Six things you might have missed following City’s victory over Swansea
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As excitement about a seven-game unbeaten run builds, David Freezer assesses Norwich City’s progress with six things you might have missed following a 1-0 victory over Swansea at Carrow Road.
1 - Moving in the right direction
Just two teams in England have taken more points from their last seven games than Norwich City.
League One promotion hopefuls Peterborough and Charlton have both taken 19 points from their last seven, while Tottenham have matched the 17 the Canaries have managed from their recent hot streak.
It’s left Daniel Farke’s team just short of that magic two-points-per-game average which teams know has a very good chance of keeping them on target for promotion.
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Canaries fans know all too well that you cannot be getting that far ahead of yourselves after 11 games though, of course. The promotion winners of 2003-04 and 2014-15 were also on 21 at this stage but the 2018-19 side had 18 and the 2016-17 team had 23, before their form went south quickly.
It’s a good sign to keep pace though and satisfying as well that City now have as many points as they managed during the entirety of last season in the top flight.
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2 - Moment of pure relief for Marco
The relief was so clear on Marco Stiepermann’s face, after a wait of more than 16 months for his 12th goal in Canaries colours.
The midfielder notched his tenth of that superb 2018-19 season when he opened the scoring on the night City sealed promotion with a 2-1 victory over Blackburn at Carrow Road in April 2019.
Since then however he had failed to find the back of the net from 39 shots, 16 of which were on target, as he struggled to reproduce the goods in the Premier League.
Just the 34 games later and the German was back on target with a trademark left-footed strike, sweetly kissing the post on its way into the Swansea net, after crucially good control from Emi Buendia of a cross from the lively Bali Mumba.
Following on from a first assist of the season at Bristol City the previous week, Kenny McLean was no doubt telling his pal to believe in himself as he whispered into Stiepermann’s ear during the hard earned celebrations.
3 - Captain is proving so important
To find a fifth late winner in just 11 games is impressive enough but to find it in this match, against the most impressive team City have faced so far, was hugely encouraging.
Featuring a combined 40 shots at goal, it felt like a basketball game at times, as two ambitious teams went for the win. No one was parking the bus on this occasion.
Yet it also featured some exceptional defending, such as Grant Hanley’s double block in the first half and Connor Roberts’ last-ditch stretch to deny Teemu Pukki after the break.
Norwich saw 14 of their 21 shots blocked and managed to block seven of Swansea’s 19 attempts at goal - who also saw Andre Ayew’s header denied by the post.
It was a fourth clean sheet of the season eventually though as Hanley continued his return to form. During the skipper’s last 14 games, City have conceded a paltry 11. Half of those matches were against Premier League opposition.
4 - Not bad for a free transfer...
Once again though, it was Tim Krul deservedly taking many plaudits after the win, making sure he was in the right place at the right time with some pivotal stops.
From his penalty save at 1-0 down at Rotherham, to his brilliant denial of Chris Martin’s header at 2-1 up at Bristol City, the Dutchman’s instinct for smelling danger is in fine fettle.
Even if Ayew’s header hadn’t hit the post, Krul looked to have it covered, and Jamal Lowe’s shot was also going in before he tipped it around the post.
Lowe shouldn’t have been giving Krul any chance with his next two chances but perhaps the sight of the Championship’s best keeper standing tall in front of him was enough of a deterrence. His reaction save to deny Ayew after poor control from Max Aarons was also so crucial as he continued to build a brick wall in front of the Canaries’ goal.
Krul is closing on his 100th appearance and has proved a quite brilliant free transfer.
5 - Valuable strength in depth
What’s made this win and the seven-game unbeaten run feel even more pleasing however is that it’s been managed despite some significant injuries.
With Sam Byram, Kieran Dowell and Onel Hernandez standing by to be ‘like new signings’ in January, Farke was also without Ben Gibson, Lukas Rupp, Xavi Quintilla and Todd Cantwell. All seven of those players would probably get into the match-day squad of any Championship club.
Yet who did City have to turn to when forced into two changes? Just two players with Championship title medals at home, in Kenny McLean and Christoph Zimmermann.
With a hectic spell of international action and another 11 Championship games before the turn of the year, Farke will clearly need those issues to ease.
But Mario Vrancic, Jordan Hugill and Adam Idah didn’t even get on against the Swans. That is some serious strength in depth.
6 - City’s next young star revealed?
The final word has to go to Bali Mumba though, who somehow managed to turn a game from left-back on his Carrow Road debut.
Farke deserves high praise for an attacking change, taking off the safer option of Jacob Sorensen in favour of a speedy player who could pin the Swans back and give City a new attacking outlet.
Within five minutes he’d cut inside to have a shot deflected through to the keeper and also won a corner. Then in a precursor to the goal he controlled a diagonal pass from Zimmermann, only for McLean to not quite get on the end of his cross.
More good work found Buendia but Stiepermann scuffed his shot, before turning Roberts inside and out again to find Pukki, who fired against Ryan Bennett.
His skill and speed found Buendia, to tee up the chance for Stiepermann’s winner, to cap a very impressive cameo. Mumba was playing at step three of non-league in March but he may just have started an exciting new journey.
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- The 2020 edition of the Official Norwich City Sticker Book is available to order now from PinkUnShop.co.uk ahead of stickers being released on Monday, November 16