Paddy Davitt verdict: Bravo City but this is still a season of regret
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited
It would appear the only prize left up for grabs is which Championship boss best captures Norwich City’s remorseless return to the Premier League.
Thomas Frank went early with his promotion congratulations, after Brentford’s inability to lay a glove on the Canaries in a top-of-the-table midweek shootout in name only.
Paul Warne, Gareth Ainsworth, Aitor Karanka and Mark Robins all stuck willingly to the script Norwich is the best team in the division, following recent defeats. Robins went further and boldly reeled off why Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell are ‘unbelievable’ players.
Now we have Luton Town’s earnest Nathan Jones claiming this Norwich vintage is the Championship’s equivalent of Manchester City.
Given Pep Guardiola is a huge fan of Daniel Farke, and revealed last week he watches the Canaries to unwind, that seemed a fitting eulogy after another emphatic win.
This is not a perfect season. How could it be with no spectators present for all bar a few pilot games?
But it may well end up as one of the best in the club’s history when measured in clean sheets, wins, goals, points and what now appears an inevitable promotion.
Farke, as is his right, took Jones’ latest gushing praise in the spirit it was delivered, and referred any who care to cast an eye over a league table which clearly indicates there is work ahead.
But given the all-consuming scrap unfolding some way in City’s rear view mirror, both for the second automatic spot and the play-off scramble, it feels like Norwich have disappeared over the horizon.
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That was clearly the tone of Frank’s congratulatory messages.
No praise is surely too fulsome at present for what Farke, his players, coaches, Stuart Webber and all those unseen and unheralded elements in the background appear to have achieved to this advanced stage.
You can marvel at all the statistics but it is a rising tide of optimism and the soothing reassurance stamped through each display since Swansea which is most impressive.
Whether that defeat was a catalyst, or whether it was the full week to prepare for Stoke City’s following visit to Carrow Road, there has been a palpable shift.
Farke revealingly tapped into this essence after watching his side put Luton firmly in their place, following the Hatters’ impudence to inflict previous league and cup defeats.
The Norwich head coach noted the sense of just how badly those under his charge want this.
You can see that relentlessness in an almost maniacal will to protect Tim Krul’s goal. Or in the pressing and closing down of players like Pukki, Cantwell and Emi Buendia, as much as the escalating numbers of goals and assists.
You can almost feel it in the drive and energy sparked by Kenny McLean and Olly Skipp. The moving parts are well oiled and functioning at maximum capacity.
Farke now has selection headaches where at times this season he had head scratching to even pad out his substitutes’ bench; a trend set to intensify ahead of this weekend’s trip to struggling Sheffield Wednesday with Marco Stiepermann and Orjan Nyland now in the mix.
One feels a degree of sympathy for rival Championship bosses left to face Norwich on the run in. Jones’ admission he had selected a side designed to rest players for a more winnable fixture against Rotherham was a telling admission. It is not defeatism, but realism which appears to have settled right across this division.
Norwich are the best, they have the best squad, and many of the best players. But it is one thing to acknowledge such facts and quite another to deliver in such potent fashion when it really matters.
They have treated the Championship with the utmost respect since grinding out a hard-fought win on the opening day at Huddersfield. It is why they will exit it in a healthy state for their next assault on the top flight.
Farke spoke about the areas for improvement, despite brushing Luton aside after one or two early scares. He knows better than most the real measure of progress is not simply another gleaming Football League trophy in the cabinet, it is offering far more resistance when Norwich come up against Pep and Manchester City and the rest for real next time around.
Given the last epic home meeting served up one of the special Carrow Road nights that is something those absent fans should cling to, as they watch from afar a team to be proud of.