I think that we are looking at the league’s best team, aren’t we?
Having weathered an injury crisis that would’ve crippled most other teams in this league, Norwich City have continued to find a way to win games and to control the crucial moments in games that win them.
The squad is, of course, talented at this level and there’s plenty of experience too, which was gained in that bruising season in the Premier League. The return of some of those injured players has added available depth to Farke and to the squad and it’s probably given those in possession of a starting berth an extra lift as well.
The defence is the only area of the pitch that doesn’t have much competition for places at the moment due, of course, to injuries. In front of them though, the midfield battle for places in Farke’s team is hotting up considerably.
Oliver Skipp has been a first choice as the CDM and for good reason. He is such a classy player with an eye for a pass and who loves a tackle. He has what looks like being an amazing career ahead of him and we’re lucky to see him play in yellow and green this season. You have to catch yourself to remember that this is his first season of regular league football and that often mentioned quote from Jose Mourinho that Skipp is “Tottenham captain of the future” is well worth a fiver of anybody’s money at the bookies. Another loan season at Norwich would surely happen only if the Canaries can attain promotion, something they look well on course for.
The position alongside Skipp is likely to be the subject of the fiercest competition though. Kenny McLean is currently in possession but the return of Lukas Rupp to fitness after hamstring issues is going to add more, for sure, and don’t forget that the squad’s elder statesman, Alex Tettey is always on hand and he’ll never let anyone down.
Teemu Pukki is the front man that the whole division wishes it had in their side. He is unrivalled in the division and in the squad. Jordan Hugill, just returned to fitness is his only rival at the moment but is yet to challenge the goat strongly. Behind Pukki in the attacking three midfield positions is where the next struggle for supremacy will take place.
Saturday’s line-up consisted of Todd Cantwell, Mario Vrancic and the mercurial Emi Buendia, who is currently in imperious form. His sixth goal and sixth assist helped win the game for Norwich, as it has so many times before. He is, at the moment, irreplaceable in the side due to his astonishing current levels, arguably well on-par with his 2018/19 form.
The return of Todd Cantwell after injury was also welcome and even before he scored his cracker of a goal, he’d made a big difference. He is a similar player to Buendia in terms of the role he undertakes for the side. Nominally wide players, both also have a licence to cut inside and get involved behind Pukki in the centre and that’s exactly where Buendia managed to escape the clutches of four Cardiff defenders to find Cantwell for his goal. It’s also where Emi cut inside to score from in the first half.
When you consider that Kieran Dowell is warming the bench as he edges back to match fitness and that Placheta and Hernandez are both still sidelined with injury, you get the feeling that this group of attacking midfielders and wingers are going to push each other on when they are all fit.
It’s a glorious situation, isn’t it?!
One note of caution though concerns the impending January transfer window and the speculation swirling around, particularly involving Buendia. The media outlets are desperately trying to drum something up in terms of transfer speculation but there is nothing new about any of it. Links are being dragged up to Arsenal, Leeds, Atletico Madrid and half of La Liga but as I say, they are not new. They existed in the summer and the fact remains that there wasn’t a single offer for Emi in the summer. None of those clubs had him in their plans then, so why should they now?
January is a notoriously difficult transfer market and a time when buying clubs are forced to pay top dollar for players, often out of desperation. I think that if Norwich were struggling outside the top six then things would be more difficult and there may be pressure to let a player like Buendia or Cantwell leave next month but with the Canaries now being five points clear of second place and seven points clear of third place, there will surely be less of a desire to leave for these lads.
The biggest issue would be if an Arsenal or Atleti offered big money and by that I mean £30m+ But even then I think that Norwich should and need to remain firm and reject any offer, even if it means doing a deal with one of those clubs to sell him in the summer. We need Emi Buendia and every stellar performance thus far adds a few extra zeros to his value. There does though come a time when a player outgrows Norwich City, like Ben Godfrey, Jamal Lewis and James Maddison before them. When the opportunity to play at a top Premier League side comes along, rejecting sensible, realistic offers (I’m looking at you Liverpool) is folly.
It upsets the equilibrium and crushes the dreams of said player if Norwich say “NO” out of hand and for no good reason. You have to take off your green and yellow spectacles and accept that our club is of a certain size and that it is highly unlikely, in it’s current circumstance, to be challenging for the Premier League title or European glory. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible in the future (I’ve just put my specs on again) but right now it isn’t. That’s why, if it came to it and I was Stuart Webber and I had an offer for Emi from a big club come into my inbox, I’d cut a deal with him to let him go in the summer but not now.
Selling Buendia to a small, relegation threatened club like when Pritchard went to Huddersfield or when Josh Murphy went to Cardiff is not going to happen because of City’s current league position and healthy financial situation. It bodes very well for keeping the squad together for the second half of the season.
Against Cardiff on Saturday, Norwich were barely threatened, apart from free-kicks and Sean Morrison, which was hardly a surprise to anyone. Michael McGovern finally got a clean sheet and he made another top draw, one handed save from Morrison in the second half. It was point blank and shows that McGovern has grown into the role of number one with game time, which is how these things work.
I’ve already waxed lyrical about Buendia and Cantwell but the whole back four also deserve praise for their first clean sheet in eight games. They dealt with most things, despite some of those in front of them still giving away cheap fouls around the City area.
Things are looking very good indeed at the moment.
Merry Christmas Canary fans.