I Hate Playing Ipswich, the Risk of Defeat Hurts Like Mad - Notes for Norwich
Friday, 20th Oct 2017 12:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Sunday’s derby at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“We have come a long, long way in the last few weeks”, “This is the most relaxed I have felt in years. It’s coming together”, “I’m thoroughly enjoying our current run”, “After our horrendous start to the season, to be one point off the play-offs and seven off the leaders after 12 games is unbelievable.”
Canaries will head down the A140 on Sunday in confident mood. They have bounced back from a 4-0 mauling at Millwall at the end of August and are on an eight-game unbeaten run which has included four wins on the road. They conceded just three goals in this run and now lie eighth in the table.
“We seem to have completely transformed since the early season disasters”, “I’m starting to get the feeling that something special is about to happen again”, “It now seems that we might be competing for that top-six spot after all. The upcoming local derby will hopefully confirm this.”
“What a team spirit we have now”, “Definite grounds for optimism but I’m not getting carried away yet”, “We seem to be on a knife-edge with regard to the direction of the season. We are a decent team but could fall away with a couple of defeats. Every game is so tight and could go either way.”
“Things feel like they are almost going too well. Wins, new signings settling in and looking extremely good value, players working hard. We are well organised, the defence is sorted, we are scoring great goals and making great decisions on the pitch. I can’t be alone in wondering ‘what’s the catch?’.”
“There seems a quiet steeliness and confidence with Farke at the moment, as if he knows what to do and how to do it. It seems to have come through to the players who look mostly calm and assured”, “I cannot speak highly enough of him. He identified our weakness and has turned it into a strength.”
The 40-year-old former Borussia Dortmund II manager took charge at Carrow Road at the end of May and has won Canaries over by addressing the issue of the team’s defensive balance. “He set about addressing our fundamental recurring and endemic problem and not a moment too soon.”
“I have been impressed by Farke’s tactical approach”, “He has found a formula that works and the players have bought into his ‘defensive behaviour’ syndrome. For the first time we are starting to believe our club has a defence that can actually defend”, “We are no longer the soft touch.”
“Farke has focused on the mental strength of the players”, “He talks about players’ attitude and the need to recognise that they can’t just drift along. That was the main problem last season. Too many players thought they should be elsewhere which contributed to so many of our heavy defeats.”
A Seismic Shock at Millwall
“A total fiasco today”, “Not enough cutting edge and a non-existent defence”, “The defence had no clue what it should be doing, heads dropped quickly throughout the team. We had little movement and certainly no pressing but a fair number of lateral passes. We looked like a relegated team.”
It’s worth starting with a look at the defeat which proved to be a catalyst for the Canaries’ recent good run. “All in all, that was up there with the biggest shambles of a match since the dark days when Bryan Gunn was in charge”, “We had over 70 per cent of possession and ended up 4-0 down.”
The balance of the starting XI (above) was wrong, with Harrison Reed the only midfielder protecting a fragile back four. Millwall out-battled centre-halves Russell Martin and “pub player” Marcel Franke. Both full-backs had little protection with left-back James Husband in particular having a poor game.
The Defensive Yellow Brick Wall
“I love it when a plan comes together”, “The thing that has turned our campaign around has been the desire to stop the opposition. We look a different team defensively”, “We are more organised as a group. Runners are being picked up, decision-making is better and people know their positions.”
The starting line-up (above) for last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Hull had the 4-2-3-1 shape which Canaries have become familiar with in their current good run. The shape has improved the defensive balance while Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose have formed an effective centre-half pairing.
Norwich have kept the same back four in the last three games. Playmaker James Maddison has also started regularly behind Cameron Jerome. Alexander Tettey was out with a calf injury and is seen as a dynamic foil to Harrison Reed or Tom Trybull who are both inclined to sit in front of the back four.
“Five clean sheets in a row”, “That must be worth a star on our shirt”, “This defence is starting to look rock solid. Partnerships are forming and they are all getting to know each other’s games”, “Another thing is how streetwise we have become. We look more like a proper German team.”
A Toothless Attack
“There seems to be a very clear pattern of completely dominating games without posing much of a goal threat”, “We have players such as Wes Hoolahan, James Maddison and Mario Vrancic who can unlock defences, but we need others to move into the right positions. That is just not happening.”
For many Canaries their defensive resilience has come at a price, as City goals have now become a scarce commodity. With just two scored in their last four home games, fans have criticised a lack of tempo in build-up play, an inability to get behind defences and the side’s poor overall finishing.
