Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's 2-1 Premier League defeat to Southampton
PUBLISHED: 08:18 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:29 05 December 2019
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Saints verdict after the Canaries' 2-1 Premier League defeat
1. Burnley in disguise
This was a jolt after two genuinely encouraging Premier League displays brought merited reward. This was a reminder the enduring vulnerability within Daniel Farke's squad is just under the surface; ready to be exposed by opponents willing to press high and probe with set pieces.
The manner City compliantly allowed Southampton to effectively seal a priceless win in the first half evoked memories of another pointless away day at Burnley.
Kenny McLean found himself under a dipping ball at the near post once again. There was even a repeat of a clever pivot from a striker to lose Norwich defenders. Chris Wood found himself unmarked a yard or two out at Turf Moor after a nimble pirouette.
Here it was Shane Long running around the back of Christoph Zimmermann and in front of Ben Godfrey to divert James Ward-Prowse's corner into the path of Ryan Bertrand. These are concessions we have seen before from Norwich.
The worrying aspect was Zimmermann's addition to an inexperienced backline failed to address structural frailty. Sheffield United will not be slow in testing the same weak spot on Sunday.
2. Farke was right. Sadly
Row back to that impressive draw against Arsenal, which included another Carrow Road episode of frustration with the application of VAR.
Farke felt many things were wrong in the chain of events that culminated with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's re-taken penalty, triggered by the award a free kick Farke felt was wide of the mark.
He went further in his post-match media to reveal an exchange with the fourth official who tried to downplay the small, inconsequential parts that make up a game. Like the award of a free kick which in turn leads to a penalty that leads to more VAR angst.
Farke retorted such minor decisions 'change the world'. There was another in the first half at St Mary's.
When Todd Cantwell was turned at a throw in by Ward-Prowse and then preceded to make a grab for his shirt. Ward-Prowse was rightly awarded a free kick, from which he picked out Danny Ings to open the scoring.
It was a costly lapse from Cantwell, who has earned every last plaudit in the previous two games. But to paraphrase his head coach, small things have big consequences.
3. Time for Super Mario?
Vrancic was again an unused substitute as Farke opted for a double midfield change at the break that did not include him and played his last card with Emi Buendia late on. Those changes could so easily have paid off for the City chief.
Alex Tettey's lovely ball played in Teemu Pukki to ensure Southampton did not coast to the line, and had Buendia's sights been set his glancing stoppage time header from Max Aarons' drifted cross would have brought an equaliser.
You can be sure Farke would have been hailed for his hunches.
As it was, Vrancic's claims will continue to grow. Neither Ibrahim Amadou or Tom Trybull offered enough in the first half.
If the Bosnian's presence in a deeper role, with the right defensive protection alongside him, has the net effect of keeping Kenny McLean at the sharp end in Pukki's shadow then it is an experiment many City fans would view favourably.
The search goes on for a central midfield mix that is residually effective. Hopes had been raised in the past two league games that the formula might finally be right but there is still work for Farke to do.
4. Addicted to Pukki
Farke said prior to the game this is not the time to be addicted to the table.
Suggestions a trip to Southampton was in the same category as Watford's recent visit, for its exponential importance at the wrong end of the table, got short shrift.
Just as well given Norwich have lost both games against fellow strugglers. With more hurdles in front than behind, Farke is correct to assert City's lowly status in the standings is not a cause for alarm. But to dig themselves out of a deepening hole they need Pukki to retain his renewed appetite for Premier League goals.
That recent fallow period allied to defensive issues was really the worst of both worlds.
City continue to exhibit frailty in certain defensive situations, but Pukki is back on track. That darting run through central areas brought him a deflected goal against Arsenal but his second half strike at St Mary's was one for the purists, collecting Tettey's pass and drawing Alex McCarthy before an assured rising finish. The Finn really is a talismanic figure.
If Pukki remains in the goals Norwich will always retain hope. However tough the terrain.
5. Bravo Blades
Chris Wilder could bring his side to Norfolk on Sunday 11 points ahead of Norwich, if they turn over Newcastle United at home on Thursday evening.
The Blades' consistency and the unyielding faith in their approach has been one of the stand out features of the Premier League season thus far.
Wilder and his players deserve huge credit for transferring what worked for them as they finished in City's Championship slipstream into the big time, supplemented with some astute purchases.
Norwich had the edge in the second tier title race but the Blades will fancy their chances of turning the tables this weekend. They also claimed four points from last season's league tussles. Yet that might play into Farke's hands.
He can shove the pressure and expectation firmly onto the visitors. Many will have already written off the Canaries and conversely started to sit up and take notice of Wilder's work in south Yorkshire.
The manner of Norwich's latest defeat to Southampton needs to act as a wake up call over the coming days, because the Blades will be no less diligent in their pressing or robust in their work from set pieces when they pitch up a Carrow Road.
Unless the coach driver gets lost.