Melissa Rudd: Positive vibes, but let’s think Blades not Leeds... yet
PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 January 2019
There seems to have been so much noise around the upcoming Leeds United fixture this week that the small matter of Sheffield United this Saturday has almost been overshadowed.
Whatever your opinion of Marcelo Bielsa, the ‘Spygate’ controversy and the collective letter sent by 11 Championship clubs to urge the EFL to investigate the matter closely, I think we’re all much more concerned with matters on the pitch than nonsense off it.
It won’t matter who or how many people had peered through the bushes on the edge of the Colney complex to watch City train, if Daniel Farke’s charges turn up and play at Elland Road like they did against Birmingham on Friday night they will be more than a match for Bielsa’s side.
Norwich’s first-half performance was easily one of the best under Farke, at a time when they had gone five games without a win and the television cameras were on them.
The manner of that display to put City within one point of the Championship leaders would have made their closest rivals take notice. Norwich have become used to being the hunters as opposed to the hunted in the race at the top, and playing the evening before Leeds and Sheffield United meant that the win put pressure on both to get maximum points on the Saturday.
It is perhaps telling that both failed to get any.
It is funny how quickly things can change in football. After Chelsea limped to a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Sunday, the fallout centred on the fact that many fans feel Mauricio Sarri is trying to play a style of football that his players are not suited to. It reminded me of overhearing the moans and groans of unhappy fans trudging out of Carrow Road after indifferent performances last season.
It feels wonderful to be revelling in the opposite.
This team has evolved so much, and Farke has shaped his charges into playing a brand of football that’s exciting, energetic and effective. It isn’t just the first team who have bought into his philosophy. The video the club posted online of the goal the Under 23s side scored against Leicester is a shining example of how our head coach is implementing his style across all the age groups.
It was a brilliant team move that involved nine players in the build-up before Spencer Keller slotted home.
Norwich have an identity again, and it’s one that we can all appreciate.
There were several standout performers on Friday, with Tom Trybull’s bullet header capping off a fantastic return to the starting line-up.
His interview after the game, in which he talked about helping the team and respecting the decision of the coach, shows the harmony in the squad that Farke has helped to develop even among players who have had to play a bit part this season.
On that note, it is to Farke’s credit that I had almost forgotten Nelson Oliveira was still at the club when his loan move to Reading was announced. While his ability was never in doubt, the question marks over his attitude have only grown bigger under the German’s reign.
It is a shame we could only get the best out of him in fits and spurts, but his move away is certainly best for all parties.
The visit of Sheffield United can’t be overstated, and while the atmosphere at Carrow Road should be rocking there are bound to be nerves too.
The defensive frailties that have presented in recent weeks meant that even with a two-goal cushion on Friday night, there were murmurs of discontent on the odd occasion City were sloppy in possession, especially given how quickly Birmingham responded after Teemu Pukki’s opener.
It’s important that on Saturday positivity in the stands transcends onto the players on the pitch.