Norwich City 1-0 Swansea City Player Ratings: Zimmermann commands

Buendia buzzing – canaries.co.uk (credit: Jason Dawson)

Norwich City are by no means promoted yet, but they took another small step closer to the Premier League on Friday night thanks to Emi Buendia’s second half strike, which gave them a 1-0 victory over Swansea City. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Norwich City

Tim Krul – the seasoned stopper made good saves from Byers and Celina in the first half. Equally, however, he looked slightly lackadaisical in possession and was nearly caught out for that at the beginning of both halves; an occupational hazard, perhaps, for a goalkeeper that starts off so many of Norwich’s attacks. 6

Max Aarons – the 19-year-old was initially kept quiet by Routledge’s defensive cover, but as the game wore on he became crucial to stretching the play and making the pitch as big as possible with his charging runs down the right flank, much like a classic winger would do. Not only that, he also had the awareness to support his teammates in the defensive phases of play, which is testament to the work of Daniel Farke and the coaching team. 8
Christoph Zimmermann – the influential centre-back has perhaps needed to become more dominant in certain areas since Godfrey has slotted in next to him, but he has relished that responsibility. He command his box and made a brave block from James’ tight-angled effort late in the first half. Unable to pose so much of a threat in the opposition box like he did at Millwall, though. 9
Ben Godfrey – the midfielder by trade showed great strength of character while on loan at Shrewsbury last season, so while the ease with which he has adjusted to a new centre-back role has been surprising, the mentality he has shown is less so. Another strong performance here is likely to keep a natural centre-back of Timm Klose’s calibre out of the XI. 8
Jamal Lewis – the academy graduate does not make quite as many direct, rampaging runs over long distances as Aarons, so his real strength is skill and accuracy when linking-up with teammates in tight areas. Due to the nature of Norwich’s first half performance, which was early balls into forward areas in transition, Lewis did not see quite as much of the ball as usual, although he was more influential after the break. 6

Tom Trybull – the midfielder only completed one challenge, which represents a slight contrast from his usual tenacious performances; maybe this was partly because the opposition moved the ball on before he had a chance to lay a glove. He’s been stronger from a technical perspective in previous games, too. Not quite his night. 5
Kenny McLean – the forward-thinking midfielder’s return from injury has been timely for the Canaries and he played some strong, early forward passes here in behind for Pukki and Stiepermann, which made Norwich a threat in transition at times. Equally though, he perhaps did not dictate play with quite the level of poise and composure that we might have seen from Moritz Leitner or Mario Vrancic. Seemed to prefer to rush things, which was not always to the home side’s benefit.

Emi Buendia – on the right of the attacking quartet, Buendia showed the ability to play a through ball in whatever form necessary: on the ground through a tiny gap, or dinked in behind for Pukki or Stiepermann and we saw more of that here, albeit sometimes from a more central role. Equally, he displayed a willingness to do the ugly side of the game in the form of one or two hard-hitting challenges, which was essential in the first half when Norwich were not on their A-game. He deserved his goal, therefore – a belter from just inside the box early in the second period – and was rightly given a standing ovation when taken off, although Farke’s post-match comments looked like a subtle attempt to keep the Argentine grounded. 8
Marco Stiepermann – in first half flashes, we saw Stiepermann combine with Pukki to create openings, but the lofty-price-surnamed forward was quiet by comparison with his usual form; perhaps this was partly because he sometimes operated on the right to incorporate Buendia more centrally. Then again, when he did have his moments in key areas, he did not always deliver the goods, with a disappointing lack of accuracy coming from the only shot he took that was not blocked.

Onel Hernandez – only three Championship players who have reached double-figures in an attacking, left-sided role, have completed fewer passes per 90 minutes than Hernandez’s 24.4 – and the Cuban-born creator is playing in a far more attacking set-up than Bolton’s Will Buckley, Ipswich’s Freddie Sears and Blackburn’s Adam Armstrong. That shows that if Norwich had too many players in Hernandez’s role, they would lose some of the combination play that was crucial to their performance, but without the man who attempts 4.5 dribbles per 90-minutes – the joint-second most in the Championship – the equilibrium of their attacks would not be complete, and that was evident in his role in Buendia’s winner.

