Matt Guy: ‘This is what makes City special: the confidence to take these risks’
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The confidence to take risks is setting City apart
Not clearing the ball in areas of danger.
The goalkeeper taking more than three consecutive touches.
Defenders attempting ambitious one-twos despite being pressured near their own corner flag.
Such scenarios usually induce dread into most fans.
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But for the thousands of us loyally strapped into the Norwich City roller-coaster, these have become common sights this season.
In a league notorious for no-nonsense defending and centre-back brutes, Norwich lead the way for attempting to play a riskier style of football out from the back.
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City’s rear line have preferred to pass their way out of trouble by linking sharply in tight areas.
Of course, this gambling tendency comes with its dangers – both on the pitch as well as increasing fans’ heart rates.
Hull’s first strike on Wednesday night is a perfect example, where Tim Krul’s determination to pass rather than clear the ball cost us a careless goal. Last week against Swansea we were also perhaps fortunate to emerge unscathed.
In general, though, these tactics have proven successful. We sit proudly atop the Championship table and our slick passing often leaves exasperated opposition forwards chasing in vain.
After all, how often are promotion-challenging teams known for playing cautious football?
This is what makes City special: the confidence to take these risks.
The simple aim of retaining the ball has become a consistent feature of Daniel Farke’s City tenure.
A hopeful hoof up towards the Barclay may relieve immediate pressure, but it does not lend itself to the possession dominance that Farke commands. Keeping the ball on the ground is a dish much more suited to our German boss’s tastes.
At the risk of sounding ridiculous, this is a style of patient build-up favoured by the likes of Barcelona or Manchester City.
I am not saying that Norwich have become one-dimensional in always turning to such daring defensive play. In times of real peril, we will clear the ball.
Instead, our risks are calculated – yet still uncommon and bold enough to occasionally leave fans shifting nervously in their seats.
I simply think we have the character and ability to take chances that other teams won’t.
Similar to how Farke has instilled an unrelenting work-ethic and a fluidity in attack, our composure from the back will not have come naturally to all.
Granted, players like Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose may have been raised with a calm European finesse even in precarious situations. But for our young British full-backs, this cool-headedness is not representative of the classic “if in doubt, kick it out” mentality often seen in domestic grassroots football.
This is a conscious effort to build from defence.
As Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis drift out to provide width for Krul, Tom Trybull expertly drops into the hole between the central defenders, creating even more options to neatly evade trouble. It is not unusual that a swift offensive transition soon follows.
Once again we can easily turn to Farke as the mastermind, but more realistically this stems from a combination of tactics, skill, team chemistry and momentum.
Risk-taking has also been used further up the pitch to good effect.
Running into apparent trouble; chasing down lost causes; attempting audacious through-balls – these are the offensive equivalents of how City take the unorthodox path.
This, too, is not an accident.
Farke has given our forwards a freedom to express themselves and most importantly to make mistakes. More than a few times this has produced unexpected and fruitful returns.
Against Hull, Marco Stiepermann’s twisting run directly into a mire of defenders resulted in a sensational goal.
Another example is Onel Hernandez’s zealous dribbling. Though sometimes unconventional and inconsistent, when it does pay off it often leads to joy.
Our unique strategies and self-confidence in both defence and attack brings undeniable risks.
But I believe this is what sets us apart.