Paddy Davitt verdict: Pause, play, repeat. Irresistible Norwich City a compelling watch
PUBLISHED: 12:12 25 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:14 25 November 2018
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Watching Norwich City dismantle Championship rivals is to indulge in those old classic repeats.
You have seen the story, you know the ending but you crave more because each fresh encounter reveals another hidden layer; another glimpse into the work of Daniel Farke.
Part head coach, part sensei in how he has moulded a group who laboured to a mid-table league finish last season into a squad who at present can go anywhere, play anyone in the second tier, and crack the code.
Who of a green and yellow persuasion would tire of witnessing the predatory instincts of Teemu Pukki or the attacking urges of Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis?
Or the growing influence of a gem polished in Spain but bred from South American stock in Emi Buendia.
There is not much of the 21-year-old but the intelligence to find space, the vision and imagination to make the most of it and the technical quality to paint the brush strokes were a delight to witness at the Liberty Stadium.
Yet Farke, in his measured post-match tones, sought to highlight Buendia’s work ethic, in the manner he was alive to Erwin Mulder’s calamitous decision to shovel the ball in the direction of the dozing Bersant Celina. Buendia advanced, picked a pocket, and then calmly sat Mulder on his backside as he rolled the ball in at the near post.
That razor-sharp focus is at the very core of Norwich’s play.
For that, Farke deserves as much credit as the players carrying out his instructions. Confidence is coursing and with it a tangible freedom of expression to punish defensive lapses from opponents.
Before the international break it was Millwall’s Neil Harris fuming at the naivety of his troops in the manner they imploded in stoppage time. Graham Potter was less willing to chastise, but Swansea proved no less compliant.
That is the by-product of City’s ability to find pressure points and test stress levels. To probe for weakness and exploit it.
Swansea’s smooth possession at times was as good as Norwich have encountered this season but Farke had clearly identified a vulnerability on the counter and a susceptibility to the venomous turnover.
It is not just the flood of goals, it is Norwich’s defensive resolution.
There was one aberration, sparked by Tim Krul’s lapse in dealing with a speculative effort from Kyle Naughton. We have been here before, if you recall.
The similarities with Jay Rodriguez’s dig from range when West Brom visited Carrow Road; albeit on this latest occasion it was left to Daniel James to inflict the final cut after Krul tried to rectify his initial error to thwart Oli McBurnie’s follow up.
But there was no Baggies-style implosion in Wales. Norwich have grown immeasurably in the intervening period.
There is an assurance and a self-confidence bordering on arrogance.
It is stamped through City’s play in the moments they are under the microscope. Farke has a group who know they are good, who know in all probability they can achieve promotion or at the very least stay in the conversation for the rest of a season of rapid progress.
In that context, when the Canaries are over-achieving beyond the horizons of even the most optimistic fan, there really is no pressure or expectation. No burden from leading the pack.
Farke is not just getting it right within the confines of his technical area. He is striking the perfect tone in his public utterances.
Pressure is what Paul Lambert is facing to turnaround ailing Ipswich Town.
Expectation is what Tony Pulis or Frank Lampard must contend with as they manoeuvre big clubs with big reputations and expensively-assembled squads into striking distance.
Yet Norwich’s collective efforts to survive Swansea’s surge, straight after the interval, and coast to the finish line following Pukki’s near post finish suggest they will be ready when challengers turn up the heat.
Farke’s team is consistent to an admirable degree. So too is their head coach in his messaging.
The focus must narrow to dealing with relegation-threatened Hull City on Tuesday.
There are no traces of complacency but the moment the hype and the praise start to permeate the bubble Farke has created is the greatest danger.
In essence, it is not Championship rivals who now pose the biggest risk. It is the enemy within.
Farke and his squad must live in the moment and hold their impressive course.