Robin Sainty: Mix of discipline and confidence is a lethal concoction for Norwich City
A lot of words have been used to describe City’s football this season; fluid, flowing, sexy, exhilarating to name but a few, but one which isn’t often mentioned is perhaps the most important; disciplined.
That discipline manifests itself in a number of ways, not least the fact that, while Daniel Farke could do nothing about the various injuries City have suffered, they have barely been affected by suspensions, with even perennial miscreants like Alex Tettey failing to tot up enough yellows for a ban.
However, its most important facet was demonstrated on Friday night as City found themselves up against a Swansea side who looked like a mirror image of themselves with their slick passing and high press, and in Dan James presented a constant threat.
There is no doubt that the visitors had the better of the first half with City far from their best and the anxiety in the crowd became more and more palpable with plenty of speculation that Farke would need to make changes at half-time.
It would have been easy enough to do so given how off the pace City had been, but in fact the same players were sent out and with some minor tactical tweaks that allowed City to press Swansea more effectively they simply carried on doing what has made them league leaders by sticking to their game plan in the confident belief that it would produce the required result.
While rival fans might see that win as simply down to a flash of individual brilliance by Emi Buendia (and what a flash it was) it was actually the result of a manager and his players holding their nerve when under immense pressure to do otherwise.
Again on Wednesday there would have been a huge temptation for Farke to make changes to the starting line-up, but he stuck with the players who had done the job on Friday. While there were plenty of calls for a return for Mo Leitner or Mario Vrancic, Farke is well aware that his policy of sticking with players who have come in and done a job has rewarded him with a squad that is a genuine unit with no one seen as having a divine right to start, something that generates the right sort of competitiveness.
While poor defending for Hull’s second made the final 10 minutes much more nervous than they should have been, the fact is that City absolutely battered the visitors and on another day could have scored a hatful.
Once again the crowd noise was impressive, although the reaction of some sections whenever the ball went back to Tim Krul in the second half was less than helpful.
Krul was undoubtedly at fault for Hull’s first, but having a goalkeeper who is confident with the ball at his feet rather than simply hoofing it downfield is absolutely integral to Farke’s system and while it will occasionally cost a goal it also means that City keep possession and can build from the back.
The same is true of the short passing on which City’s exciting style is built. When it clicks it’s wonderful to watch but there is always the danger that it will present an opening for the opposition.
If we want the fireworks we have to accept that occasionally one will go off in our hands.
Last season there were moans that City weren’t scoring enough goals, now it’s that they don’t keep enough clean sheets, but nine wins out of the last 10 games is good enough for me. The fact that they sometimes live on the edge both adds to the excitement and sets them apart from more workmanlike teams. It’s something to embrace rather than carp about.
And so to a pivotal day with Leeds and Sheffield United playing each other. Something must give so if City do their job today it could be an enjoyable evening.