“We are far too static up front. We have lots of slow sideways passes that allow opponents to get organised”, “To get through these packed defences you need to have speed of thought as much as anything else, clever little passes that force defenders to move around. There is not enough of that.”
The lack of a natural right winger has also unbalanced the attack with Vrancic or Hoolahan habitually drifting inside when stationed out wide. “That there are goals in midfield is undeniable but this area has yet to produce regularly. It surely will when [currently injured] Alex Pritchard is fit.”
“We are only averaging one goal per game after 12 games”, “The problem with our attack is that it is rather one dimensional and this has been twigged”, “That our two strikers are not quite up to the role is now clear”, “We have got to put these chances away, a ‘sniffer’ up front is our major need.”
“Even dominant, intelligently constructed sides require a cutting edge and our lack of a penetrating scorer presents us with a problem. We don’t have genuine attacking balance with the unthreatening Cameron Jerome up front and without a penetrative goal-scoring number 10 playing behind him.”
Norwich 1 – 1 Hull
“Huge result that”, “It hid the full story. I’m delighted with a point but lots of questions surround our home performances”, “A really disappointing display. It’s difficult playing against 10 men at times but we really didn’t help ourselves”, “The importance of scoring first cannot be over-exaggerated.”
After missing a series of decent chances, the hosts fell behind when Nouha Dicko broke clear to slide the ball home on 29 minutes. David Meyler was given a second yellow card on 59 leaving Hull with 10 men, but Norwich had to wait until sixth minute of stoppage time for Nelson Oliveira’s equaliser.
“We made it easy for Hull by continually playing in front of their defence”, “Too static and too slow”, “We had a freekick on the edge of their box at one point and only two men in the area”, “We were so frustrating, playing around the edge of their box and not able to get a ball in or a shot on goal.”
Reading 1 – 2 Norwich
“A terrific away performance, great game management”, “A great, tidy and structured win. I never thought we would concede a second. It was a much easier game to enjoy than last season”, “I was impressed with our play. For the most part it was comfortable which is a compliment at this stage.”
“What a cracker”, “Bloody hell, Maddison, that was beautiful.” James Maddison opened the scoring for the Canaries with a brilliantly struck freekick on 10 minutes but Reading levelled three minutes later when Liam Moore headed a freekick home at the back post.
Cameron Jerome restored City’s lead after the interval, heading home a poorly-defended corner on 52 minutes and one-time Town target Marley Watkins was given a red card for a reckless challenge in stoppage time. The ex-Bath City man is serving a three-match ban which includes Sunday’s game.
“Well done lads, fantastic away from home again”, “I am confident we can actually hang on to a lead away from home after years of expecting to concede”, “A hard-fought three points, and Ipswich also lost and were abjectly miserable against Bristol City which is always a plus. Roll on the derby!”
Middlesbrough 0 – 1 Norwich
“A truly great result tonight, well done the lads”, “A truly brilliant win that should give us a better idea of how the season may develop”, “A great boost for team confidence and a possible turning point for the club”, “It was a bit scrappy at times but I guess Daniel Farke was happy with that.”
Norwich were indebted to James Maddison, whose superb curling shot on 13 minutes proved to be the match-winning goal in a game which saw the Canaries’ defending at their resilient best. Keeper Angus Gunn was praised for his positioning, making several good saves when Boro did get through.
“Top, top work-rate and overall performance.” Farke’s line-up (above) saw Yanic Wildschut start on his less-favoured flank in an attempt to solve the problem on the right side of midfield. Watkins was praised for his tenacity in winning the ball on the left flank to set up Maddison’s goal.
“I will go to bed now with a smile on my face”, “We looked pretty steady at the back”, “You cannot argue with five consecutive clean sheets. It’s just going to take time to get a decent goal difference”, “It’s still very early, but that might be the result that gets looked back on at the end of the season.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Angus Gunn’s positioning, handling and command of the area have been absolutely exemplary in recent games.” The 21-year-old keeper is the son of Canaries’ legendary manager and keeper Bryan and is on a season-long loan from Manchester City. “The ball is magnetically attracted to his gloves.”
“Our Manuel Neuer”, “Gunn has good command of his area and is quick off his line. The early signs show he’s a decent shot-stopper too”, “His positioning is very good and his calmness rubs off on the defence”, “His anticipation and organisation of the backline makes it seem that he has little to do.”
“Ivo Pinto has been outstanding as captain and his own games seems to have benefited from having the responsibility.” The 27-year-old former Dynamo Zagreb right-back “has really stepped up to the place and organises the defence at set pieces. He leads by example and it a joy to watch at times.”
