Robin Sainty: Dowell - round hole, round peg
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It would have been hugely anticlimactic had City finally sealed their Championship title as a result of Watford’s defeat at Brentford, so Saturday’s emphatic and stylish demolition of a Reading team that had started the game so well was a hugely satisfying way of wrapping things up.
It’s ironic that having looked so well organised at set-pieces throughout the season City conceded the opening goal from a free-kick, but once they got back on terms it was pretty much one-way traffic, with only an outstanding performance from Rafael Cabral in the Reading goal keeping his side from a Huddersfield-type hammering.
Daniel Farke must be delighted with the way that Kieran Dowell has nailed down the number 10 slot over the last few weeks. For me the position behind Teemu Pukki has been the missing piece in City’s jigsaw for much of the season and has resulted in several attempts to fit square pegs into a round hole, but it would now seem that he has alighted upon the perfect solution.
Not only is Dowell a natural goalscorer, contributing five goals in the last nine games, but his sharpness of mind and excellent movement off the ball makes it virtually impossible for opponents to shut down City’s attacking threat when they also have to deal with Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell.
The only downside to the game was the metatarsal injury to Oliver Skipp and there was something symbolic about a player who has run himself into the ground for his side week after week crumpling to the turf unchallenged just before the final whistle of the game that completed City’s journey to the title.
Regardless of whether or not we ever see him in a City shirt again, Skipp’s contribution to the club has been unforgettable and he has arguably contributed more for the Canaries than any previous loanee.
It was also rather sad that no fans were able to be there to give a proper send-off to Mario Vrancic and Alex Tettey, who were making their final Carrow Road appearances.
In his first season at Norwich, Vrancic took some time to adjust to the pace and physicality of the Championship, but then went on to play a key role in City’s first promotion under Farke with some stunning goals and although he struggled in the Premier League last season, starting only six games, he has made a significant contribution to the success of this campaign, despite often playing out of position.
He will be missed, but the departure of Tettey really does seem like the end of an era. Since arriving in 2012 he has enjoyed three promotions, but also remained loyal to the club through three relegations and will surely eventually find himself in the Hall of Fame. He is also, of course, the last link to the 2014/15 play-off winning squad.
It’s always sad when popular members of the squad leave, particularly someone as long-serving as Tettey, but last time City went up the loyalty shown to the players who had got them there saw a number of them effectively becoming passengers during the Premier League stay and the fact that the club has been unable to move some on has resulted in them becoming a financial drain, despite having no future at Norwich.
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The self-funding model allows no room for sentiment and it’s vital that all available funds in the playing budget can be funnelled towards players who will be able to contribute at the higher level, because if City are to survive in the Premier League next season they will need much greater squad depth than last time, particularly if their injury list reaches the sort of levels of the last two seasons.
Stuart Webber and Farke may have made the mistake of showing excessive loyalty in the past, but they won’t make it twice.