Melissa Rudd: Daniel Farke has proved us all wrong ... even a pessimist like me
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Whatever happens between now and when the season ends in May, Daniel Farke has already proved so many of us wrong.
Regular readers of this column will know I openly admit to being pessimistic at the best of times; disappointment tends to hurt a little less that way. But I wasn’t alone in fearing another campaign of mediocre football ahead. What’s transpired has been quite the opposite.
The general consensus of the Carrow Road faithful seemed to be that our head coach, however likeable among the fan base, wouldn’t be able to implement his style of football effectively. Even those of a more positive disposition weren’t seriously tipping us for automatic promotion.
A look at the betting odds back then paints an accurate picture. On the eve of City’s first 2018-19 Championship fixture, City were 8/1 to win promotion and 10/1 to be relegated.
As the months have gone by and Norwich have ascended up the table to maintain that position around the top three or four spots, others have talked up our chances of automatic promotion. I have still been secretly harbouring hopes of a play-off place at best.
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Saturday’s outstanding performance at Elland Road has this pessimist believing City can win the league, never mind scrape a top-six finish.
It is difficult to remember the last time a normal league fixture was so overly-hyped. A clash between the top two under the lights on a Saturday night will always attract a certain amount of hysteria, but the furore over Leeds’ spy-gate controversy and their apparent outrage over how clubs, including Norwich, reacted, seemed to whip some in Yorkshire into a bit of a frenzy.
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Despite the intense atmosphere, from minute one City played the game and not the occasion. There is no doubt Mario Vrancic’s splendid free-kick helped to settle a few nerves, but it forced the home side to respond with a barrage of sustained pressure to find a leveller. There was a 25-minute period in the first half, in between City’s first and second goals, where Leeds dominated. Yellow shirts were suffocated as soon as they nicked possession, though it still didn’t stop them from attempting to play out from the back rather than resort to hit and hope tactics.
It shows the belief the players have in their head coach that rather than wilt under that pressure and retreat into their own half, Norwich continued to go about their business the way Farke had instructed them to. It was that high press that led to Emi Buendia winning the ball off Adam Forshaw yards from his own penalty area and creating the move which resulted in Teemu Pukki’s tap-in for number two.
It was one of those moments that induced smugness and sickness in equal measure for supporters depending on your persuasion, in the only way goals against the run of play can.
The second-half performance was controlled, mature, and became majestic. Each player knew their responsibilities and carried them out. Vrancic’s second and City’s third of the evening was no less than the performance deserved. Norwich outperformed their counterparts in much the same way Leeds did at Carrow Road in August, only this time the league standings after five months of results proved that there is no gulf in class between the two sides.
There were so many standout performers. Buendia, Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann – the latter two both had question marks over them as to whether they were cut out for this level ahead of this campaign. They have put those doubts firmly to bed. Pukki was another – he worked tirelessly during a first-half spell where he had little service, yet was still alert enough to be in the right place at the right time to poke home his 18th of the season.
So we move on from an away win against what the table proved to be the best team in the league to a home fixture against the worst. The derby should evoke the same level of motivation and City’s approach should be no different. If Farke’s charges focus on the task at hand and play the way we have been accustomed to, there will only be one winner on Sunday.