Steve Bruce is going to have to learn fast on what I saw after travelling to watch Norwich 3 Newcastle 1
Norwich City are one of those clubs that very few people have any opinion about. Unless you are an Ipswich fan, there is no real reason to dislike them.
If you ask most people about Norwich they will usually just associate them with Alan Partridge, Delia Smith and Stephen Fry.
They have just been promoted to the Premier League for what feels like the 100th time and we are playing them in our first away game this year.
My alarm goes off at 7am. This is a one hour lie in compared to my usual journey from South London to attend home matches. Thankfully trains between London and Norwich were not impacted by the strike action which caused problems for many fans travelling from the North East and we are in Norwich by lunchtime.
As a card carrying CAMRA member, Norwich away is a fixture I always look forward to. This city has some brilliant real ale pubs. Most pubs are not segregated which makes a nice change from the majority of away days and there is also the wonderful Donnelli’s Pizzeria.
After a pizza and two pints in the Gardeners Arms we make our way to the ground. Getting into the ground is fairly straightforward and we take our seats half an hour before kick off. It’s a sunny day and the sunglasses are out. A complete contrast after the wet and miserable day at St James’ Park last week.
Ideally, you don’t want to play a newly promoted club so early in the season, Carrow Road was the polar opposite of St James’ Park last week. This was their first home game and fans were optimistic about their chances against us. This is a fixture you prefer to play in February when the stuffing has been knocked out of them and they are desperate for points.
Norwich were the best attacking side in the Championship by a distance last year. They scored 93 goals en route to winning the title and play positive football on the front foot. They played far better at Liverpool than the scoreline suggests. Their achilles heal is their defence. Last season they conceded 57 goals in 46 games.
Premier League attackers are far less forgiving and I was interested to see if we could cause them some problems. Of course we had to get the ball off them first!
There are rumours before the match that Sean Longstaff will not start. Maybe Steve Bruce has decided to revert to the 3-4-3/ 5-2-3 formation that worked so well in the second half of last season?
The team news comes through and the formation remains unchanged. We are playing 3-5-2 again. Ki Sung-yeung and Emil Krafth come in for Sean Longstaff and Javier Manquillo. The Norwich side includes old boys Tim Krul and Grant Hanley, as well as last season’s top scorer Teemu Pukki. Pukki scored 29 league goals last season and had already got off the mark in Norwich’s opening game against Liverpool at Anfield. Some fans may remember him after a poor spell at Celtic a few years ago.
The players enter the pitch and there is a flag display from supporters. This was impressive and made me realise how much the Wor Flags group will be missed this season. I look forward to the day they return.
Norwich completely control possession but don’t do much with it in the opening stages. Martin Dubravka makes a good save at his near post to deny Todd Cantwell and Joelinton heads the ball wide after a brilliant cross by Isaac Hayden.
Newcastle continue to give the ball away cheaply in midfield and this continues to invite pressure. Norwich eventually take the lead after a lovely volley from Teemu Puuki. It was the sort of goal which would be repeated for weeks if scored by Salah or Aguero.
Norwich continue to dominate the ball and a frustrated Joelinton picks up a stupid and needless booking for a foul on Max Aarons.
The referee blows for half time and there is very little for us to optimistic about. It is clear that the formation is not working. Joelinton looks isolated up front and Almiron is struggling in a more central role. Ki and Shelvey have also struggled badly in the centre of midfield.
When playing a 3-5-2 formation it is important that your wing-backs are fast so they can provide options from out wide. Ritchie and Krafth are not quick and this means that Norwich can defend narrowly and keep winning the ball back. I can’t help but feel sorry for Almiron who is stuck in a formation which is not getting the best out of him.
The players come back onto the pitch and to my astonishment there are no changes to the tactics or personnel.
We more or less continue where we left off and Pukki scores his second and third goals to complete his hatt-rick. Shelvey gets a consolation goal late in injury time but this has been a tactical nightmare from Steve Bruce. To make matters worse we also lose Joelinton to an injury in the second half.
The Newcastle end was subdued throughout. There was very little to be optimistic about and I consoled myself that I would be visiting one of my favourite pubs after the match, The Fat Cat. It was party time for the Norwich fans as they got their home Premier League campaign off to the perfect start. Could there have been more of a contrast?
Emil Krafth’s debut was underwhelming at best but it’s too early to judge him yet. He struggled defensively and was partially responsible for the third goal. He will need to significantly improve.
Norwich deserved their win and looked good going forward. Their season will probably depend on their ability to keep goals out. They will face far tougher tests in the weeks and months ahead.
Our next match is away to Spurs. This is likely to be a damage limitation exercise ahead of what looks like a huge match at home to Watford.
It is very early in the season but failure to win that match will put even more pressure on Bruce. He is going to have to learn fast and I really hope that we revert back to the 3-4-3 formation next week. This will give us more width and hopefully get the best out of Almiron and Saint-Maximin.
We arrive at the Fat Cat and a few Norwich fans pass on their commiserations. Thankfully the beer is wonderful and we return home to London having enjoyed our day out.
It’s just a shame about the 90 minutes of football.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Norwich 3 Newcastle 1 – Saturday 17 August 3pm
Pukki 32, 63, 75
Possession was Norwich 63% Newcastle 37%
Total shots were Norwich 15 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Norwich 8 Newcastle 3
Corners were Norwich 7 Newcastle 5
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Newcastle team v Norwich:
Dubravka, Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Hayden, Ki (Longstaff 74), Shelvey, Ritchie, Almiron, Joelinton (Muto 67)
Darlow, Clark, Fernandez, Manquillo, Willems
Crowd: 27,059 (2,000 NUFC)
(Watch official match highlights HERE)
(Steve Bruce comments after match are more worrying than the scoreline – Read HERE)
(Daniel Farke says ‘Only one team in it’ – Read HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Norwich 3 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)
(Norwich 3 Newcastle 1 – Make no mistake this was shambolic and major problems ahead – Read HERE)
You can follow Kieran on Twitter @KJR90
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