Daniel Farke seems to have finally hit upon a formula that works for his Norwich City squad.
It’s seemed to me that he has had a few issues in the early weeks of the new season in getting all his pieces into the right places, a bit like a jigsaw.
The loss of Onel Hernandez to a hernia operation and the explosion of goal scoring form of Teemu Pukki have meant that Farke has had a few decisions to make and fair play to him, he’s made all the right calls, so far.
When you look at the Norwich squad, there are now plenty of options all over the pitch and for the most part, the squad seems strong enough to me to be able to compete in the Championship.
I’ve watched a few different Championship sides now and there are a few poor teams, like Ipswich, Reading and Preston and there are some pretty decent teams too, like Leeds, ‘Boro and Brentford.
The teams in the middle are all much of a muchness and generally, everyone is pretty competitive. The competitiveness of the division is clear for us all to see and I think that we’d all have taken a position where after 9 games we are just four points off top spot.
The fact that we are in 11th position after this win over QPR though, shows how tight things are.
If you read Vital Norwich regularly, you will know that I am always, well usually, a glass half full kind of fan and these last three wins, despite all being 1-0 wins, have hugely encouraged me. I say that I’m usually positive but with the start to the season we had, I was worried that we were in for another season of poor sideways football.
Dare I say it though, I’m becoming optimistic.
We finally have a goal scoring striker again. Teemu Pukki is quickly becoming a fan favourite and the fact he’s got 6 goals in 9 games at the start of his Norwich career is doing him little harm on that front. He’s had a great September all round with 5 goals in 5 games for club and country.
FULL-TIME | Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Norwich City
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) September 22, 2018
He just seems to have that knack of being in the right place for a spot of goal poaching, like he did at Loftus Road, and he can also score from outside the area, as he did at Reading. It doesn’t get any better than that does it?
After the game, Teemu was interviewed by Sky Sports and was asked about how he was adapting to the English game.
“It’s been easier than I thought” he replied with a wry smile.
The other massive positives for me are the emergence of our two terrific young fullbacks, Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons and Marco Stiepermann as a number 10.
Lewis was my man of the match before he picked up the Sky Sports award for what was, perhaps, the best performance of his fledgling young career in yellow and green. The boy has some engine on him to get up and down the wing as effectively as he does.
He’s got huge speed and was a constant threat to the Rangers’ right flank. Alex Baptiste was clearly targeted by the City coaching team as a weak link that Lewis could exploit and as well as going forwards, he’s a tidy defender with a cool head at the back and he’s getting better too.
Marco Stiepermann’s size, physicality and eye for a pass are a surprise in this formation but he’s been very effective and is now genuinely looking like a specialist in the number 10 role, having previously been seen as a utility player, which is a bit of an insult I always think.
How good has this man been recently? #ncfc
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) September 22, 2018
Tim Krul is shaking off the ring rust and becoming more and more reliable as the minutes and games tick by. He wasn’t unduly troubled by Middlesbrough, Reading or QPR and he’s now starting to look much more like the keeper we thought we’d signed. I’m ignoring that “moment” at the end of the first half, by the way.
The back four in front of him have all helped make that happen and defenders and goalkeepers thrive on shut outs in a similar way to which strikers thrive on goals.
Both facets of the game are crucial and getting them both regularly breeds confidence.
QPR had been on a mini revival prior to this game and were undefeated in five after the 7-1 drubbing they took at the hands of West Brom, so this win is a decent one. Reading before them had been poor and they turned out to be just that, while ‘Boro were flying before being beaten by Norwich.
It isn’t all roses though. We still take far too long to get the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and while the points and wins are welcome, they have still all been by only the odd goal.
In the first half, QPR didn’t know what to do as we kept the ball and passed it around them. They finally got the message, probably courtesy of a Steve McLaren hair dryer at half time, and started to press and then a few mistakes started to creep into our game.
Having said that, Arsenal used to be famous for scoring one goal and not losing. I seem to remember that they won the league like that in the late 80’s, when Liverpool were in their pomp too.
It’s starting to look positive but it’s far too early to call anything. For example, I was staggered when I heard that Leeds had been beaten at Elland Road by Birmingham but I don’t suppose it matters because they’ve already won the league haven’t they?!
The Championship is starting to do what it does. It’s a grind, a damn hard slog and you win nothing in September. Remember what they say about “seeing where you are after ten games?”
Well, on this evidence, Norwich City are doing okay.