Norwich City fans must prepare for a bumpy ride on Daniel Farke’s road to perfection
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
This Norwich City season should really have come with a health warning for those of a delicate disposition, because I’m sure that we can expect more of the peaks and troughs of this week as the new players and Daniel Farke’s systems continue to gel.
That’s going to require patience from all sides, so the contributor to one Facebook fan forum who posted on Sunday evening that Farke should be given a maximum of five games may have to wait a little longer before organising his torchlit protest.
For anyone who hadn’t already seen the new players in action, Sunday’s game would have inevitably been a disappointment because City fell into the trap of possession for its own sake and lacked any real cutting edge.
That was exacerbated by the fact that their defending was considerably less impressive than it had been at Craven Cottage, and Sunderland’s first goal wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Sunday League game.
In the end the streetwise visitors were comfortable winners, although the booing from small sections of the crowd struck me as a rather extreme reaction, but the key was always going to be whether Farke and his players would learn from the experience.
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Wednesday night suggested that they had, with the manager reverting to a back four which looked much more solid, although I still think that, particularly when Timm Klose returns to fitness, a three will be his favoured set-up.
However, formations are only ever as good as the players in them, and City looked much sharper against QPR, although it’s important not to get too carried away with a performance that was at times exhilarating, but at others fairly ordinary.
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That, though, is what the Championship is all about. It’s not going to be champagne football all the time, and the successful teams will be the ones which can find a way to grind out a result, so the key to the success or failure of City’s season will be how well they can balance their desire to play attractive possession football with the pragmatism required to withstand periods of pressure against physical sides.
On Wednesday, City seemed to be stronger in the challenge than in the opening games, and I was particularly impressed by how they handled substitute Matt Smith, a player whose size has always caused them problems, both for Fulham and QPR.
Although Smith easily outjumped Christoph Zimmermann to flick on the first long ball aimed at him, after that the young German feinted to challenge and then stood off him to cover the space that he was looking to knock the ball into. That’s football intelligence and the sign of a fast learner.
Zimmermann is rapidly winning hearts and minds and his post-game willingness to stay out signing autographs and interacting with fans is going to help make him a huge favourite, particularly if he continues his current form on the pitch.
There was also time for a tantalising glimpse of Marco Stiepermann who looked very lively in his limited time on the pitch and was just a desperation tackle away from being clear on goal after another sublime pass from Mario Vrancic, who now seems to be coming to terms with the pace of English football.
One thing that did annoy me, though, was the fact that referee Oliver Langford and his assistants totally failed to spot QPR’s tactic of blocking runners off the ball. I counted at least six occasions where a City player was obstructed while moving into position to receive a pass without any of the officials picking it up.
And so to this afternoon, and a great opportunity for the Canaries to pile more pressure on an increasingly beleaguered Steve Bruce. Villa will have to be positive, which means that if City defend well there will plenty of scope to play on the break. Bring it on!