Six things you might have missed from City's win over Sheffield Wednesday
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's win over Sheffield Wednesday saw them return to the summit of the Championship table, our Canaries correspondent Connor Southwell analyses the hard-fought victory.
1 – A day of high emotion
Even the most cold-hearted person would have been warmed by the reaction the Norwich City players got as they emerged from the tunnel to begin their warm-up.
The roar could have been heard from every corner of the city; it was a rare release of joy in a year full of darkness and loss.
This was the release, from 2,000 people, of six months of pent-up frustration after being devoid of the simplest freedoms that make life worth living. The tunnel has lacked light. It’s been bleak for everyone.
It isn’t full capacity, and there is still work to go from both a public health and a football perspective, but it’s the start. Games behind closed doors have been sterile, celebrations scaled-down and the only atmosphere present was provided by booming voices of those on the pitch.
Whether it was Delia Smith leading a rendition of On the Ball, City after contending with her own personal grief or Daniel Farke orchestrating his oles at the final whistle.
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It was emotional, even for those in the press box.
2 – Real guts
When Norwich City were relegated from the Premier League last season, one of the major criticisms revolved around their soft underbelly.
As other teams crowded the referee and implored for decisions or sought any small margin that could provide them with an advantage, City wouldn’t behave in the same way. That prompted supporters to label them as ‘too nice’, but this Championship campaign is proving they possess real guts.
Tony Pulis is a wily coach, competent at setting teams up to be organised and difficult to beat. In the end, it did take two moments of quality for City to flip the game around.
They were forced to dig in and be patient, to continue to believe in their approach and their philosophy, but they did. It was the sort of game where you thought it could be the beginning of something truly significant. It contained both quality and intangibles.
Even through the adversity of a major injury crisis, City are finding a way. Good teams always manage to find a way, and this is a good team.
3 – Beauty and the Beast
Daniel Farke was asked in his pre-match press conference why he felt this wasn’t a free-scoring Championship season. His reply was simple, ‘Aitor Karanka, Tony Pulis and Neil Warnock’.
Well, City have recorded nine points against those three coaches. It is proof their style possesses the ability to cut through these more defensively minded styles of play. This is a second-tier that contains a greater emphasis on defending.
That makes the Canaries approach under Farke a rarity – they will be afforded the ball, and from there, it is about utilising it effectively. There is no wonder as to why Mario Vrancic is proving so influential at Carrow Road where City can dominate proceedings.
Sheffield Wednesday aren’t the first to deploy this approach at Carrow Road, and they won’t be the last either. How much success Farke’s men will have this season will depend on how well they can break those sides down.
Pulis’ vision of football is the antithesis of how City’s boss wants his side to play, but they need to prove they overcome all styles and shapes on their quest to Championship glory.
4 – Magic Max
Considering his quality, Max Aarons is yet to really show, in terms of output, his true quality back in the Championship. The message from inside the Canaries camp was for the 20-year-old to really display his quality in the weeks ahead.
As Aarons prepares to make his 100th appearance against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, there is an expectation placed on his shoulders around a level of consistency that City wish to see from a player they regard as being amongst the senior group.
The right-back does play like a player beyond his years and given there was genuine interest from Barcelona; others outside of Norfolk are aware of his ability as well. This was a timely goal — his first since the Canaries drew with Bristol City in December 2018.
That shift of expectation is the next step of Aarons' development; if he rises to it, then he quickly outgrows City. But moments like his multiple feints and then ice-cool finish is a graphic illustration of his quality.
5 – New kid on the block
Fourteen months ago, Josh Martin sparkled for Norwich City’s Under 18s in the FA Youth Cup. He netted an impressive hat-trick as the Canaries beat Newcastle United 3-2 at Carrow Road.
It wasn’t just the quality of his goals but his flashes of quality in open play that saw him emerge as a possible star of the future — the latest from the academy production line.
Cherry-picked after his release from Arsenal, he has had to endure some harsh lessons and learn some home truths on his way – but his rise has been meteoric. His ability to play in tight spaces and willingness to be creative on the ball is a rarity in young players. Martin possesses confidence in an abundance.
After the game, he expressed disappointment at being left out of Farke’s first-team after he finally tasted starts against Stoke City, Coventry City and Luton Town but that was noticeable as he swept Mario Vrancic’s pass into the net.
As City fans see part of the old generation in Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey move on, the eyes inevitably turn to who is next. Martin seems to be the poster boy for the next group, but there is a long way to go before he can be considered a regular. And Farke will be the first to keep his feet on the ground.
6 – Credit where it’s due
Daniel Farke has found himself criticised by some supporters for his reluctance to make substitutions or alter the Canaries' approach if things aren’t going their own way.
The simple fact is that City’s style of play is exhausting to compete against, sides noticeably run out of steam as they attempt to defend constantly against them. For 80-minutes, City were frustrated and looked out of ideas.
Until Farke changed the system and the personnel. Jacob Sorensen moved into a more natural central position, Przemek Placheta and Max Aarons were essentially wingers. Emi Buendia and Josh Martin given freedom in central areas.
It was that change that shifted the pendulum, that provided City with the moment and made it a tidal wave of City attacks. That tactical shift paid dividends and ensured City returned to the summit of the table.
With a trio of Kieran Dowell, Todd Cantwell and Jordan Hugill returning to training, the immediate concern over injuries may be easing. The schedule is relentless, and City need to rotate their squad, the more they can get back the better.