Paddy Davitt: City’s progress is impressive but Wolves are blazing a trail

Mario Vrancic holds off Ruben Neves in Norwich City's last Carrow Road meeting with Wolves Picture:

Mario Vrancic holds off Ruben Neves in Norwich City's last Carrow Road meeting with Wolves Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The last time Wolves came to Carrow Road is arguably as close as Daniel Farke has come to raising the white flag.

How far Norwich have travelled to bridge the divide is just one of the sub-plots underpinning Saturday's Premier League tussle.

The reigning champions of the Championship against the side whose crown they inherited.

City surged to the title with 94 points, and a swashbuckling style of possession-based attacking cut and thrust.

But Wolves led the way the season before with 99 points in an even more dominantly masterful ascent to the big league under Nuno Espirito Santo.

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Included in that triumphant coronation was a 2-0 away league win in Norfolk, early in Farke's tenure in October 2017.

The final margin of victory did not reflect the dominance of the visitors.

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This was a flavour of Farke's post-match take.

"Normally I am very sad and annoyed and try to figure out the factors behind our defeat. This is very easy.

"We have to accept we faced an opponent with a very high quality, with bigger quality than us. They were the better team, although it is annoying that we conceded two goals from set pieces.

"They are so good on counters and with the quality of their offensive players it is impossible to control all the counter attacks. They have an unbelievable quality for this division."

Prophetic words as it turned out from the Canaries' head coach. Wolves were indeed a cut above at that level and, under the astute Portuguese, have continued to rise.

That supposed 'chasm' from the Football League was a hop, skip and a jump to a top seven league finish, an FA Cup semi-final and now progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League.

For Norwich to be sharing the same pitch at Carrow Road this weekend is a huge testament to Farke's work.

Only Mario Vrancic and Tom Trybull remain from the starters that October night to give you a sense of the scale of City's transformation.

The parallels between the clubs are there to see. But the disparities are equally obvious and the financial faultline still separating both, visible.

Farke and Stuart Webber made astute use of a German market where their intimate knowledge of players at the lower levels bore fruit. Likewise, Nuno also tapped into his domestic market but, without wishing to sound disrespectful to the boys in green and yellow, the calibre of Portuguese player arriving on these shores was a cut above.

Rui Patricio ousted John Ruddy at the back. Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho were the future and the present of Portugal's midfield. Diogo Jota has since joined his compatriots in the international fold. Neves alone arrived from Porto for a reported £16m; City's outlay in the same period was loose change.

But Nuno was also clever enough, like Farke, to try and mould that talent around domestic operators; Conor Coady and Matt Doherty, even a rejuvenated Ryan Bennett, have all played leading roles on the journey.

Farke embraced young academy produced talent and signed a player like Tim Krul, who has grown up in English football, to supplement his imports.

There are numerous similarities but Norwich's ambitions will remain modest in comparison. That is not a stick to beat anyone with, it is a statement of fact.

To this point a desire to harness organic growth was a necessity not a cultural choice for the powers-that-be at Carrow Road. Wolves have the investment structure in place to amplify the work of Nuno and his players.

It is a potent, powerful combination, when the leadership on and off the park is focused, from the outside the feet appear to remain firmly planted on the ground, and the methods residually effective.

All concerned at Norwich should be applauded for how far they have come this weekend, since that previous one-sided Carrow Road league meeting, but what could be just as fascinating is the chance for another close up at what is in front of them.

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