Robin Sainty: The origins of THAT win can be found in the summer

Teemu Pukki on the break during City's pre-season game against Schalke - Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Teemu Pukki on the break during City's pre-season game against Schalke - Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

No one takes too much notice of friendly matches, but I believe that the blueprint for last Saturday's remarkable performance can be traced back to City's pre-season win over Schalke.

Sam Byram impressed against Manchester City and has been forced to be patient due to Max Aarons performances. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdSam Byram impressed against Manchester City and has been forced to be patient due to Max Aarons performances. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

In that game the Canaries eschewed their usual domination of possession to cede a great deal of midfield territory to their German opponents, but whenever they won the ball they broke quickly and decisively.

That discipline was on show again against Manchester City as they held their shape by not chasing after balls that they knew that they couldn't win, with the result that it was almost half-time before Tim Krul was required to make a save, and even late on, when the visitors' relentless passing would have ground down most other sides, Norwich were still looking compact and crowding out players trying to work a shooting opportunity.

The extended injury list announced at the pre-match press conference inevitably brought up the old question about whether the players were being pushed too hard in training, but the way that they lasted the course on Saturday, despite not having the ball for much of the game, should have put it to bed forever.

However, this wasn't a case of a side defending desperately and getting lucky, because the way in which City repeatedly played the ball out from the back using intricate patterns and the eagerness with which they committed numbers to every opportunity to attack showed that they were always looking to get on to the front foot while recognising that those opportunities would be limited against a side as talented as the visitors.

This is a group of players who believe totally in themselves, their team-mates and their manager and it's a glorious thing to witness. I can't recall Carrow Road being so engaged since the European season, but I don't think that this marks the apotheosis of Daniel Farke's achievements at Norwich given his man-management skills.

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The Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg once described England's erudite 1980s cricket captain Mike Brearley as having a degree in people, and if that was the case then Farke must have a Doctorate based on his ability to get the very best out of every one of his players.

The way in which Alex Tettey, Ibrahim Amadou and Sam Byram came into the team and played as if they'd always been there was reminiscent of what happened last season when City had injuries, and shows how strong the squad actually is.

In midweek, Raheem Sterling had been virtually unplayable for England against Kosovo, yet Byram kept him very quiet, while Amadou, primarily a midfielder, produced a commanding display alongside Ben Godfrey in the centre of defence and Tettey was the midfield destroyer of old.

However, it's the front four that really make this City side so dynamic. Todd Cantwell now looks every inch the player that we saw flashes of last season, while Emi Buendia had his best game of the season on Saturday, but it's the understanding between Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki that makes City such a threat.

Stiepermann is unorthodox and can look clumsy, but his unpredictability makes him difficult to neutralise. He's a constant thorn in the side of opponents, but it's his ability to pick up Pukki's runs and to time his passes that makes him such an essential part of this team, the first-time ball to set the Finn in on goal after the latter had disposed John Stones being a classic example.

Something very special is happening at Norwich City and whilst we are all praying for better luck on the injury front, last Saturday showed that this group of players have nothing to fear in the Premier League.

Burnley away, however, will be a different challenge altogether against a side who will test City more physically, so last week's result must be put aside as players and fans refocus on the job in hand.

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