Probably the most enjoyable 90 minutes at Carrow Road so far this term, Jon Punt reviews Murphy's masterclass, the kicking of Grealish and naughty boys singing offensive songs. It's the ACN Match review...
Random star performer
There were many stand out performances from those in a Canary shirt, Josh Murphy and Mario Vrancic in particular showing the kind of quality most have acknowledged they possess, but just don’t show enough of consistently. Grant Hanley too was imperious, be it via cynically fouling in the most professional of ways or just repelling anything that came his way, albeit sometimes in agricultural fashion. Srbeny deserves mention for ploughing a lone furrow up against international and physical centre halves, all while looking worryingly isolated during the opening exchanges.
However, for sheer industry and workrate, it’s Harrison Reed. While perceptions of Norwich’s 2017/18 recruitment are mixed, it’s evident the current crop of loanees actually care. Reed could almost be forgiven for psychologically checking out of Costa del Colney (do we call it that anymore?) given his future may well lie away from Carrow Road next term, yet he seems to consistently be one of the most energetic and driving forces come match day.
Moment of the match
For sheer audacity and foolishness, it has to be Grealish attempting to square up to the aforementioned Hanley. Had the handbags actually materialised into any kind of meaningful scuffle there was only one winner, but of course no-one wanted to see that young whippersnapper Jack feel the full force of Hanley’s rage did we? Yeah, course we did.
Worth also highlighting an event no-one else will have seen but me. There’s a certain beauty to seeing a child do something they know they shouldn’t. On this occasion, a fresh faced lad in the Barclay, no older than 12, took particularly glee at informing Lewis Grabban who (allegedly and almost definitely didn’t) put their balls into his wife. The mischievous look-around that preceded it, with the boy realising his parents weren’t around to tell him off, took me back to my first trips to the Carra with my mates.
Oh, sidenote - that Josh Murphy howitzer was a bit good too.
Pre match doom merchants bemoaned the fact Farke had stuck to a defensive four, especially given the offensive threat Villa brought. However, after Jamal Lewis had managed to stifle Snodgrass, the visitors rarely threatened. Some of this can potentially be put down to Norwich’s ‘professionalism’ in targeting Grealish at every opportunity.
Much like Maddison gets targeted up and down the country (and to an extent uses this to his advantage), when Norwich found Grealish in a possession they chose to kick, grab and muscle him out. Often fairly, more often illegally. It was a masterstroke, and denied Villa any real momentum when they looked likely to build up a head of steam. So kudos Daniel, I’m figuring that was your ploy all along.
The second half change to a back three positively impacted the game, with Norwich enjoying much more of the ball after the switch.
Farke also continues to popularly pander to fan service, affording Hoolahan a more significant number of cameos as the season draws to a close with his final swansong probably imminent. The campaign starts here for Wes to start on the 28th, at home to Leeds, with a chance for the proper goodbye Huckerby never knew. Until the Westimonial, obvs.
Biggest positive to take
The enigmatic Murphy frustrated for the first 35 minutes, then it all started to click. His strike is a worthy contender for goal of the season, and it suddenly injected the sort of confidence Josh evidently thrives on.
There’s a wider point here though. For wingers, they will solely be judged on end product by the masses. If they’re laying on chances and chipping in with the odd goal, everything is right with the world. If not, many will cry for them to be jettisoned to the Raymond De Waard Hall of Shame forthwith.
Murphy knows that, yet over the past few weeks he’s continued to be brave, started showing more for the ball and made the kind of runs which will allow him to get in behind and hurt teams. Even when things aren't going his way. Yesterday it paid dividends, and the hope is he enjoys a more productive end to the season which will see some of the boo-boys get behind him again.
Everyone enjoys a Farke press conference or post match interview. A small source of joy in my life was Daniel’s interpretation of the word ‘determining’, with many thinking he was auditioning for a job at Cambridge Analytica with his ‘data mining’ take. Judging by Chris Goreham’s interview after the game however, it appears the Carrow Road Media team have corrected his pronunciation. Boooooooo.
The first half was as stilted as it’s been at Carrow Road this season, with general apathy levels at a peak. Murphy scores, and the tone for the second half was set. While it wasn’t the raucous scenes of limbs flying for a Timmy Klose last minute equaliser, it was louder and it was fun. Speaking to many fans after the game, a fair number remarked that was the most they’d enjoyed themselves at home this season. That may have been partly because towards the latter stages of the game, it felt as if the crowd and players were as one. The unity the club had pleaded for was finally found, if only for a few fleeting moments. There was no happy clappers v pant wetters debate, no one was questioning why we needed a bond to pay for the academy and there were no calls for Delia to sell up. I hope you enjoyed it, all these things will be back to bite us in the very near future.
Difficult to judge whether Villa were particularly poor or Norwich particularly excellent, but this was as comfortable as it’s been at home for some time. Farke and his on-pitch generals may just be learning on the job too. At 1-0 and 2-1, City weren’t content with just the one goal cushion, which has often been a source of frustration. Much to be positive about, and exactly the kind of reaction required after the Loftus Road debacle.
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