“Pinto has struggled without a proper right winger in front of him”, “Far too often against Hull he was pushing up looking for some help and Vrancic was jogging in the middle of the park”, “He does have pace, but he did get caught up field against Hull and there was room in behind him to exploit.”
“James Husband put in some of the worst performances in a City shirt I have ever seen and cost us several goals early in the season, but his quality is coming through now.” The 23-year-old left-back arrived from Middlesbrough in July. “He’s not at Martin Olsson’s level but he seems to be settling.”
“Husband did extremely well on the left channel against Hull. He opened spaces in front of him and took players out of the game”, “He has improved massively, but we have to double up when he has to mark any vaguely quick winger. It reduces our threat down the left. His lack of pace worries me.”
“Grant Hanley is a top central defender who cannot even make his debut now.” The 25-year-old ex-Newcastle man arrived at the end of August but has been restricted to cameo appearances. “He was an astute signing given our early-season defensive problems and will play a role later in the season.”
“Christoph Zimmermann continues to impress. He always seems to be perfectly placed. He looks like he will initially struggle with through balls but then sticks out one of those long legs to hook the ball away.” The 24-year-old Dusseldorf-born centre-half joined from Borussia Dortmund II in June.
“Zimmermann is tactically astute, the no-nonsense defender we all were craving”, “He is immense at cutting out danger”, “He said that adapting to the English game was as much about the difference in refereeing as the pace of the game”, “He looks twice the player with Timm Klose alongside him.”
“Timm has done brilliantly this year and has adapted to this league now. He was god-awful last year but now feels he has a better understanding of this league.” The 29-year-old ex-Wolfsburg centre-half and Switzerland international “struggled last season with the directness of the Championship”.
“Klose has been colossal for us this season, bringing the calmness and stability at the back that was missing. He is showing what he can do for us”, “He and Zimmermann look rock-solid together”, “His distribution is poor”, “At times he is too casual, giving the ball away and putting us under pressure.”
“Harrison Reed looks an excellent fit for the style of play Farke wants to play.” The 22-year-old is on a season-long loan from Southampton. “He has an elastic band around him that pulls him back into position once he moves the ball on”, “He’s neat and tidy and brings positional discipline to the role.”
“Reed understands the importance of holding your position and providing the solid base from which the other midfielders can attack”, “He is a lightweight compared for example to Tettey and he isn’t as dynamic”, “He’s a decent holding midfielder but isn’t good enough to be able to do it by himself.”
“Tom Trybull wins everything, is solid and makes productive passes.” The 24-year-old August signing from ADO Den Haag “is ridiculous. He plays everywhere and I relax when he is in possession”, “More or less every pass is positive and on target”, “He sniffs out so much danger and is always available.”
“Trybull wins the ball and a surprisingly large percentage of headers, He harries, covers ground and protects players. He gives the ball simply, is alert to the danger and he clearly hates losing”, “He is one of the least technically-gifted players on the pitch, but conversely one of the most effective.”
“Tettey looks a totally different player with Trybull doing the dirty work.” The 31-year-old former Rennes man “can make driving runs from deep to support attacks but he gets back in position fairly quickly”, “He doesn’t tackle that much. His forte is closing down and forcing opponents backwards.”
“Reed and Trybull are neat and tidy but lack Tettey’s ability to go forward dynamically”, “He will be missed if he is out [with a calf injury] for Ipswich as he has perked up of late with his high-energy harrowing”, “It was obvious that he needed to play alongside Reed to give us balance and solidity.”
“James Maddison is a rare talent and we are lucky to have him.” The 20-year-old ex-Coventry man “strikes a dead ball in a similar way to Philippe Coutinho”, “He reminds me of David Beckham when he first came on the scene”, “He oozes class, is so comfortable at all times and he is a hard worker.”
“What impresses he is Maddison’s ability to keep hold of the ball under pressure and always spot a pass”, “His corner kicks have pace and power, and are difficult to defend”, “His head dropped against Hull when his loss of possession led to their goal”, “He was playing too deep, isolating our striker.”
“Mario Vrancic didn’t give us any width down the right side against Hull.” The 28-year-old Bosnia international and June addition from Darmstadt “kept killing our tempo, putting his foot on the ball and slowing everything down without purpose”, “He has some lovely skills but doesn’t do enough.”
