Robin Sainty: Norwich City - a team for every occasion
PUBLISHED: 10:09 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:09 22 March 2019
Last week I talked about City's discipline, and they needed every ounce of it at the New York Stadium in a windy and apparently post-apocalyptic Rotherham judging by the almost universal absence of people or functioning shops in the town centre. It is indeed grim up north.
On the pitch they had to compete with a weak referee, that swirling wind and a crowd of baying Yorkshiremen and women to whom hitting the ground under anything less than a full-on machete attack was the epitome of southern softness.
Emi Buendia, not for the first time, was the main victim of the hatchet men, but his ability to keep his head is yet another example of that discipline, and while City were made to work hard for the win against a side who had lost only four games at home this season they were good value for the three points and will benefit from having been pushed so hard.
The key is the way that they adapted to the questions posed by a side whose physicality both within and outside of the laws made it impossible for them to play their normal flowing football and who, as a certain Scottish manager would say, “gave it a real good go”.
Having worked themselves into an apoplectic rage about City’s supposed diving the home crowd were driven to the point of self-combustion as Tim Krul used all his experience to take every opportunity to slow the game down in the closing stages.
I accept that I would undoubtedly be moaning if an opposing goalkeeper did that against City, but the reality is that game management is part of modern football and Krul’s actions demonstrated again how streetwise City have become in that respect, and not just the older players judging by the sudden bootlace problem experienced by Max Aarons when required to take a throw-in in injury time.
The last three games have seen City protecting a single-goal lead in the closing stages and each time they have seen the game out with no real alarms, illustrating the growing maturity of this young team.
Kenny McLean also deserves a special mention. At the Hull game I endured 90 minutes of a nearby supporter slating his every move, yet on Saturday he scored one goal and made the other while controlling midfield with the ever-impressive Tom Trybull. It’s pointless to compare him with Mo Leitner or Mario Vrancic because he is a completely different type of player, but in his six games since coming into the side against Bolton he has scored three goals and made three others.
Given his strength in the air and eye for goal I suspect that he could be even more effective in the role currently held by Marco Stiepermann, but there is no way that will happen any time soon unless the big German picks up an injury.
And, of course, that level of diversity in terms of the skill sets of City’s range of midfield options is a key factor in their adaptability, and, more importantly, the fact that opponents find them so hard to stop.
I don’t think I can remember a City squad that was so well equipped to deal with so many different types of opponent or situation. They have coped admirably with physical sides, passing sides and those who have tried to adopt a high press and disrupt the forward runs of their full-backs.
Every question posed of them so far this season has been answered and Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber have assembled a group who seem able to adapt to any situation while in Buendia they have a priceless X factor of unpredictability backed by tremendous skill, movement and vision.
For once I‘m relishing an international break in which we can sit back and savour the position in which City find themselves as they prepare for that final push.