Paddy Davitt verdict: City must harness the one thing in their favour
PUBLISHED: 18:52 15 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:47 16 December 2019
The abiding images of Norwich City’s Premier League journey are yet to happen. But what unfolded at Leicester City underlined there is a path to survival.
Whether Daniel Farke and his squad can navigate the pitfalls and distil everything they have discovered thus far remains to be seen.
Even after an uplifting, resolute draw against a side touted as genuine title challengers to Liverpool one glance at the league table makes alarming reading.
You can fully understand why Farke himself was so annoyed in the immediate aftermath of that drab, dreary, dispiriting home defeat to Sheffield United at Carrow Road.
He framed it as a lost opportunity to close the gap to those above. City took a small step in the right direction in the East Midlands, allied to stumbles for their relegation rivals, but the bigger picture is surely more pleasing for him, his players and that packed away end than adding another point to a slim haul.
Norwich need to stay in touching distance through a festive spell that will test the powers of recovery and the ability to mix it with the likes of Tottenham and Wolves, as much as a nail-biting trip to Villa Park.
That away test should come with a warm glow, given events on their most recent visit.
A title-clinching win doused in champagne and trophy celebrations.
It was the culmination of a quite extraordinary Championship success, where friend and foe knew exactly what a Farke side looked like and how they would set about the task.
With Teemu Pukki deadly up top, Emi Buendia providing the bullets, and the emergence of young defensive talent behind the wily Tim Krul, Norwich simply had too much for every other Championship team.
It mattered little what opponent or what style they encountered, City had all the answers.
But the plates have shifted with elevation to the big time. Norwich have to be much lighter on their feet, far more flexible in their approach and ready to accept they are simply not good enough to replicate what they did so brilliantly in the Championship at the highest level.
If they had continued on that blinkered path there would not have been days like Manchester City or latterly Leicester City.
The Foxes decisively shaded territory and possession but bar another frustrating set piece concession could find no other way through.
Nor was this achieved with heroics from Krul, rather it was constructed on a collective cohesion without the ball, good organisation and discipline. Supplemented by a counter-attacking threat that may well have brought greater reward.
The problem for the non believers is when City face the lesser lights residual vulnerability is exposed.
To lose against Watford, Southampton and albeit a Sheffield United who have magnificently bridged the divide, yet take four points from Manchester City and now Leicester might defy logic. Rather it demonstrates they possess the raw material and the tactical acumen to prevail.
What they lack is the streetwise edge, the robust physicality and the experience to mask those deficiencies.
It is unrealistic to expect a battling point in the East Midlands is now a watershed moment in the quest for genuine consistency. But if the second half of this testing Premier League campaign contains more good days than bad it would be unwise to write them off.
There is one massive plus in their favour.
One exclusive to Norwich City, when you look around the lower reaches of the Premier League.
They may have hoped for more but the realists expected a survival scrap. Faith in a squad who got them here, and the relative lack of expenditure to bolster that pool, framed this season as one that would take place against oppressive odds.
Yet they are within a league win of an Aston Villa who spent lavishly, and a Southampton who likewise have had access to years of broadcast revenue.
Should those clubs, plus Watford and any others unfortunate enough to sink back into the mix, still see Norwich in their rear view mirror beyond Christmas the weight of expectation may start to hang heavy.
City have nothing to lose in that regard.
If they fall short the footings are firm enough now to expect they can mount a serious assault at an immediate return from the Football League. That makes them dangerous. As Leicester discovered.
Build on this result and watch the corrosive effect on those around them.