There were a lot of things to be positive about during last night’s 2-1 win over Reading.
The biggest thing for me is the way that Daniel Farke is integrating and using youth in his first-team squad. Jamal Lewis is 20 and a first team regular and Max Aarons is 18 and he’s looking to be heading that way as well. Todd Cantwell is 20 and made his Championship debut start last night and he also got his first assist.
It may be that Farke simply has no other options but even so, the faith he is placing in these lads is good news for the club.
With Onel Hernandez missing for 2-3 weeks after a hernia operation and his obvious replacement in the squad, Ben Marshall, missing through illness last night, Farke turned to Todd Cantwell, which when you consider he had Mario Vrancic on the bench, was a big call.
Perhaps Mario wasn’t up to a full 90 minutes after a long layoff with a pelvic issue but even so, fair play to our Head Coach for playing Todd.
He didn’t disappoint either, did he?
Cantwell isn’t a winger who will beat people with pace and get crosses in from the byline, he’s a skilful midfield operator who could play as a number 10 or, as we saw last night, anywhere in that three behind the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1.
He has plenty of energy and physicality for one so (relatively) young and provided a great assist for Teemu Pukki to open the scoring. I imagine that Herr Farke will be over the moon with how his young players performed last night.
The other revelations for me are the goal scoring of Pukki, a player about whom there was a bit of moaning upon his free transfer arrival and Marco Stiepermann as an attacking midfielder.
“Who?” Was the cry from certain sections of the Canary Nation when Pukki’s signing was announced. Typical of some of our fan base but after five goals in 8 games, he’s now the number one striker at the club with Jordan Rhodes watching on from the bench.
Suddenly, the fact that Nelson Oliveira is still a Norwich City player is going unmentioned. Let’s be honest, he’s not going to get a look in ahead of Pukki or Rhodes, is he?
Pukki is highly mobile and has a great engine. He’s also got an eye for goal and the difference to have such a player in the side is there for all to see. He’s looking like a very good signing indeed, even better for free.
As for Marco Stiepermann playing as a central attacking midfielder and making such an impact, well, I don’t think many of us saw that coming.
Marco has been a victim of his own versatility which has previously seen him used as a left back or left winger but I remember writing last season that as he was a central midfielder by trade, I’d like to actually see him given a try there.
Of course, he had James Maddison ahead of him last season at CAM and then he had to cover Jamal Lewis at left back for the first half of the season due to James Husband’s failure to live up to Championship level. He suffered with injury at the tail end of the season, not really giving the fans a chance to see what he could do in the middle.
He’s showing us now though.
His height is an asset when defending and attacking set pieces and his range of passing and tackling, for that matter, are helping the front players with the high press that Farke clearly wants his men to play.
Another interesting facet to last night’s game was the number of players City were able to get into the Reading box in support of attacks, especially in the first half when they really took the game to Reading.
Last season you’d be lucky to get one or two players in the box for a cross but on plenty of occasions last night, they managed double that and a couple of times there were actually five.
”Look how may players are in the box?” Mrs T commented, she’s not wrong.
Have Norwich turned a corner? I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that just yet but there’s certainly be an improvement which started at Ipswich. I tend to think that the partnership of Tettey and Leitner has become very important and Tettey’s physical and athletic abilities allow Mo to have more time on the ball, picking passes.
Next up are a resurgent QPR, who have rallied dramatically since the 7-1 drubbing at the hands of West Brom. City have a poor record at Loftus Road and last season basically didn’t compete there, being battered by the monster on the day that was Matt Smith.
They’re unlikely to just kick it long to a big striker this time around but will still pose us a threat in this form. After last season’s capitulation at the Flat Packer Stadium, I think it’s fair to say that the boy’s owe us a performance.