Paddy Davitt verdict: Rafa was right. The facts tell the story
PUBLISHED: 12:27 25 February 2018 | UPDATED: 07:51 26 February 2018
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Norwich City fans learnt nothing new but battling Bolton brought the good and the bad into sharp focus.
The Canaries can defend. The Canaries cannot score in the quantities required to compete at the business end of the Championship.
To paraphrase Rafa Benitez, those are the facts.
Indisputable numbers contained in a league table which is unlikely to radically alter at this advanced stage of a season of discovery.
City have scored one league goal every 90 minutes at Carrow Road this campaign. Little wonder there is a palpable sense of underlying frustration, compounded perhaps rather than alleviated by their routine resilience away from Norfolk.
Just in the past two road trips, Norwich have earned uplifting draws at two of the genuine promotion candidates, with composed, efficient comebacks that appear Daniel Farke’s stock-in-trade.
The problem is not even about chance creation; Norwich created plenty of opportunities against the Trotters in a one-sided first half that lacked the most important ingredient.
Farke’s greatest challenge is to embellish defensive organisation with real productivity at the top end of the pitch.
Here, he altered the shape of the side and used Timm Klose’s injury absence as an opportunity to get one more offensive-minded player on the pitch.
Onel Hernandez made his full debut with Josh Murphy and Nelson Oliveira restored to the line up.
Behind them, the German tried to harness the intelligent promptings of Moritz Leitner and James Maddison.
That is a quintet with enough latent creativity to puncture the resistance of most Championship rivals.
But it did not happen. It has not happened too often this season.
Without the lasting antidote City’s nascent revival remains fragile.
There is so much to admire now in the robustness of their work without the ball and the intricacy of their passing motions when they inject some pace and dynamism into their forward motion.
But the big, black cloud hanging over Farke and his players since Fulham on the opening weekend is proving stubbornly resistant.
The head coach changed his formation in this game.
He has changed personnel with a regularity that illustrates he is striving for the right formula.
It might take another astute transfer window to furnish a squad with the goals that can maximise the progress visibly happening in other areas of the football pitch.
This is less about castigating individuals.
Or accepting apologies on social media from frustrated players.
The sentiment was laudable but Leitner did not need telling how poor his finish was against the Trotters.
It was the most marked example of a lack of precision that led Farke to claim his side should have been 5-0 up at the interval. He was not exaggerating.
It hinges on developing a mindset, a cunning and an insatiable appetite to apply the coup de grace to all the pretty passing patterns.
A greed and even a pride in burying teams, to apply the gloss to Norwich’s superiority in open play.
In the final analysis if the answers do not lie within this current squad then Norwich’s run-in will resemble a holding pattern, until Farke and Stuart Webber can address the goals deficit.
The manner City’s head coach has thrown a ring of security around Angus Gunn should inspire confidence.
It will take next season at the very earliest before the likes of Hernandez and Dennis Srbeny can be judged.
These initial forays into the English second tier are part of their education.
One need only look at how Christoph Zimmermann continues to blossom to demonstrate time should be afforded the new boys.
Nelson Oliveira was bright and voraciously keen to link the play outside the box in the opening period, and only Ben Alnwick’s stunning save denied him a second consecutive goal.
Yet there were numerous other sighters from the hosts that lacked any real conviction.
Farke labelled them ‘100pc, unbelievable chances’ but that back catalogue grows with each passing contest.
The time to worry is when chances are not being created, is the old football cliche.
That might hold more credence if it was the exception rather than the norm.
Farke knows it. His players clearly know it. So too do those who troop to Carrow Road.
Bolton was the latest reminder we are perhaps only at the end of the beginning.
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