Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-0 Championship win against Coventry
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Coventry verdict after Norwich City's 2-0 Championship win.
1. Ant and Dec. Morecambe and Wise. Peaches and cream. Nope. Pukki and Buendia
Norwich have had some fabled double acts in times past. But Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia appear a match made in heaven. Buendia himself remarked after his stunning Stoke display at the weekend, which included serving up a simple assist for Pukki, the Finn was the best partner he has had in his career.
You can be sure the feeling is mutual. They complement each other perfectly. They seem to be on the same wavelength.
Whether that is hours of practice at Colney, since they first came together at the start of the Championship title-winning tour first time around, or whether there is a telepathic link not even Norwich’s slick recruitment could claim credit for, the duo seemingly operate as one.
When Buendia got on the half turn midway through the opening period Pukki was already racing in behind to collect the Argentine’s ball and slot past Ben Wilson. Then in first half stoppage time, when Pukki pounced on Kyle McFadzean’s indecision, Buendia turned on the burners expecting the square ball that duly arrived for a close range slot. A machine in perfect working order.
This season has not provided the weekly cut and thrust they served up two campaigns ago at this level. But on the evidence of the past two games, the Championship has been put on notice.
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2. Back in the old routine
Something feels like it has clicked since a bumpy spell - if one defeat translates into a ‘spell’ and some difficulties in front of goal. Norwich look fluid, menacing and full of attacking endeavour. The reasons for the shift would seem multiple. That full week to prepare prior to Stoke. The return of Buendia. Perhaps two opponents who have tried and failed to try and engage Norwich on the front foot in recent days.
On one level it was brave indeed from Coventry to make this such an open affair. Perhaps that was Mark Robins’ best means of trying to cause an upset. But put simply, Norwich had better players all over the park. Particularly in offensive areas.
The visitors did the damage in the first half, after cashing in on more suspect defending. Then it was a containment job after the interval. Coventry upped the ante but Tim Krul had to be watchful rather than at his shot-stopping best.
This was game management of the highest order. It was also another signal that elusive quest for end product is firmly behind Daniel Farke’s men.
3. The more distractions, the better
Max Aarons seems to positively thrive on what feels endless speculation around his future. That interest from Barcelona in the summer was the tip of an iceberg which has seen him touted with the best at home and abroad ever since he started to blossom in a debut season that ended with a Championship title medal and the accolade of the Football League’s best young player.
Aarons has since proven even in a fruitless Premier League season for his club he can operate at the highest level for many years to come, while establishing himself as first choice for England’s Under-21s.
Now in recent days fresh reports Bayern Munich have him on a watchlist for a potential summer move. That after Stuart Webber revealed there had been a firm approach from overseas in the January window. The crucial factor in that story was Aarons himself felt it was not the right time or the right move.
That maturity, which saw Farke pitch him into an East Anglian derby for his league debut, continues to shine brightly. Yet again in this game he was a willing attacking outlet and a reliable defensive option. For all Norwich’s dominance at 0-0, he made a superb intervention with Callum O’Hare poised to open the scoring from close range.
It is those little moments which collectively add up to a special talent. Much more than the headline grabbing links to Europe’s superpowers.
4. Begging bowl
You could have forgiven Webber and his recruitment brains if they had opted to shy away from the loan market again prior to this latest campaign. Given the, ahem, limited success of short term arrivals such as Ibrahim Amadou, Ralf Fahrmann and Patrick Roberts. Enough said.
Set aside both Ben Gibson and Dimitris Giannoulis have arrived on loan with a view to permanent moves, subject to promotion. No, it is Olly Skipp’s season long capture which has restored faith in the loan route.
Skipp clearly arrived with a fine pedigree after emerging through the Tottenham academy. There were some early shaky moments as he adapted to the rough and tumble of the Championship and regular game time. But he has delivered above and well beyond.
The composure and the commitment. The passing and the no nonsense tackling. There appears to be few chinks in the armour of this highly-rated youngster. Buendia and Pukki may claim the headlines, but Norwich’s opener owed everything to Skipp halting a Coventry counter to feed Buendia.
First and foremost, Norwich must seal this deal in the weeks ahead. But should they be back in the big time next season they could do much worse than try and persuade Jose Mourinho his midfield asset needs another season to hone his craft in Norfolk.
5. Taking the pulse
Go back a couple of weeks to that flat feeling at the final whistle against Swansea. Norwich’s self-inflicted defeat and Brentford’s winning surge made for an uncomfortable period.
Since when Norwich have won twice, Brentford have lost twice and even a late Swans’ winner to sink Nottingham Forest did little to puncture the rising optimism.
From losing top spot, Norwich now have a four point lead at the top. At any stage that would be healthy, but on the cusp of the run in it feels like a sizeable obstacle for the chasing pack. Swansea still have games in hand but no real margin for error.
Farke said after beating Stoke at the weekend when questions are asked winners respond. Norwich have delivered an emphatic message in recent days. With a favourable run of fixtures (on paper at least) they can hammer it home in the games ahead.