Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-0 win over Cardiff
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Cardiff City verdict after Norwich City's 2-0 Championship win.
1. Merry Christmas one and all
Who is going to stop this Norwich collective? Another demonstration of controlled, suffocating excellence. Resolute at the back, bar a couple of set piece scares involving Sean Morrison.
But overwhelming territorial control, extra helpings of possession and in Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell a creative pivot unrivalled in the Championship.
One defeat in 16 league games, nine points clear of third ahead of the rest of the day’s fixtures.
Oh and the small matter of waking up on Christmas Day knowing Norwich will look down on the rest. Cardiff had won five of their past six.
They reached the play-offs last season but they simply were unable to engage Norwich, outside of a small sample of free kicks and corners.
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It is not just the points that is growing by the week. It is the quality deficit between Norwich and the rest.
Navigate the January transfer window, enjoy better luck with injuries in the second part of the campaign, and this already looks an unstoppable march.
2. Time for a name change
Given the way Buendia is playing approaching that dreaded transfer window Norwich City’s top brass might need to think out of the box and change the Argentine magician’s name on the back of his shirt to keep him well under the radar.
Perhaps in the Premier League too many of the flicks and tricks were tipped with self-indulgence.
Allied to the degree of difficulty City faced as a team every week trying to bridge the chasm.
But in the Championship of late his work is decisive and defining. Cardiff’s defenders committed a cardinal sin in backing off when he collected Kenny McLean’s pass but there was still plenty to do. No matter.
Buendia advanced and smacked an unerringly accurate low right footed shot from fully 20 yards that arrowed past the diving Alex Smithies into his bottom right hand corner.
It was a majestic finish to cap another irrepressible shift. The movement and the weight of pass – be it off the floor or on the half-volley – was a joy to watch.
There was the customary assist thereafter for Cantwell to seal the win. Standard.
A sixth goal for the season in the bank, a similar number of assists, and Norwich yet to turn for home. Buendia will continue to be linked with moves next month. That is inevitable.
City must hold firm. His value really is priceless between now and May.
3. Cool hand Cantwell
What a strange campaign to date for Dereham’s finest. All that speculation in the summer which failed to materialise in a move after an eye-catching Premier League showreel.
Public admonishment from his head coach, left out against Bournemouth, and then the warmest of words on how he responded from Daniel Farke. Then fitness issues which remarkably meant this was only his seventh league start of the season.
But Cantwell showed again what a huge player he can be entering 2021. His willingness to go hunting for the ball to find the spaces to showcase his touch and awareness was just as pleasing on the eye as Buendia’s craft.
The duo combined to double Norwich’s lead. Buendia attracting Cardiff players towards him and then a slip pass for Cantwell to advance and smack a rising right footer beyond Smithies.
There was a couple of gorgeous passes in either half for Teemu Pukki to try and mark the birth of his second child. This was another glimpse of the natural talent and quality which Farke must harness in the weeks ahead.
Alas, his name is likely to feature in the same transfer gossip columns as Buendia and Max Aarons. But perhaps that sour summer experience leaves him better placed to focus on what matters. The pitch.
4. Red hot? Try flaming
Farke had the luxury of naming a full complement of substitutes for the first time since those recent matchday squad changes.
But it is not simply the head count, it is the level of quality and experience and Championship nous he had in reserve.
Farke said on Friday he has a number of red hot players in form. That was underlined again. He also has a series of intense battles shaping up to nail down starting spots in his XI.
Look at central defence since Christoph Zimmermann came in for the injured Ben Gibson.
The powerhouse is yet to be on the losing side since his return to frontline duty.
Look now across central midfield. Kenny McLean was excellent again alongside Olly Skipp. Alex Tettey will let no-one down and the sight of Lukas Rupp back on the bench after his recent hamstring issues underlined there is another battle raging.
Add in the hottest of hot competition for the trio of places in that attacking pivot behind Pukki and there is no doubt City’s squad is unrivalled at this level.
5. Take a bow, Michael
Let’s be honest. There was some genuine concern among Norwich fans when Tim Krul departed with that thigh injury at Stoke City. Michael McGovern has been a reliable passenger in this squad for a few seasons and the perfect foil for first choice Krul.
Farke was quick to talk up his experience and professionalism post-Stoke and make no mistake McGovern has more than held up his end.
Seven (and a half) games between the sticks. Only that one defeat at Luton when the entire Norwich side that night looked listless and off colour.
There was an excellent near post save at Blackburn last weekend and a late stop at Reading in midweek to savour. But the second of two saves in the first half to foil the towering Morrison from point blank range was brilliant.
If Krul is fit for duty at Watford on Boxing Day then you can be sure McGovern will handle the disappointment in the right way.
But be in no doubt if this season ends in triumph his contribution during this spell should never be forgotten.