A clean sheet, a point on the road, yet it was exactly the type of display that left more questions than answers. Here's Jon Punt on the main talking points.....
Given Norwich managed to turn in what can be generously described as a turgid performance, they still managed to come away with a clean sheet and what could potentially prove to be a precious point, especially given rivals Swansea and Brentford seem to be starting to build momentum. Good teams manage to turn poor displays into points. If you can’t win, don’t get beat. Where have I heard that before?
Without Buendia, the expectation might have been that the creative talents of Vrancic or Cantwell would be enough to fashion the chances to help City get back to winnings ways. However, Millwall found it incredibly easy to keep Norwich at arm’s length for large periods of the match, and this may well sound alarm bells around Colney. Much of the play was fine up until the final third, but Millwall’s stubborn resistance was difficult to play through.
The team have to find a way to switch gears in game, rather than relying on individual quality to get them out of jail.
Moment of the Match
When City did manage to put together a breakaway at pace, they looked most likely to break the deadlock. Yet poor decision making meant that the gilt edged chances they were trying to carve out never really came their way. This was epitomised when Pukki chose the option of Cantwell to his left – who subsequently had to check back to get his shot off – rather than playing in Placheta for what looked like the better opportunity. That was as good as it got.
Random Star Performer
Kenneth Zohore did as good a job of giving Grant Hanley problems as any other striker this season. Yet the skipper continued to be streetwise, stood up to the physical challenge and as the match wore on dealt with the threat the Dane provided pretty well. That aside, there weren’t many glowing performances in yellow shirts.
Farke has an unenviable position of selection dilemmas in a few areas, trying to balance both the short and medium term health of the team. It would be really easy to bring Jacob Sorensen back in at left back, which in turn might add something to the left flank but also stifles Giannoulis’ progression.
Further up the field Norwich struggled in the final third, the lack of a proper number 10 is probably the biggest single issue which needs addressing to help City link the play more effectively. The thing is, the number 10 we spent a seven figure fee on is sat on the bench and needs regular game time in order to build an understanding with Teemu Pukki and the players around him. Instead the square peg of Vrancic continues to try and pull the strings, yet it seems apparent his talents are better suited to a deeper lying midfield role. There are no easy answers, especially when your creator in chief is sat at home and Cantwell struggled to deal with the hosts’ relatively robust way of dealing with his talents, for whatever reason it didn’t work last night.
Elsewhere a few eyebrows were raised by virtue of the fact McLean didn’t find himself immediately back in the starting eleven, while Placheta yet again struggled to put forward a case for his regular inclusion. Definite issues to resolve for the head coach, but he’s been here before and he usually gets it right.
The Lions were game opposition, taking the match to the league leaders in a considered yet aggressive manner. Another organised press that City found it difficult to play through regularly is another cause for concern.
This is now three matches without a win. Three matches without a goal. Three matches where confidence could start to erode, all ahead of what is probably the biggest game of the campaign so far. The flip side of that argument is Norwich are five points clear, remain difficult to score against and have characters throughout the side. It’s up to you to choose how full your glass is.
This will be an important few days. Avoid defeat at the Liberty Stadium and it potentially serves as the Elland Road style moment which propels Farke’s men to the title. A bit more cohesion and attacking thrust will be required though, and that formula may need to be found on the training pitch.