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 MATCHDAY LIVE: Norwich City complete their double over Cardiff
- 2 Farke reveals Buendia concerns and fitness updates on Pukki and Krul after 2-1 Cardiff win
- 3 STARTING XIs: Pukki missing for City as Barden starts at Cardiff
- 4 City squad can expect long term disruption due to Covid impact
- 5 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-1 Championship win against Cardiff City
- 6 Farke's advice for Barden ahead of red letter day
- 7 City boss on Quintilla future amid Giannoulis pursuit
- 8 Cardiff City v Norwich City - all you need to know
- 9 No Pukki no problem for Canaries as they move seven points clear at the top
- 10 City edging closer to deal for Giannoulis
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.