David Freezer: City boss Farke showing he’s more Pep than José
Let me point out straight away that this column is not suggesting Daniel Farke is as good a coach as Pep Guardiola.
Good, now that’s out of the way, I can point out that it’s a good thing Norwich City have a head coach from the Guardiola mould and not one from the old school of José Mourinho.
At the time of writing Mourinho is still in charge at Manchester United but his strange comments and unusual behaviour of recent weeks have made him the bookies’ favourite to be the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season.
He was once the best manager in the world but football has changed and now the Special One had very much become the Old Fashioned One.
Mischievous comments in the media about players or argumentative moods in front of the cameras are no longer distraction techniques protecting players.
The Portuguese just comes across as a grumpy middle-aged man who has fallen behind the times and isn’t able to command the respect of players that he used to thrive upon.
Contrast that to the body language of the Manchester City stars under Pep or the smiles on the faces of Liverpool players under Jurgen Klopp. Who would you want to be your manager?
If I was at United I’d be looking enviously at my supposed title rivals, for the mutual respect and energy clearly relished by players enjoying life under Guardiola or the ever-grinning German.
Which brings us back to Norwich and Farke.
Of course good form will always make a squad seem like a happier place to be but there’s no doubt in my mind that City’s head coach has developed a relationship with his players much closer to the Pep style than the José dictatorship.
We should not be surprised though, we were told as much by Farke’s assistant, Eddie Reimer, when the duo arrived from Borussia Dortmund in May 2017.
As the first head coach appointment of Stuart Webber we suspected at the time that the Canaries’ new sporting director was looking for David Wagner mark two, the coach who had brought such success to Huddersfield and the man Farke has succeeded at Dortmund II.
However, on the day Farke was introduced to the media at Carrow Road, Reimer told me: “If you are speaking about David Wagner or Jurgen Klopp, I would say it is more like Thomas Tuchel or Pep Guardiola – but we will see!”
Bold claims at the time of course. Just the mention of football hipster overlord Guardiola drew doubtful chuckles from some supporters as City’s new regime began to take shape.
On the football front, it may have been a bumpy road, but that quote is starting to take on increasing integrity.
Possession with purpose has led to controlled but effective displays during the current impressive eight-game unbeaten run.
In personality as well, the drive, determination and disarming smile of Farke more than resembles the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
For anyone who has watched the All or Nothing Manchester City documentary which followed last season’s Premier League title-winning success, the intensity of Pep is quite something to behold. It’s clear his players like him and we’re seeing those signs in the Norwich squad as well.
The hugs and high fives as Farke goes around at full-time of the latest positive Championship result suggest this is a happy but focused group.
The German comes across as part of the modern breed; friendly with his players but there’s no doubting who’s in charge, with a philosophy for positive football and an undoubted desire for squad and supporter unity.
To be fifth in the table and on an eight-match unbeaten run with a quarter of the campaign almost gone is well above the expectations of many who follow the Canaries – and much hard work lies ahead if that kind of position is to be maintained as we head into 2019.
Contrast that with the authoritarian approach that has left Mourinho stuck in the past and the negative tactical shackles which have left his outrageously talented – and wealthy – squad looking rather miserable.
Farke has a long way to go in his career before he can even think about testing his nous in the Guardiola echelons of the game but he has done enough to win round a lot of the moaners and groaners in recent weeks.
Finish this spell of seven games in three weeks with victory over Stoke, to make it nine unbeaten, and the remaining doubters will surely have to reevaluate.
My team for today: Krul; Pinto, Zimmermann, Klose, Lewis; Tettey, Leitner; Vrancic, Stiepermann, Cantwell; Pukki
Confidence is sky high
The manner of City’s efforts at Derby in midweek really was impressive again.
Unbeaten runs clearly breed confidence but to turn up at Pride Park and go for the win rather than attempt to park the bus, like so many teams will this season, was a real credit to the Canaries.
It was a shame the Rams managed to find a rather fortunate equaliser late on but I can’t say I’ve felt that goal has deflated the mood at all. Drawing at Derby is hardly the worst result is it?
Now all the focus, on the pitch and in the stands, has to be on emptying the tank to make sure this frantic spell of seven games in three weeks doesn’t end on a low note as we head into the break.
Finish with a flourish and more of the positive play which has sparked this fine run will feel like a significant success.
Nothing is won in October but beating Stoke would feel like a psychological victory which can allow ambitions to be aimed a touch higher – ahead of six games in three weeks after the break.
Alex Tettey’s agonising wait for Mario Vrancic’s winning penalty at Carrow Road last weekend reminded me of City’s 2002 play-off final.
City’s longest-serving player was caught on camera with his eyes closed, facing the dug-outs as Vrancic composed himself – seemingly unable to handle the tension.
Thankfully, the spot-kick was put away safely and Tettey didn’t have to charge back into action as Wigan countered, but it showed how much the win meant to the ever-popular midfield battler.
During that play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in 2002 I couldn’t watch either, as City and Birmingham went into the hell of a shootout.
If I remember rightly, I had enough faith in Iwan Roberts to watch him dispatch the first penalty but then – to the disbelief of my best mate – sat down and just listened to the noise of the crowd as things went downhill from there.
The drama of a shootout is great – although as I’ve since learned, pretty hectic for reporters – but sometimes the tension is just unbearable.