“Vrancic’s passing is very good but his off-the-ball work is really poor at times”, “He offered nothing off the ball against Hull and gave no support to his full-back and no real running”, “He is a highlights player. You will see him making two or three wonderful passes a game but he then disappears.”
“The only reason Hoolahan isn’t in the Premier League is his one-sidedness and lack of goals.” The 35-year-old ex-Blackpool man “is not particularly quick, is small and is extremely left-footed. He is also a brilliant player who makes things happen and has given us so many memorable moments.”
Wes Hoolahan trips David McGoldrick
“I don’t like Wes playing on the right. He is anonymous, coming inside and running into traffic. We look too narrow trying to pass through the defence”, “I love Wes, but he’s a central attacking player with pacy operators flanking him, otherwise he loses impact and there is little point in playing him.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“I am more comfortable with Marco Stiepermann at left-back.” The 26-year-old August arrival from Bochum “hasn’t played anywhere near his favoured playmaker position but looks so accomplished at left-back”, “He has good technical quality along with the physicality needed for the Championship.”
“Stiepermann is a big unit who is good technically”, “He struggled at full-back initially but found his feet quickly enough”, “He is superb defensively, cutting out cross-field passes to the right winger and closing down well when he does have the ball”, “His energy and strength are a defensive asset.”
“I would love Josh Murphy to have a good game, but he seems to either lack interest or confidence.” The 22-year-old youth product “is strong and quick, but his head drops when things go wrong. He is not as mentally as resilient as his brother Jacob [now with Newcastle]”, “What a frustrating player.”
Josh Murphy and his brother Jacob
“Murphy still offers a genuine threat on the left flank which pushes opponents back. Without him the side lacks pace, although he does need to improve his final ball and avoid losing possession so often”, “He needs to improve his interplay and awareness of colleagues to get in behind defences.”
“I remain unconvinced by Yanic. He has great pace and strength but doesn’t seem to know what to do when he gets into a good position.” The 25-year-old ex-Wigan man “excites with his pace and directness and he very often looks very dangerous but nothing seems to come from his efforts”.
“Yanic missed a sitter against Hull and stopped attacking the wing as the game went on”, “For much of that game he was our only weapon. He can go past players with a piece of skill. In full dribbling flight he has incredible power and opponents bounce off him. He is entirely instinctive in full flow.”
“Our lack of a cutting edge could be our downfall”, “We will have cracked this division once we can add sharpness in the box”, “We are one decent striker short of being serious contenders and we need to at least double our goals tally. If we can get that sorted we could easily win this league.”
“Cameron puts a shift in but I don’t really feel he possesses such a goal threat these days.” The 31-year-old former Stoke striker “works hard, is diligent defensively and contributes well to the side’s structure but he is insipid and unthreatening in an attacking sense and this is too big a deficiency.”
Cameron Jerome v Berra
“Jerome is many things but not a natural finisher”, “He doesn’t make particularly stretching runs or offer midfielders a progressive angle”, “He works hard and has ploughed the lone furrow well, but he has fluffed good chances this season”, “He has strength, power and speed but should be scoring.”
“Thank God for Nelson”, “He gives us more potency in front of goal.” The 26-year-old former Benfica man and Portugal international “is still comfortably our best chance of scoring goals. It’s frightening to think where our goals would come from were he not here”, “In truth we are very reliant on him.”
“Oliveira is by far our most lethal striker, but he has poor positional discipline and a selfish attitude”, “He is as selfish as they come and is prone to blazing a shot high and wide rather than playing in someone or retaining possession. That said, I still regard him as our best striker since Grant Holt.”
“Luke Chambers has hit back with some pretty below-the-belt comments about Nelson. He’s our best striker and I would fancy him to give their defence a torrid time. He’s bound to be pumped after Chambers’s comments. However, he’s a walking red card candidate if he can’t control that emotion.”
Canaries’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“If Ipswich stick with their hoof-ball game they will struggle as the ball will stay with City. No game is ever a certainty but I suggest folk ask themselves why Ipswich have lost six of their last eight games while we are unbeaten. It is not about who is more confident but who has been more competent.”
“Well, Millwall played hoof-ball and the ball stayed with us for 72 per cent of the match but Millwall didn't struggle. In fact, they beat us 4-0.”
“Ipswich are quite similar to Millwall in terms of how they will play. Direct, high intensity and looking to unsettle our centre-backs, it’s a big test this for our new-found partnership. If they can play well we should win (or at least not lose) because we have more quality in midfield and on the ball.”
