Robin Sainty: Encouraging shades of the Lambert era from Farke's Canaries
PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 August 2018
It would be dangerous to draw too many conclusions, either positive or negative, from City's trip to Birmingham last week.
Whilst an away point is never a bad result in such a competitive league City’s performance was very much of the curate’s egg variety.
The starting line-up, with no Moritz Leitner or Kenny McLean, was something of a surprise, and the two holding midfield players suggested that Daniel Farke’s priority, albeit unsurprisingly at this early stage, was not to lose.
As it was City’s only problems in the first half were largely self-inflicted, not least due to two sloppy cross-field passes from Grant Hanley, who had an uncharacteristically dozy afternoon, culminating in an awful piece of flat footed ball watching for what looked like being Birmingham’s winner. Overall there was too much sideways passing between him and Timm Klose, often due to too little movement ahead of them.
So far, so familiar, and when Birmingham went ahead just after City, who seemed to have mentally stayed in the dressing room after half-time, had survived a frantic goalmouth scramble there was inevitably much grumbling in the crowd. However, that was when we started to see what is hopefully a taste of things to come as Farke’s team evolves.
The coach’s decision to introduce Leitner and McLean at the expense of one of the holding midfielders and the hapless James Husband introduced a greater attacking intent, but ironically it was Dennis Srbeny, a player written off by many last season, who had the greatest impact, with three surging runs from deep, the last of them setting up Onel Hernandez for his second goal and sending the Gil Merrick Stand into raptures.
Of course, by far the biggest positive for City was the performance of Hernandez, whose movement across the front line caused all sorts of problems for the home defenders who were never quite sure who should be picking him up. His pace is now matched by greater strength on the ball, but what really impressed was his coolness in the box, having appeared to panic when in sight of goal last season, and his second finish was perfectly executed, after receiving some assistance from Birmingham’s keeper for his first.
Farke would also have been encouraged by the performances of both Jordan Rhodes, who kept Birmingham’s central defenders under pressure and will undoubtedly prove a serious goal threat with better service, and Teemu Pukki whose tireless running and clever touches (if you weren’t at the game check the highlights for his cushioned header which set Srbeny on the run that resulted in the second equaliser) proved an excellent foil for Rhodes’ spacial awareness.
Ben Marshall also showed a great deal of promise, although I would like to see him a little further forward where his excellent crossing might well create more opportunities for Rhodes, as he did with an inch perfect first half ball which saw the striker’s powerful header tipped over the bar.
However, two things that should definitely encourage City fans are the fact that Farke made positive substitutions while there was still plenty of time left for them to have an impact, and also the way in which his team shrugged off conceding a goal in the 89th minute and continued to believe that they could get something from the game. Shades of the Lambert era there, and a tangible benefit of a tough pre-season.
Today will be a completely different challenge with City expected to take the initiative and I would therefore expect the side to be set up differently to last week.
Farke will be acutely aware that last season City snatched an away point thanks to a late equaliser on opening day before fluffing their lines at home against a newly relegated club, so he and his players will want to lay down a marker in front of the Carrow Road crowd.