BOLTON (H); THE REVIEW

25/02/18

A half full of verve, tempo and chances was ultimately followed by a 45 much akin to City's performances of late 2017. Tom Parsley and Jon Punt take a look at Farke's frustration, Christoph the Colossus and much much more....

Random star performer

Unlike the recent couple of games, where he's shone after atoning for errors, today Christoph Zimmerman was more pro-actively impressive, striding out to snuff out attacks before they started, while calm on the ball and always successfully playing his way out of tight defensive situations. In him, Lewis and Hanley (who again at times today showed off his surprising speed), it's easy to feel confident we'll have plenty more clean sheets to build on in the coming years.

It's easy to forget this was all after an enforced reshuffle caused by Klose's absence too. While the opposition might only have threatened rarely (if at all), some of that can be put down to City's defensive excellence.

Moment of the match

A sumptuous move, which included 5 one-touch passes in a row on the edge of Bolton's box, unfortunately Hernandez's cutback was driven at the keeper with the net waiting to bulge. This was just one of several quick pieces of interplay in the first half where the finishing strike was significantly worse than the luscious build-up play deserved.

Farke watch

The usually calm German decided to go full Peter Kay when launching the ball airwards after a contentious throw in was awarded Bolton's way. It wasn't the decision itself though, more the pent up frustration at his side's profligacy which caused a rare moment of madness. It's worth reflecting on whether the punishment fits the crime too. While it might have been ill-advised, a player would only ever be given a caution for a similar offence.

Mid-week comments about Wes' future inclusion were also proved to be more than hearsay, his inclusion in the squad, then introduction, proving hugely popular with the home crowd.

On the negative side, our Dear Daniel seems to have mastered the correct pronunciation of 'determining' based on his post match press conference. We preferred you when you were data mining Herr Farke.

Biggest positive to take

The first half suggested this squad are finally learning how to play the Farke way with some zip and zest. Whether it was the tactical switch to a 4-2-3-1 is debatable, but the inclusion of two pace merchants may just have helped. Moving the ball that sharply will thwart the two-banks-of-four merchants that so often blunt our attack as dour sides like the Trotters can't shuffle side to side quick enough to counter it. The frequency with which Norwich played the ball forward, diagonal one-twos and flicks round the corner were tangible signs of improvement. It was possession football but in the opposition half while also managing to create gilt edged chances. More of the same please.

Weekend whinge

For all the positive and encouraging signs of the first half, City fell back into their more predictable and pedestrian brand of football from the 46th minute onward. Bolton moved up 20 yards and squeezed their back four closer to their midfield, meaning the pockets of space in which Maddison and Leitner frolicked in the first 45 all but disappeared. There also appeared to be a reliance on the duo to make something happen, rather than trusting others around them to take on the task. It's all very well looking to utilise your two most effective ball players whenever the chance arises, yet at times it appeared contrived, and meant Leitner was appearing at right full back to collect the ball at times. His talent is surely better deployed higher up the park.

Also lacking in the second half was the tempo, and following on from that it meant far fewer clear sights of goal. Had Norwich have taken one of their many chances away before the interval, this would have been a wholly positive write up. It has to be a concern that if plan A doesn't work, however unlucky we may be and close we've come, Farke needs to demonstrate he can change a game from the bench. He's proven himself adept at tinkering around the edges of formations during a half time break, yet the players he introduces into the fray in the latters stages of matches more often than not fail to make meaningful impacts.

Atmosphere rating

Flat as a pancake. Fragmented pockets of noise tried to emerge but it was largely out of sync and often felt like you were 'singing a round'. Those familiar with the term will be instantly transported back to middle school assembly.

Put it down to the 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' nature of the opposition in contrast to Ipswich and even Wolves maybe. During the first 45 the crowd were mostly patient as the faster possession based approach was genuinely productive. This changed after 65-70 mins though as the usual moaners and groaners began to pipe up as they feared another stalemate. They were ultimately vindicated.

The positive thing however was there was more patience to start with, goodwill had been gained from the set of results so far during 2018. Start opening up sides and everything might just get on board.

Summary

If Norwich had been 3-0 up at the interval, like their 79% possession and countless chances deserved (Leitner, crikey what a miss), this would have been a gushing assessment, as the second half procession would have been justified.

However. Until City are more clinical in front of goal, and earn the right by going a couple of goals up to play that slowly, Farke is going to have to keep facing the question as to whether he's effectively able to implement a Plan B.

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Dughall McCormick got to enjoy a second last gasp leveller in 4 days, as City earned a deserved point at the league leaders. In keeping with the spirit of this Norwich side, we've held on to his review until it is nearly too late. Enjoy.

As a 'Wes-tamonial' surely looms into sight to round off the career of a player who is universally revered both at home and abroad, Nick Hayhoe pays tribute to Mr Wes Hoolahan.