“I'm thinking a 1-1 draw. As usual that first goal is so important.” Norwich forums don’t run forecast or prediction leagues but the prospect of defeat is unthinkable for many. They are worried about the variety of our goal threats and the outcome for many will rest on how well their defence holds out.
“I would play a more physical XI to handle Ipswich’s strengths”, “This is the most physical away game we are likely to have”, “My thought would be to get stuck in as soon as possible. One thing we have shown is that we are good at is closing down a game. One or two-up and that is night-night Binners.”
“Ipswich are very slow at the back, so I would look to use Wildschut's pace to support Jerome and move them around, allowing space for the creative midfielders”, “That has been a weakness of theirs. If they have the carthorse Chambers at right-back then I would play a fast winger.”
“The referee [Tim Robinson] sent off Marley Watkins at Reading. He was quite yellow card happy, though Reading ought to have been down to 10 before he was sent off. Hopefully he isn't as biased towards the home team. There's every possibility that there will be a red card, hopefully not for us.”
The Better Club
“Once again Ip5w1ch have to go back in history to defend the impossible”, “We are better than them. We have better players than them. We are a better club than them.” The recent media debate around the merits of both clubs generated an all-too-predictable reaction on City message boards.
“Their nice-but-dim captain Luke ‘fist pump’ Chambers has joined in now and is glowing about the three stars nonsense, all for achievements before he was even born”, “I struggle to name a Town player these days but I suspect our players have been on Town supporters’ lips for years.”
“All I know is that Ipswich is a hole of a place with a dump of a stadium. Everything about the club is horrible. You can’t really blame only seven fans turning up, the place smacks of being ignored for 20 years but clinging onto whatever history they can”, “As a club, they are nowhere near us.”
“There will never be a huge amount of difference between the two clubs.” Some Canaries avoided the rhetoric and made some objective observations. “Ask any neutral outside of East Anglia and pretty much every football fan would struggle to find a tangible difference in status of both clubs.”
“Both are similarly sized, both clubs have always flirted between the top two divisions, we have never been more than a division apart, currently we're separated by a point and last season we drew both games. Yes, I think we are probably better financially but then again, our liabilities are greater.”
“I think we are a better club than them. I love Norwich and hate Ipswich but if we’re having a proper discussion about the two clubs with all things considered, Norwich and Ipswich are similar sized with a similar status in the football pyramid. I'm being realistic, simple as that.”
“Both Norwich and Ipswich are similarly placed in the same division. Last season both matches resulted in a draw. It’s reasonable to suggest both teams are of similar ability and status. We have never more than a league apart in my lifetime, and we've shared the same league for many of those years.”
On Loathing Ipswich…
“I won't allow anything of a blue colour in my house or car. I have never bought any blue-coloured clothes nor let the missus buy anything blue. I feel sick when forced to see those disgusting, blue shirts and dislike teams such as Everton because of their colour. That's how much I loathe Ipswich.”
One recent discussion had Canaries doing a passable imitation of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch as they vied with each other to describe their antipathy for our club. Thankfully a few saner voices intervened to add some balance to the conversation.
“I loathe and hate them with a passion. I never watch them on television unless they have been soundly beaten. Nothing worse than spotting a Scum shirt on holiday. I could not even contemplate them in the top flight. There’s nothing better than seeing a grown Town fan cry after we beat them.”
“I dislike McCarthy’s Ipswich more than I've disliked them at other times simply as they are so very boring. The league game at Carrow Road the season we won the play-offs was quite something. Four clogger midfielders, sitting deep and knocking it long to the isolated big man at every opportunity.”
“I find them sad and pathetic nowadays always harking back to their ancient history”, “Taking the train from the Fine City to London and having to pull in to that town, having to see all those glum and deadbeat faces on the platform. All trains should be routed via Cambridge and non-stop too.”
“There's not a single positive about Ipswich the town, the ground, the fans or the club”, “Also, their endlessly bleating about us beating Bayern Munich. I can't say that ever comes up in a conversation amongst any City fans I know but this game does seem far more important to them than us.”
“I can't stand it when people say it's about bragging rights. It's so much more than that. If they were in the Conference I would still want them relegated. If we were 5-0 up with a minute left I would still want us to go out to score a sixth”, “Relegation looks a far more likely scenario for them.”
“God almighty, some people on here need to get a life and quickly! I don't like them and I want three points for my club on Sunday, but the hatred being expressed by some on here is over the top for me. They are a football club for God's sake, get a grip.”
“They are just another football team. Living in an IP postcode means I have plenty of blue friends and guess what? They are nice people.”
Photo: Action Images
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