Robin Sainty: Norwich City have a squad that will ‘run through brick walls’
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Reading probably expected to be facing a football team last Saturday, but instead found themselves up against a group of black clad Duracell bunnies who proceeded to harry them mercilessly for 95 minutes.
City’s work rate was phenomenal as they disrupted Reading’s laboured build-up and ensured that the Royals were unable to generate any sort of momentum, despite having a reasonable amount of possession. In fact, they did to the home team what others had done to them in the early games of the season when the Canaries’ self-belief was less developed.
We’re used to Cameron Jerome selflessly running himself into the ground for his team, but there wasn’t a single City player who left anything out on the pitch at the Madejski Stadium.
There were countless examples of players covering for each other, but the level of commitment and desire was perhaps best exemplified towards the end when Timm Klose lost out to two attackers just outside City’s six-yard box, only for Christoph Zimmermann to appear from nowhere and throw himself in front of the shot.
This is now a squad that will run through bricks walls for each other and their coaches, and that is very promising news indeed for City fans as the season progresses and the genuine promotion candidates start to become more obvious.
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It’s ironic that we are now frustrated that an international break has come at a time when City had built up a real head of steam, because the previous one, which came with the squad in the doldrums, has proven to be the turning point in the season as Daniel Farke and his coaching staff used the time well to sort out the early-season defensive disarray.
What they have achieved in fact, thanks in part to a frank discussion between Farke and Stuart Webber in the immediate aftermath of the defeat at Millwall, is the creation of a side genuinely fit for Championship purpose.
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Last season, until the late intervention of Alan Irvine’s pragmatism, City tried to play Premier League football in the second tier and at the start of this one tried to play the Bundesliga style with which Farke was familiar.
In both cases City saw plenty of the ball, but found themselves undone by sides that eschewed pretty build-up play to strike hard for the jugular and get in their faces, but it’s hard to see anyone out grafting the squad as it now stands.
What’s more, after a season when the side frequently looked rudderless on the pitch there now seem to be leaders everywhere you look, and not just the experienced players like Klose and Alex Tettey, but also the likes of Zimmermann (no longer being written off as a cheap German fourth division player by the perpetually negative) and James Maddison, and that has to be a healthy development.
Maddison has been an absolute revelation and is showing a frightening level of maturity for one so young. The mind boggles at what he might achieve in harness with Alex Pritchard when the latter returns, and Farke is going to have an embarrassment of riches in the centre of the park as long as everyone else stays fit.
Farke will now be hoping that none of his international players pick up knocks and that the break will allow Nelson Oliveira, Mario Vrancic and Marco Stiepermann to return to full fitness, while Tom Trybull will probably just be fed raw meat until the action returns and he can continue to chew up opposing midfields.
Trybull was probably the least heralded of the club’s summer signings and consequently relatively little was expected of him, yet he has become an instant fan favourite, and seems to epitomise the selflessness and quiet determination that runs through this squad.
It’s already become very clear that ego trips won’t wash this season, because under Farke it’s all about the football.