Michael Bailey: 6 things learned from Norwich City’s QPR thrashing
A relentless Rangers ravage – Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey keeps it down to six things learned as the Championship leaders produce another special chapter, at home to QPR.
1 – Records are there to be broken
No doubt you’ve looked at the Championship table a few times recently – of course you have; it looks phenomenal. But have you really looked at it?
Such as the fact Norwich City have lost three fewer games than anyone else – three of them coming in the first five games; or seven more goals scored than anyone else. Or two more wins. The points tally isn’t bad either.
Indeed, the much-heralded and hugely expensive Wolves side of last year scored their 82 goals over 46 games; City have done it with six to spare and about a tenth of the budget. Dig a little deeper and even City’s questioned defence has now kept 13 clean sheets – only four clubs have managed more.
City’s run of eight successive wins in all competitions equals their club record in League One, making this their best run in the top two tiers. It’s also 30 years since City named eight unchanged XIs on the spin.
And I haven’t even mentioned Teemu Pukki yet.
2 – Bitterness speaks volumes
It happened back in 2004, as Alan Pardew made a few comments suggesting City had lucked out on their way to 94 points and the second tier title – especially over his West Ham side.
Bless those ‘big’ clubs with the burden of everyone raising their game against them, while Norwich are given “freebies” as chairmen pick the best time to sack a coach.
The way Norwich are perceived across the rest of the country it’s probably no coincidence that when things go well, a lot of bigger fish struggle to handle it – of course, these days we’re generally talking a proportion of internet fans more than managers and staff.
In truth, Norwich have earned a huge amount of genuine respect across the board for their style, recruitment and model.
The worst side to ever win the Championship, one tweeter suggested. It’s all part of everyone else’s coping mechanism. It means City have done their job – and it also means diddly squat.
3 – Pukki will go down in legend
I’ve been asked more questions by Finnish journalists than English people this past week – mostly wanting to know just how much everyone in Norwich loves Teemu Pukki.
Goals help. Making them, scoring them and the rate at which Pukki has done both in his first Championship season has been breathtaking.
Running 60 yards from the edge of the opposition penalty box to cover a break helps too. Whatever football lessons Pukki had to learn in his formative years, to say City have benefitted would be quite the understatement.
City’s history now extends to 117 years – in which time, only two players have scored more goals in a season than Pukki this term, and there are still six games to go. And he continues to extend his new Finnish record for goals scored in an English season. He would not even contemplate answering a question about his fortunes next season. Instead, all hail a free transfer for the ages.
(This is now of course EFL Championship player of the season Teemu Pukki – huge congratulations to both him and freshly crowned EFL young player of the year Max Aarons. What a stunning pair of footballers).
4 – A lesson for Emi – and the FA
I fear I have a reputation for hammering referees unduly so first things first, there’s little to argue with in terms of Emi Buendia’s red card. It was the dismissal Marco Stiepermann was fortunate to avoid against Nottingham Forest in December, and City’s first of the campaign.
No doubt clubs will have clocked his hot-headed nature a while ago, so it’s almost surprising Buendia hadn’t been dismissed before now. How he responds and learns from it will be key, and I have no doubt he will.
But let’s also be clear that Buendia now having to sit out three games for a tackle that was barely a margin worse than the one Josh Scowen threw in on Max Aarons about two seconds earlier, seems a huge failing in the rules.
I genuinely hope football will embrace technology to make officiating easier and better, so games and seasons are treated fairly.
Being smarter rather than automatic with bans would be a sensible step forward.
5 – You can have a bad culture too
For all the plaudits and impact Norwich’s season has had, their patience and approach – more off the pitch than on it – there are far more examples of where it has gone wrong. And not many better than QPR.
The two clubs have always been locked together. At one point Tony Fernandes was popping across from his Norfolk-based F1 team seeing if he could add the Canaries to his portfolio. A few fans here wanted that to happen.
In the end he opted for QPR. Rangers’ ills didn’t start there, but it’s part of a journey that has left one of London’s attempted-boutique clubs in huge debt with an unbalanced squad, players out of contract this summer, looking for a manager and also a long-term plan.
Rangers’ Carrow Road drubbing isn’t new. Their record in Norfolk is truly awful: one win in 25 years and 16 visits.
But it’s far beyond that where QPR need to work out what they are, and what they need to do about it.
6 – It was only two years to the day
So, 40 games gone and six to go. At this point in 2017, City had just been smashed 3-0 at Huddersfield Town and Russell Martin was left to explain it all away.
In fact, Saturday’s QPR win was an anniversary – two years to the day Stuart Webber was appointed City’s first sporting director. Four transfer windows was what he wanted – it arguably only took him three, and now Norwich are truly flying without wings.
Of the 18 players in City’s squad at the Terriers, 14 have left either permanently or on loan. Every element of this current City guise has come from the picture painted since Webber’s arrival – and the talented individuals put in place to deliver it. Words fail to cover how impressive it has been.
My Finnish interviewers both asked what City means to the area. Saturday’s Community Day did a good job of proving the point.
As did the buzz around and inside the ground. Special times, at a special place.
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