Daniel Farke’s rallying call has inspired Norwich City’s record-breaking defensive steel
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As a club record for consecutive league clean sheets is set by City’s rejuvenated squad, DAVID FREEZER looks at just how head coach Daniel Farke has fixed his team’s early-season defensive disasters.
The defensive transformation of Norwich City in the space of less than a month has been nothing short of remarkable – thanks to some proper leadership.
Switching to a formation with two defensive midfielders has been the obvious tactical change was has brought about success, yet the true spark came down to good old fashioned man management.
Many were questioning whether head coach Daniel Farke had been thrown in at the Championship deep end and found he wasn’t as strong a swimmer as he’d thought after City’s mauling at Millwall.
Following hot on the heels of a 4-2 beating at Aston Villa, that humbling afternoon saw Farke’s team out-fought, out-thought and out of their depth collectively.
It took their early-season tally to 15 conceded in seven games, as they totally underestimated the ferocity and confidence that the Lions possess at The Den – making for a long two-week international break of worry and dread.
Judgement day had arrived very early for the Canaries’ new German boss – but he responded in impressive style.
The 40-year-old former Borussia Dortmund Under-23 head coach worked hard on defensive shape on the training pitches at Colney during the break, as he decided to bring Tom Trybull and Alex Tettey into his midfield as added defensive protection.
They have both responded like warriors, following their chief’s rallying cry with a simple message that shifted the collective mindset of his squad.
“What I see as a reaction is more the attitude to give your life to defend your own goal,” Farke said ahead of the Carrow Road clash with Birmingham City on September 9.
Defend as if your lives depend on it. A simple statement, delivered as part of an impassioned press conference display full of determination and positivity.
Beating the Blues 1-0, with the return to fitness of Timm Klose absolutely pivotal to the defensive performance, kick-started that work. It also kicked off a hectic spell of seven games in 22 days during September.
With one game of that period remaining – at Reading on Saturday – City have gone six unbeaten and conceded just one goal, a late consolation in the Carabao Cup third round win at Brentford.
Five successive league clean sheets is a club record and the defensive resolve which has flourished has seen Klose and Christoph Zimmermann improve as a partnership game by game, allowing young keeper Angus Gunn to establish himself properly.
Klose and Trybull had both gone off when Brentford scored so are both still yet to concede a goal when on the pitch during this campaign.
Zimmermann, meanwhile, has been playing so well that £3.5m signing Grant Hanley has not yet had a chance to show what he can do – having been signed from Newcastle in the aftermath of the Millwall debacle.
Some had questioned whether Farke was streetwise enough to adjust to the demands of the Championship from the German fourth tier. If a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough isn’t enough to answer that question, then nothing is.
From the depths of despair as the 2017-18 vintage became the first Norwich team to concede four goals in successive second tier games for over 18 years, Farke is now probably heading for his first manager-of-the-month nomination.
Some will point to Russell Martin and Marcel Franke’s absence, as well as Marco Stiepermann’s emergence at left-back, as contributing factors but it is the psychological switch which has breathed fresh life into this season.
“I want a team with the attitude that when there is a throw-in that we fight to get the ball back and we are there and give our life to defend our goal,” continued Farke in that pre-Birmingham media briefing.
That leadership and shift in psychology has won the softly-spoken coach many admirers as the volume of those ‘Farkelife’ chants elevate game by game.
The club’s reboot is still in its early stages, more goals have to be scored and 0-0 draws at Carrow Road must be turned into wins.
City now have a solid base to build from though and enough credit in the bank to survive the setbacks which will arrive during Championship battle.
Complete the month unbeaten with a positive result at the Madejski this weekend though and Canaries fans can be mildly entertained by England’s inevitable World Cup qualification safe in the knowledge that their club is moving in the right direction.