Matt Howman: It’s job done so far but there’s still a long way to go for City
You should never dwell on previous seasons but casting your mind back to when Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough turned up to Carrow Road and spent the game blatantly diving and conning the referee to waste time and take a smash and grab win, you’ll know why a 1-0 win is particularly satisfying against the Boro.
Thankfully, Daniel Farke seems to agree and Saturday’s result made that five consecutive 1-0 wins under his stewardship. As City fans have all collectively said, Norwich haven’t been anywhere near at the levels we know they can reach so at the moment the season looks very promising.
Considering the lack of a pre-season, a busy transfer window and a packed fixture schedule, especially for City’s players on international duty, Farke and his staff are working miracles to propel Norwich to the top of the division.
Now the season is officially a quarter of the way through, the table is beginning to take a realistic shape and the questions will begin to be asked as to whether City are going to solidify themselves as automatic promotion contenders at the end of the season.
One of the first points in City’s favour is defensive solidity. In 18/19 Norwich won the league conceding 1.24 goals per game, the season prior 1.30. The 16/17 season Norwich were even poorer defensively conceding on average 1.50 goals per game. So far, albeit just 12 games in, Norwich are conceding 0.66 goals per game. The addition of Ben Gibson and reintroduction of Grant Hanley has given City a more solid platform at the back and the roles of Lukas Rupp and Oliver Skipp have been influential in creating a more balanced side.
Another player that has proven himself an excellent player in this division is Marco Stiepermann. He faced plenty of critics last season whenever deployed in the central role, lack of pace being one of the key factors, however in the Championship his first touch, ability to work in tight areas and feed the ball out to Przemyslaw Placheta or Emi Buendia has made him integral to the system that Norwich are currently playing.
Norwich have arguably the best striker in the division and also a goalkeeper who is not only the best shot-stopper in the league, but also one of the senior voices in the squad encouraging the team from the back, it’s eminently clear that the pieces are there for Norwich to be a serious, credible candidate for one of the automatic promotion spots.
- 1 'Blown away' - Gibson reveals how City wooed him for Premier League push
- 2 MATCHDAY RECAP: Hornets frustrate City in title tussle
- 3 City ace Krul reflects on Premier League interest
- 4 Webber reveals he turned down 'massive job' to stay at City
- 5 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-0 defeat against Watford
- 6 City lose Giannoulis appeal; three-game ban stands
- 7 Farke laments 'average' City display in Watford defeat
- 8 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 1-0 Watford defeat
- 9 Pressure on Hornets for title-hunting City
- 10 Norwich City v Watford: everything you need to know
There are however, a number of games left to be played and what will be concerning for all managers involved is the intensity in which the fixtures are positioned. From now until Christmas, City find themselves playing a constant Saturday/Wednesday rotation with barely time to take a breather.
Christmas is always a tough period for any manager to navigate, however this season appears even more so. If Norwich can come out of the next 10 games and still be within touching distance of the top spot, I’d back them to go the distance.
The crucial factors for all teams is going to be squad depth, ability to rotate players and a lot of luck with injuries. Currently Norwich aren’t enjoying much of the latter, however there looks to be enough depth in the squad to cover each position.
As we then head into the new year, there will be numerous players in the division (Pukki included) who will be desperate not to miss the Euros. I can envisage that it will play on the minds of managers and players alike so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reducing his workload to avoid burnout or picking up a long-term injury.
Bournemouth, Watford and Swansea all look like teams that will be fighting it out for the top spot this season so Norwich are going to face plenty of twists and turns, but a quarter of the way through and it’s job done so far for Daniel Farke.