Six things you might have missed after City's draw with Brighton
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As Norwich City steady the ship with another goalless draw, David Freezer takes a look at six things you might have missed during the Canaries' Premier League battle with Brighton.
1 - Style evolution
Only once before during Daniel Farke’s reign have the Canaries dipped below 300 attempted passes in a league game, during the 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City on the final day of 2019-20.
Considering the number of chances created and a season-high of 15 efforts at goal, attempting just 292 passes emphasises the stylistic evolution that is underway. Having only 35 per cent of possession is also lower than only one home league game under Farke, the epic 3-2 win over Manchester City (31pc).
Switching to 3-5-2 has thankfully halted the flow of goals at one end, after conceding 16 in the opening six games, and is relying on City to play on the counter.
The classy passing of Mathias Normann is helping on that front, with the back three’s understanding improving and Dimitris Giannoulis and Max Aarons growing into their wing-back roles.
Had City’s front men not looked so rusty as chances came their way, Saturday could well have been a victorious turning point. Yet the key thing is that chances are being created.
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2 - Great atmosphere
Prior to kick-off, there was a banner in the lower Barclay declaring: “For these colours, together we fight.”
With the sea of yellow and green flags also returning at that end of the stadium, there was a real air of determination among the Carrow Road faithful.
The roar of encouragement that followed the attack which resulted in Teemu Pukki firing just wide in the second half was followed by an ear-rattling rendition of On The Ball City.
Daniel Farke sensed it and waved his arms in the air ahead of an injury-time corner and got the roaring response he’d wanted. Grant Hanley headed wide but for a team sitting bottom with two points and two goals from eight games, there were strong signs of unity during an appreciative full-time reception.
No hope? That was far from the atmosphere which added to the entertaining scrap with the Seagulls.
3 - Pierre’s step forward
Normann’s style has claimed much of the midfield plaudits after Saturday but Pierre Lees-Melou also enjoyed a strong afternoon, putting in his most consistent overall displaying since arriving from Nice.
The Frenchman had shown flashes of quality prior to the draw with Brighton but looked fitter, stronger and more confident than previous appearances.
He was credited with five successful tackles, more than any other player on the pitch, and the 28-year-old put in a box-to-box effort against good opposition.
City still need more from their summer signing in possession and his one effort at goal was driven a couple of yards over the crossbar from the edge of the box, but he was very much involved throughout and worked hard for his team.
Winning back possession and playing Pukki down the right in the first half was wasted by the striker trying to find Josh Sargent rather than trying to test the keeper.
4 - Pukki lacking power
That chance set up by Lees-Melou summed up Pukki’s afternoon, as he couldn’t quite manage to continue the party that started while on Finland duty.
The 31-year-old was in the thick of the action though, thumping the turf in frustration after winning back the ball to a huge cheer, only to chip wide after being played through on goal by Aarons midway through the second half.
The Finn teed up Josh Sargent’s second big chance and linked wonderfully with Milot Rashica ahead of a late opportunity, with the substitute's pass just pushing him wide enough to allow Dan Burn to make a heroic recovering tackle as the Finn pulled the trigger.
He was also booked for dissent after showing his annoyance at not being awarded a free-kick and appeared very much up for the fight throughout.
The Pukki power wasn’t quite there but City have all week to get their main man’s battery fully charged.
5 - Building the wall
Back-to-back goalless draws may be too dull for some to handle but this was far more entertaining than the hard-fought battle at Burnley and also represents successive Premier League clean sheets for the first time under Farke.
City last managed that in March 2016 during the resurgence in form under Alex Neil when following a 0-0 home draw with Manchester City by winning 1-0 at West Brom.
The last time a Canaries side managed three successive shut-outs in the top tier was in November 2012 as Chris Hughton started to embed his style, with 1-0 home wins over Stoke and Manchester United either side of a goalless stalemate at Reading.
Tim Krul was needed for two good saves in the first half though and also survived a VAR penalty review after making minimal contact with the stumbling Neal Maupay, who also poked over a fine close-range chance late in the game.
The defence has improved but is still a work in progress.
6 - Holding on to hope
Of the 38-game Premier League seasons that City have had, the most points after eight games was 11 under Paul Lambert in 2011-12 and the fewest was five in 2004-05, when the wait for a win stretched to 13 matches.
Nigel Worthington’s squad ended up in a position where survival was in their hands on the final day – only to implode at Fulham.
In the past 10 years, there have been five teams on two points or fewer at this stage and two of those went on to survive: Sunderland finishing 14th in 2014 and Newcastle 13th in 2019.
Just one team have only scored two goals – but also went on to survive: Crystal Palace ended up as high as 11th in 2018, after having three points from eight games.
The Canaries will travel to Chelsea more in hope than expectation on Saturday lunchtime, although the Blues do have a Champions League home tie against Malmo on Wednesday night. Another hard shift awaits, when at least preserving some of this weekend’s positive elements would be very welcome ahead of more winnable games against Leeds and Brentford.
- You can listen to our review of the game in the latest episode of the Pink Un Podcast above and watch David Freezer's post-game verdict in the video below