That was one of the biggest wins of the season, wasn’t it?
I say “one of the biggest” because I feel that Leeds away was the best so far, when you take into account the pressure on the players of the league position of the two teams, the Spygate story and the bear pit that is Elland Road. That was a consummately professional performance and they schooled Leeds United that day.
Saturday’s win against Bristol City was also huge though, especially with the backdrop of the Robins being the Championship’s in-form team with nine league wins in a row before kick-off. None of the big hitters we’ve faced in the league this season have been on a run like that before facing us.
There’s no doubt that they are a very good side. They don’t tend to score a lot of goals but they don’t concede many either and that’s what makes them so tough.
Having grabbed the game’s first goal, which was just plain sloppy from Norwich, the visitors retreated behind the ball, seemingly content with allowing Norwich to play in front of them and giving the division’s best passing team some encouragement.
The equaliser, when it came, owed much to Emi Buendia and Onel Hernandez and it was another lovely team goal. Buendia’s raking crossfield ball found Hernandez in space on the left and he did what he always does, turned his opponent inside out before finding Pukki who had the simple job of laying it off for Kenny McLean. It was Pukki’s ninth assist of the season and McLean’s first goal for Norwich, with his “wrong foot” as well.
The fact that Bristol City equalised straight from the kick-off was also pretty sloppy from Norwich with Trybull, McLean, Zimmermann and Godfrey all seemingly unable to get a foot in on Callum O’Dowda. I was very pleased to see that his “SShhhhh” motion to the River End came back to haunt him.
Keep your powder dry, fella. He who laughs last and all that.
With the season now at the business end, the fact we have pretty much a full squad to choose from is good news all round. The bench on Saturday was so strong. Have we had a stronger bench than that in the last five years? I’m not sure we have.
McGovern, Rhodes, Hanley, Klose, Vrancic, Leitner and Cantwell.
Who would’ve thought that Hanley and Rhodes would’ve played as infrequently as they have done this season? Certainly not me, I had both of them pegged as certain starters last summer and the fact that Ben Godfrey has been keeping Hanley (and now Klose) out of the team is a testament to how good our squad actually is.
When a player has come in and done well, he has kept his place in the side. That’s one of the best things about Daniel Farke’s coaching style. If you’re training well and ready for your chance, then you have to get in line and wait patiently.
Ben Godfrey is a prime example of that, having played all last season in the Shrewsbury first team and proving himself ready and yet, he had to wait. Farke had spoken about Ben having all the attributes to be a “world class” centre back and I know that a few raised their eyebrows at that on social media. People that don’t know what happens in training on a day to day basis and never see the players or coaches at work and yet, they know best, you know the type. Farke had no problem in playing Godfrey against Bolton back in December with 20 minutes notice when Timm Klose reported injured in the warm-up and he hasn’t looked back.
When you look back at Alex Neil’s reign at Norwich, he certainly had his favourites, players that would play no matter what and who would come straight back into the team at the expense of others who had performed well while said player was out injured. Farke has a different approach and we’re all seeing it out on the beautiful grass at Carrow Road.
The current squad is together, there’s no doubt about that and we keep hearing it. Most recently from Kenny McLean when he was interviewed after his brace had helped beat Bristol City. Everyone wants to play and wants to do well but they’re supporting each other even when they’re not in the team. It seems that we have that most elusive of elements in team sports, togetherness. The key, of course, is keeping that togetherness, well, together.
Paul Lambert cultured a similar spirit when he took the Canaries up through the leagues but it became lost once we got to the Premier League and he left for greener pastures, or so he thought. It coincided with Chris Hughton’s arrival and new, expensive foreign arrivals like Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Johan Elmander and Leroy Fer. It was a throw of the dice by David McNally in an attempt to bring stability to the club in the Premier League.
He did something similar again when he signed Matt Jarvis, Steven Naismith, Dieumerci Mbokani and to a lesser extent, Timm Klose on big salaries. Those salaries were crippling after relegation, with only Klose ever performing on the pitch for Norwich at an acceptable level and even then, Timm took almost 18 months to show his real worth.
At the moment, Farke has a side that, with the exception of Klose, isn’t on massive wages. Many of those that are wowing us with their prowess and silky skills are going to be much lower paid than the average Norwich player of the last five years. Should this promotion tilt become a reality then new signings will, of course, be required to help the squad out. A higher level of player usually comes with a higher salary and that’s where it arguably went wrong before. If the new employee, who does a similar job to you is earning a lot more, you’re going to ask questions of the boss and if the answer doesn’t include a raise for you then fractures can appear in the team.
Having said that, the way that the club is currently being run is making me increasingly confident that should promotion be achieved, that they won’t make the mistakes of the previous incumbents of high office at Carrow Road.
But I digress, getting back to our current situation, we’ve now only got 12 games left to play and it’s looking good. We’ve played brilliantly against the likes of Leeds, Birmingham and Bolton, had an off-day at Preston and then still beaten Bristol City who will give others a lot of trouble, I’d say, when below par.
The Robins have still got to play Leeds, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and West Brom and they’re a potential banana skin for all of them. I’m constantly looking for where our rivals can drop points now and Bristol City could help us out quite a lot, come on you Robins!