Michael Bailey: Scrap penalties, shoo-in Tom and too-good Teemu – 6 things learned from Norwich City’s Bolton bashing
That is how to respond to defeat – Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey delivers his six things learned from the Canaries’ super Bolton thrashing.
1 – It’s just like watching Brazil
I still find myself drifting back to the October win at Nottingham Forest, and one first-half moment where Norwich City turned defence into attack with beautiful football – before Onel Hernandez clipped the post.
It was a fleeting moment where you rued what would have been a wonderful goal. Little did we know it was merely a template for the rest of the season.
Bolton weren’t at the races – more on that in a tick – and City played a big part in that. More to the point, Norwich’s first two goals were as good as anything you will see in English football this season – works of art in terms of precision passing, movement on and off the ball, and a well-coached attacking approach.
That is almost harsh on the third goal, which pleased Daniel Farke for coming from a direct instruction on how to hurt Bolton – but not quite as harsh as the Bolton fan who bellowed “boring” to City’s keep-ball.
The penny will start to drop elsewhere with each replay – but as we all know, the trend now stretches back months and is a joy to behold.
2 – Trybull is now leading the pack
It used to be that Tom Trybull and Alex Tettey were City’s midfield axis. Anything else was exposed defensively or blunt going forward. And yet, Farke’s side have now grown beyond that foundation.
As a combination this season, it just hasn’t looked the same – and the alternatives have excelled. But since the arrival of 2019, what we now have is Tom Trybull in the form that for me, makes him currently first choice as City’s primary holding midfielder.
A run of games has no doubt helped – meaning he doesn’t get turned as often, snaps into tackles and kick-starts attacks.
The fact he has always been good in possession doesn’t half whet the appetite for a prolonged run alongside any number of Farke’s gifted central midfielders.
And with Moritz Leitner slotting in seamlessly for his 11-minute cameo at Bolton, Trybull could yet prove the ideal pivot for the rest of this stellar campaign.
3 – Pukki is in the wrong division
I’ve had this feeling for a while now – and it started early in the season, asking Teemu Pukki how it was for him playing in the Championship and proving himself in English football.
Given he is a genuinely calm, laid-back guy, the fact he seemed non-plussed about the level he was playing at just suited his personality. But now, I’m wondering if there is more to it – because to be frank, this is ridiculous.
Pukki has been involved in 29 of Norwich City’s Championship-leading tally of 65 goals. That is 23 goals and six assists; three of that number coming at Bolton.
He has always looked like a match-winner at this level, from the very start of the season – a player able to turn an average 86 minutes into a defining contribution.
Add in the clubs he has played for plus the competitions and occasions he has played in and there is only one conclusion: Pukki is too good for the Championship. Too clinical. Too clever. Let’s hope the result is him lifting his club to his level.
4 – The Canaries’ punchline is sadly spot on
Even Trybull admitted it was hard not to joke about the situation – although the 4-0 win helped.
It’s now seven penalties, six failures, five players – although only two have arguably cost points: Jordan Rhodes at home to West Brom in August and Marco Stiepermann’s failure at Preston in midweek.
Farke’s logic in choosing the taker and that one player wouldn’t miss six of seven attempts over the season was sound – until a player who hadn’t taken one before for City stepped up.
Once again, a player with a top penalty record elsewhere meant nothing when it came to replicating it in yellow and green.
Farke should stick to his guns and rightly add Pukki to his shortlist – but like selling James Maddison last summer, it’s probably best to just assume any success will have to come without the use of penalties.
5 – The whole is deep for the Trotters
Fair play to those at Bolton – it’s as friendly as any place we’ve been to all season.
But in turn, the home supporters were not in the mood to accept the quality of their opposition – instead lambasting the performance of their own side.
And in fairness, it was woeful. Bolton looked unable to cope with City going forward from the outset – and it only got better once Kenny McLean’s saved penalty knocked Norwich out of their imperious stride.
On Saturday’s evidence Wanderers will do well to finish above Ipswich, never mind survive – and with all sorts of issues behind the scenes, the road back looks a long one.
But that shouldn’t stop us all hoping Remi Matthews can be a brick wall at Elland Road on Saturday.
6 – You’re going to need more pairs of eyes
It all feels very real now, doesn’t it? The eyes and ears on elsewhere. The slightly higher heart rate ahead of kick-off. The weight of importance on each incident.
Leeds may well win their game in hand at QPR before the end of the month. But the fact they didn’t play on Saturday, while their three closest rivals all won – two of them 4-0 – is a dynamic that adds pressure and dropped them out of the top two.
The countdown continues – nine wins from City’s 13 games should render what everyone else does irrelevant.
That is the definition of having things in your own hands – but of course, all the contenders will feel the same.
Rest assured, the situation from here is no longer solely about what happens with City. For good or bad, it’s an intoxicating mix.
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