I think we all know that Saturday’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough was a decent performance by the Canaries.
The best of the season by some distance and not just because we beat a team at the top of the league. Plenty of City players were at, or approaching, the top of their game last weekend but that game has gone and what’s coming up next is what matters now.
There were several key points for me that made the win on Saturday as comfortable as it turned out to be.
First off, the defence. Tim Krul looked assured and much more like the keeper we assumed we had signed, rather than the nervous chap who looked likely to struggle to catch a cold on several occasions instead of the ball in the season’s opening weeks.
The enforced return of Christoph Zimmermann, combined with the return of Jamal Lewis and the emergence of Max Aarons, not to mention the steady, fine form of Timm Klose, has shut out what is effectively still a Premier League squad.
Britt Assombalonga barely got a kick and certainly didn’t affect the game in a hugely positive way with big Timm as his shadow.
The two young fullbacks are looking better and better and when you consider that Aarons has actually only played two league games, then it makes you appreciate how good these lads can potentially become.
At the age of 20, Lewis is now seemingly Northern Ireland’s first choice left back. Experiences away with his country will only improve him further and he probably has to pinch himself when he thinks about how the last ten months have gone for him personally.
Aarons’ performance against Boro oozed with maturity beyond his eighteen years, although we have to remember, expect really, that these lads are so young and largely inexperienced in professional football that the odd mistake has got to be somewhere up ahead.
Getting back to the positives though, Max’s assurance on the ball allowed Emi Buendia to operate further forward and the pair combined for Teemu Pukki’s goal.
On the other side, Jamal’s defensive behaviour was superb and he was cool under pressure, even managing a cracking little turn inside his own area to move away from an opponent. He beat his man on several other occasions throughout the game and his dribbling prowess continues to impress.
In the future, these two lads are looking like the next possible departures from Carrow Road. I’m not being pessimistic, just realistic about that. Our future business model will depend on producing such players and let’s be frank. These two are looking the business.
Ahead of them though are three players that really made the difference, Alex Tettey, Moritz Leitner and Marco Stiepermann.
We all know what Tettey brings to the party with his own personal brand of destructive football. He wins the ball and usually gives it to someone who can play but recently we have seen a new side to his game. Against Boro, he had three or four decent shots on goal and the same against Ipswich.
His partner in crime is, of course, Moritz Leitner who played in that slightly withdrawn ball player role that he was first pushed into when Tom Trybull was injured last spring.
Against Middlesbrough though, he had arguably his best showing in a Norwich shirt, following on from his first goal against Ipswich. Both Tettey and Leitner seem to complement each other and allow the other to flourish. It looks promising.
— NCFC Numbers (@ncfcnumbers) September 15, 2018
Mo has also added a bit of physicality to his game that was perhaps missing last season. That’s to be expected though as coming from Germany to the English Championship must be a bit of a culture shock. His running battle with Adam Clayton on Saturday though, showed that he is no shrinking violet.
The biggest surprise of all though was the appearance of Marco Stiepermann in a central attacking midfield role and didn’t he do well?!
His height was obviously a big help against Tony Pulis’ aerial assault but his composure on the ball and eye for a pass, not to mention a tackle, really helped win the midfield battle. We’ve only really seen Marco on the left, usually in defence, before but don’t forget that he’s a central midfielder by trade, so this display shouldn’t have been such a surprise.
Bravo to Daniel Farke for picking that team and making all the pieces fit together so well. Good teams have a strong spine running through them and with Teemu Pukki currently on fire, we do seem to have that going on.
What happens next is all important though. This excellent win needs following up with a similar performance at Reading and then QPR. I need convincing that Norwich can compete for a top six place this season but when you see how they controlled Boro for the most part of Saturday’s game, I think they have the players.
Farke just needs to fit them all together into a regular winning team.