Norwich are back to winning ways. Here's Jon Punt on Buendia's brilliance, Majestic McLean and Hanley's head....
Back to winning ways and although the score line suggests Norwich just edged the encounter, the margin of victory could have been much wider.
Very presentable chances were created then spurned by both Pukki and Cantwell, the latter could be considered unfortunate or profligate, but on another day he’d have had a hat-trick.
This wasn’t Norwich at their free flowing best, but they still carve out more opportunities than almost any other side in the division. If they continue to do that, they will be a Premier League team next season.
Grant Hanley has an uncanny knack of ensuring that when a corner is swung into the box, his head is always the most likely to connect with the ball. Defensively, this is very much a plus, the Norwich captain is undoubtedly one of the key factors for why the team no longer ships so many goals from set pieces.
However, at the other end of the pitch Hanley has work to do. He regularly finds himself on the end of dead balls, yet fails to hit the target almost every time. Maybe his funny shaped head is more conducive to looping clearances as opposed to targeted efforts on goal, but it’s bizarre that with the amount of chances that have fallen his way, Hanley is yet to open his season’s account.
It’s a small niggle, but if Norwich continue to pursue fine margins in the quest for success, improving the skipper’s goal contribution could definitely be one to target.
Moment of the match
Emiliano Buendia is a freak. By now many Norwich fans are alert to the fact he’s technically one of the best we’ve seen pull on the yellow shirt, but he continues to remind us of his ridiculous skill with goals like these. In addition, his workrate and subsequently his output has improved dramatically since his head was turned back from a summer exit to the direction of HMS PTL.
McLean delivered a wonderfully accurate ball into Barnsley’s box for the opener, yet expectation around the ball ending up in the visitors’ net wasn’t exactly high. Mere mortals would have taken a touch before probably being shut down by a defender, the chance disappearing as quickly as it arrived. Buendia isn’t a mere mortal, but the execution even for someone of his prodigious talent was arguably more difficult than his similar strikes against Brentford (2018/19) and Bristol City. It was a goal worthy of winning any contest.
Kenny McLean delivered a stand out performance full of running, hustling and aggression, essentially everything you want from a defensive midfielder. The Scot rarely put a foot wrong and delivered the aforementioned assist to break the deadlock, while also clearing up a few times when full backs were caught in possession high up the pitch.
McLean’s displays of late have been excellent, Norwich’s engine room is probably the most difficult place to nail down a starting position right now, yet he would have every right to feel seriously aggrieved if he was afforded a rest sometime soon.
Farke opted to bring back Tim Krul and Ben Gibson, and his decision was fully vindicated with a clean sheet and three points. In a match where the Tykes had deployed an energetic and organised high press, it was always key for Norwich to be able to retain possession and tire the opposition’s legs for later in the game. Krul and the on-loan Gibson delivered fully and the backline itself looks visibly more composed for the Dutchman’s presence.
This is no slight on Michael McGovern, who has deputised ably over the last 9 games, but Krul is one of a clutch of senior pros at the club that you hope stay fit over the next few months to ensure Norwich get over the line.
A difficult game to sum up succinctly. Barnsley will count themselves as very unfortunate not to have taken the lead through Luke Thomas, and even more ill-fated to have seen a 94th minute effort drift wide. In fact, lady luck has shone on the Canaries over the last two games, with poor finishing in the dying embers of matches meaning they are three points better off than they perhaps might have been.
However, that doesn’t really tell the tale of the match. Norwich could and should have taken the lead way before Buendia struck, and were wasteful when the chances came to double the advantage. The upside is they remained relatively resolute at the back and didn’t really gift anything to their opponents. Barnsley came with a gameplan – their educated pressure, ability to break quickly committing numbers when doing so and their desire to get something from the league leaders was clear from the off. They sought to go forward whenever they could and on a number of occasions City had to be at their best to repel their attacks.
Yet once Norwich were into some kind of rhythm they always looked likely to score. Tactical flexibility in midfield meant Vrancic could drop deeper in the search of possession when required, with either Cantwell or McLean becoming the midfielder furthest forward. That created gaps and allowed Norwich to play the kind of football which wins games consistently at this level.
While the three points were vital after two games without a win, confidence can also be taken from the manner with which City went about their business. All aboard.
Maddie & Lawny join the boys to review QPR & Watford, look ahead to Barnsley & Coventry, give out some end of 2020 awards, look back on some memorable + head in hand moments, rounding off the year with a play along at home quiz. HNY to all our deal listeners x