Connor Southwell’s verdict: Relentless Canaries pass mission momentum with flying colours
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City have lift-off in the Championship.
Last night’s game against Birmingham City was mission momentum for Daniel Farke and his side – with a late Mario Vrancic strike the difference between the sides.
This was City’s most rounded performance this season – in Aitor Karanka’s Blues, they found themselves tasked with unpicking a defensive block that proved tricky to unlock.
But City kept going. Like the title-winning season, they produced wave after wave of relentless attacks. Endeavour aplenty – the Canaries did bounce off the canvas multiple times to snatch three points.
This was an evening of dominance. City controlled proceedings from the off – their possession contained zip and offensive movement the most cohesive we’ve seen this season.
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Many eyes were placed on Todd Cantwell – the midfielder returned after being on the receiving end of some blunt comments from Daniel Farke at Bournemouth – but City’s academy graduate has climbed back into the boat to ensure the Canaries sail on calm waters again.
He was the influential figure. There were some poor decisions but that was forgiven because of the additional quality he injected. Backed up by the tenacious Lukas Rupp and dependable Ollie Skipp – City have the foundations that could serve them well going forward.
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After question-marks surrounding how they ground out the victory against Rotherham United on Saturday – this was reminiscent of a conventional Farke performance. City could have, and should have, had more.
But there were still moments of concern. The Blues looked lively on the counter and when the ball bypassed City’s midfield they were treading considerable amounts of water.
Farke orchestrated as City attacked. Those watching at home must have wondered when the moment of magic was coming. They saw Cantwell squander chances, Jordan Hugill shoot over and sensational blocks from Karanka’s brave defence.
Adam Idah couldn’t get it under his control – but when it popped up for the Bosnian midfielder outside of the box, the result was predictable, as is the quality he contains in his boots.
If fans would have been inside Carrow Road – the noise would have been recorded on the Richter Scale.
Inside, televisions around the county and beyond acted as the terrace – this moment lacked the supporters but was felt across the county.
The story of the game was simple. City dominated – Blues defended and it was up to the hosts to break them down.
City’s success this season will be defined by how well they manage to deconstruct those defensive shapes and assert themselves on games.
There was a fluidity that had been lacking in recent weeks - with Buendia and Cantwell committed, they possess two of the division’s best talents who aid City’s offensive efforts enormously.
When City sew together passing moves - there is a real joy about watching them play football.
Birmingham deployed a game plan that Bournemouth and Derby had success with - Karanka went with a three at the back and elected not to go toe-to-toe with the Canaries.
Whilst they did look lively on the counter, City lack shielding of their defence. But at this level, they don’t get punished in the brutal way they discovered in the Premier League.
The Canaries kept their foot on the peddle. Their best opportunities arrived in the second block of both halves and that’s a testament to how they work Birmingham and controlled proceedings.
Lukas Rupp’s performance was similar to that Moritz Leitner produced in the title-winning campaign two seasons ago. In terms of ball carrying and linking play, the tenacious German was excellent.
There is no passing for the sake of it - there was purpose and direction in his play. Quietly, he’s becoming intrinsic to the way City operate.
After the gloom that suffocated Project Restart - to hear Blur’s Parklife pour out of the speakers and to see jubilant scenes of celebration amongst City’s players was a sight to behold.
Next up for City is the visit of Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday – another game they approach as clear favourites.
The pattern of the game will likely follow the one in NR1 last night – it will require City’s creators to make them tick and unlock a defensive block.
But this is another three points.
In the Championship – consistency is king, that is the next target for Farke’s men.