Now let’s find out what this City team are really made of
The Carabao Cup adventure may have come to an end for another season but now the question for Norwich City is what happens next?
Wasting a host of chances to lose 2-1 away to Premier League Bournemouth may have been a tough blow to take but Daniel Farke’s team at least bowed out with their heads held high after causing Eddie Howe’s high-flying team so many problems.
It meant a fourth consecutive exit in the fourth round for the Canaries, following on from penalty shootout defeats away to Everton and Leeds in 2015 and 2016 respectively, as well as a cruel extra-time loss at Arsenal last season.
It is that defeat to the Gunners – when Farke’s team were so close to a fine victory – which is being reflected upon in the wake of Tuesday’s narrow loss on the south coast though.
With over 9,000 fans having made the trip to Emirates Stadium for a memorable away day a year ago, young striker Eddie Nketiah’s 85th-minute equaliser had a major effect on City’s first season under Farke.
The England youth international scored soon after coming on to make his debut and then went on to win it in extra-time, cancelling out Josh Murphy’s fine opener in the first half.
For so much of that game the huge travelling support were in dreamland, with their team having arrived in north London unbeaten in nine matches and sitting sixth in the Championship table 13 games into the league season. All sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?
Farke only made four changes to his team that night at Arsenal, little more than 48 hours after a James Maddison strike had earned a 1-0 derby day win at Ipswich to move his side into the play-off places.
The 120 minutes which followed proved to have a draining impact, with just one win following from the 10 league matches after that night when a cup upset was snatched away.
Seven of that 10-game nosedive were defeats, including three on the bounce in the immediate aftermath, 2-1 at home to Derby, 2-0 against champions-in-waiting Wolves at Carrow Road and then one of the worst displays of the campaign in a 2-1 loss at lowly Bolton.
So it came as little surprise to see City’s German boss making eight changes to his starting XI for another testing fourth round trip to Bournemouth this week, seemingly learning the lessons of that evening at Arsenal.
Key men including Tim Krul, Timm Klose and Mo Leitner were kept on the bench, while Teemu Pukki was only risked late on in an attempt to salvage the tie.
Injuries played their part, with Marco Stiepermann (tonsillitis) and Todd Cantwell (hamstring) unavailable and Max Aarons and Klose (both hip) not risked as they remained on the bench.
While the Canaries gave it a mighty good go of upsetting the Cherries – and arguably should have, given the amount of good chances – the priority is very clearly the league at the moment.
Ahead of Arsenal last year City had won five of their last nine league games to sit sixth. This time it’s seven of the last nine Championship matches and fourth in the table.
Equally, the games which follow this year’s cup exit are not quite as daunting.
Derby came to Carrow Road just three points behind having played a game less and Wolves were second and already clearly on target for promotion.
This time it is a trip on Saturday to a 15th-placed Sheffield Wednesday, who have lost their last three and then a home clash with 18th-placed Millwall the following weekend.
No Championship team can be underestimated, it’s a division which loves to trip up teams who think too much of themselves.
Yet the Canaries will head for Hillsborough with the bit between their teeth, looking to take out the frustration of their loss at Bournemouth on the Owls and win a fourth straight league game – not to mention avenging that nightmare 5-1 loss there on the final day of last season.
City have really impressed in the last two months, now it’s time to see what they are really made of.
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