Teemu Pukki – despite only taking 26 touches, the Finnish forward was hugely influential to the Canaries. His persistent running in the first half enabled him to make the most of hopeful forward balls rather than the incisive build-up play we normally see from Norwich, meaning the team always carried a threat even when the midfield was well below-par. Worked hard all evening and hit the post on 88 minutes with an instinctive effort. 8

Moritz Leitner (on 90) – coming onto the Carrow Road turf for the first time since November, Leitner has work to do to re-establish himself as an untouchable cog in this Canaries machine due to the form of Tommy Trybull, Kenny McLean and Mario Vrancic. 5
Timm Klose (on 90+2) – the Swiss centre-back was brought on partly to provide an aerial presence for the final few seconds, and partly to make him feel needed and part of the Norwich team, with Ben Godfrey performing well in his absence. 5

In all, not the most complete Norwich performance this season, but they can take encouragement from the defensive resolve they have shown with Godfrey growing into the centre-back role admirable next to Zimmermann; that solidity could help them churn out more points when not quite at their best technically and tactically.

It is telling, too, that certain bookmakers have the Norfolkians as short as 1/6 for promotion and narrowly odds-on for the title; the best prices on this can be found via the best betting apps for Android.

Swansea City

Kristoffer Nordfeldt – after Erwin Mulder struggled to uphold his impressive early-season form, there has been some debate over the goalkeeping position at Swansea. Nordfeldt expected to be tested here more often than he was against Bolton previously – but instead he let in the only shot on target he faced. Brave and relatively successful in terms of distribution under pressure, at least. 5

Connor Roberts – the youngster deputized at left-back against Bolton, but showed here that he can perform equally well on either side in an energetic display. Kept Hernandez very quiet in the first half, which is testament to his astute reading of the game at just (20), even if he did not influence the game quite as much as he might have liked going forward. 6
Mike van der Hoorn – the Dutch centre-back distributed well, completing 91% of his passes even under Norwich’s press, which highlights his improvement under Graham Potter. Won three aerial duels, two, showing he can balance various different responsibilities efficiently. 8
Cameron Carter-Vickers – the Tottenham loanee heeded the good luck messages he might have received from former Sheffield United teammates, limiting opposition openings in the penalty area. Like his centre-back partner, Carter-Vickers was strong in possession and in the air, sometimes covering wide areas intelligently when the situation called for it. 8
Kyle Naughton – the stalwart offered much-needed experience in a testing encounter, showing once again the adaptability to perform well at left-back as a right-back by trade. Retained possession effectively without offering much width in the attacking phase. 6

Bersant Celina – the twinkle-toed Kosovan is on his day one of the most talented players in the Championship, but has struggled for consistency this term and he was unable to influence this contest as much as he might have liked, although he did sting Krul’s palms with a deflected long-range effort just before the break.
George Byers – the young Scot pressed intelligently in the first half whilst using the ball resourcefully. Lack of physical qualities was at times problematic.
Matt Grimes – in the summer, Swansea shied away from paying the fee for Ryan Woods and, from a player they brought to the club four years ago, they have somebody arguably just as effective. Grimes dictated play with real assurance at the base of the midfield and also pressed well when the moment called. Sometimes reluctant to track back in transition but perhaps that was part of Graham Potter’s plan to have one of the better technicians in a visible position. 7

Nathan Dyer – the wide forward did not provide the pace or power to attack in transition. As a result of that however, he held onto the ball with impeccable consistency in the final third, which enabled Swansea to complete their play through Norwich’s initial threat and begin to build attacks. Taken off on 68 minutes though as the game became stretched and his skillset became less applicable. 6
Daniel James – the young forward was excellent against Bolton with his clever runs in from the left channel but that was when he had a lot of forward movement around him. As a false nine here, he was asked to rely on his pace to attack individualistically a bit more and sometimes found himself outnumbered, especially in the second half. Completed four dribbles though and forced a good block from Zimmermann with a tight-angled effort late in the first half. 7
Wayne Routledge – the former Crystal Palace winger had done well as a second false nine next to Oliver McBurnie against Bolton last week, but he struggled to truly influence proceedings in a wide left position here. Replaced on 68 minutes. 5

Courtney Baker-Richardson (on 68) – came on for Routledge to offer more of a focal point and a physical presence up top, but suffered from a lack of service. 5
Barrie McKay (on 68) – came on to potentially change the pace and direction of play, which had never been among the main strengths of Nathan Dyer, the man he replaced – it did not quite happen for him, though. 5