did little to advance Hanley’s personal claims. Although in both cases, Kabak looked no less secure.
Farke will clearly want more from his ‘rock’ if Norwich really are going to shore up a defence which continues to look far too porous.
3. Look into my eyes, not around the eyes
To be fair to Hanley there is a bigger malaise infecting Farke’s players. Again there was spells against Liverpool of genuine promise; attacking urgency, midfield bite and a calmness in possession at the back. But yet again whether it is concentration, or being lulled into a false sense of security, this current Norwich collective appear reliably predictable.
You know there will be a moment, a cross, a header, a shot which will unpick those good spells, stick Norwich on the back foot, and ultimately end in defeat.
How Farke infuses this group with the mindset to make the most of their productive periods, and keep the back door shut, appears increasingly like to define the season. So far the answers remain elusive.
4. Jumping Tzolis
That penalty clipped down the centre kicked away by Caoimhin Kelleher will probably haunt the teenage Greek international. Based on how the game panned out. It would have capped a vibrant offering in a jet-heeled pairing with Adam Idah.
Tzolis makes things happen. His pace and directness unsettled the Reds’ defence and he looked for the most part Norwich’s best attacking outlet. There is inevitably a rawness to his work one would expect given his age and inexperience.
But the gamble for Farke now is when and how he unleashes Tzolis on the Premier League stage. A first league start at Arsenal will have given him a taste and with Josh Sargent, Milot Rashica, plus Todd Cantwell and others in the conversation, it is not the easiest route to the City starting line up.
But there was enough promise in another League Cup shift to suggest Tzolis is a little bit more than the ‘mid to long term’ project Farke originally outlined when he sought to take some of the pressure off a player, lest one forget, he also believes carries the potential to become world class.
5. Finding the key for Billy
Gilmour had another chance to make a big impression in a remodelled system, which across that central midfield looked uncannily familiar. Gilmour and Pierre Lees-Melou had Rupp for protection and that licence to get forward and get on the ball.
Once City’s heads had cleared after such an early concession there was a first half spell when the Chelsea loanee managed to do just that.
Notably with the driving run and perfectly-timed pass to Tzolis in the lead up to Norwich’s penalty award.
Get Gilmour on that ball and he has the vision and the technique. Sadly, for the most part in the early Premier League skirmishes he has found himself without the ball and running back towards his goal forlornly trying to add defensive ballast.
That is not why Farke or Stuart Webber recruited a player who boasts a Champions League winner’s medal.
But the jury will remain out until Farke is able to arm him with the defensive protection in a system which gives Norwich a decent shot at grabbing the share of possession required for Gilmour to shine.