Championship Gameweek 22: Bristol City To Stun Farke’s Fledglings?7 min read
Norwich City are flying high at the top of the league with 38 points from their last 15 games – 10 more than any other Championship side from that sample.
There is reason to think though that their trip to 13th-placed Bristol City will not be a straight-forward one. Here’s why.
Robins have impressive shot data
Firstly, Bristol City’s performances have been better than results have sometimes implied.
They have taken on average 7.9 shots in the opposition box per game; the seventh-most in the division.
At the other end, they have allowed their opponents on average 5.9 penalty box efforts per game; the second fewest – and yet they are in the bottom half.
That would suggest that the Robins are getting a lot of things right in the middle third, but perhaps need to improve their work in both boxes.
They did however, win 1-0 at Birmingham last time out; although the West Country club are known to be a possession-based side, this performance showed they are capable of producing a gritty, defensive display.
Ball-playing defenders Tomas Kalas and Adam Webster produced solid performances, right-back Eros Pisano battled valiantly and even left-back Lloyd Kelly looked more comfortable with the physical side of the game.
Could that win be the catalyst for a positive run?
28 of Lee Johnson’s last 62 victories as a manager have been followed up by another win, while 24 of the triumphs came as part of a run of three or more in succession.
Johnson has a reputation for being a streaky manager; his expansive methods have historically been more successful when his teams have generated the confidence that comes with one victory.
Norwich have defensive issues
Norwich deserve immense credit for their incredible form, which has established them as prime promotion contenders.
However, it may be slightly concerning that they have conceded seven goals in their last five matches – as many as nine teams including Bristol City have shipped fewer than that in the same period.
Plus, four of those encounters have come against bottom-six opposition, with 12th-placed Swansea being their toughest opponents in that sample.
In home victories over Millwall and Bolton, seven and five-goal thrillers respectively were both decided by injury-time winners from Teemu Pukki, who has been the Championship’s signing of the summer.
It was understandable, therefore, that the post-match discussion was all about the spirit, togetherness in this Canaries side, which is of course full of quality with creative midfielders like Mario Vrancic and Todd Cantwell making huge strides.
However, the glory that came with these brilliant match-winning moments should not mask defensive imperfections.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul has not always covered himself in glory in recent weeks; he has sometimes struggled to hold onto some of the shots that have been hit at him while the back-line might at times have done more to follow in the efforts that the Dutchman parried away.
Granted, part of the problem against Bolton, when handling high balls into the box, was the absence of the aerially-dominant Timm Klose; Swiss centre-back is expected to recover reasonably quickly from a bruised knee.
However, the defensive jitters are not necessarily new, when we consider the Yellows needed the woodwork to avoid falling two goals behind against Rotherham the previous week, prior to winning 3-1.
Backing the home win
Although Norwich are likely to be challenging for promotion this season, it is possible that certain defensive issues that we have seen against bottom six sides could be exposed further against stronger opposition.
Bristol City striker Famara Diedhiou is certainly capable of using his physicality to good effect, having scored two goals in his last three appearances.
For Lee Johnson’s side, this might be the game that kick-starts a run towards play-off contention.
Tip: Bristol City draw no bet