And to think how gloomy and negative we all felt trudging out of Carrow Road on August 25 after being spanked by the Real Madrid of the North.
Who’d have thought that in the 35 days that followed our record would read…
Played 7, Won 6, Drawn 1, Lost 0, For 13, Against 6.
And who’d have thought said impressive record would propel City into the play-off places, leaving us just three points off the top of the table and two points behind the Yorkshire Galacticos.
Football is indeed a very weird game, especially when it takes place in the confines of the Championship.
But I’m not knocking it, especially given how it’s mellowed the mood of the Canary Nation. Gone is the bickering, sniping and venom that invariably followed every downturn and instead, harmony has broken out. For now.
Right now there really is very little to get angry about – even the goal difference has edged itself into positive territory – and while the upcoming fixtures look testing, to say the least, I’d like to think the current run has given Daniel Farke and co a few credits in the bank.
But, better still in many ways, this City side is still far from the finished article and yesterday’s performance was far from perfect. The passing was imprecise, they looked a little leggy at times, didn’t test Walton in the Wigan goal nearly enough and were generally sloppy. Yet still they found a way.
The belief is positively oozing at the moment – as tends to happen when you’re on a run of this ilk – and even in the fallow periods yesterday they hung in, stuck to the game plan and trusted in it and those who implemented it. Their reward was that 86th-minute winner.
Whether this is the start of something great or merely just part of a very good run will only be revealed in the months ahead, but to have beaten Boro and displaced Wigan in the top six suggests that Farke’s side now have enough to take down some of the league’s better sides and not just rely on taking points from the division’s low hanging fruit.
And there’s also the small matter of this now being a team in the truest sense of the word. However hard we tried to convince ourselves otherwise, last season’s iteration of Norwich City was dominated by James Maddison – a brilliant young player who consistently did brilliant things – and the stats proved it. Josh Murphy too, to a lesser extent, could win a match with a moment of inspiration.
But now it relies less on flashes of maverick. Instead, the team ethic and system of playing that Team Farke have spent sixteen months trying to implement is starting to bear fruit. And within that structure, if it’s done properly it feels like City now have the tools to stay in a game and compete even when the chips are down and the flak is flying.
Part of this, as pointed out to me by my uncle as we strolled along King Street, is that finally everything is starting to happen a split-second quicker. Of course, Timm Klose and Zimmermann have to be cautious in possession – for obvious reasons – but when it gets to Tettey or Mo, both appear to be taking a touch less and as a result, the tempo has upped just a notch.
It’s never going to be gung-ho – those who still demand it should stay at home – but, perhaps helped by the energy provided by the group of young players, there has been a subtle shift in gear, and we’re a better side for it.
Yet, said group of youngsters found it tough going yesterday, particularly Emi Buendia and Max Aarons, who were both guilty of being a little too loose in possession. It’s all part of the learning curve and both will have learnt a lot from the harsh examination they endured yesterday – and ultimately both came through it.
For their part, Wigan had done their homework and showed why they began the day in the top six.
While Buendia and Todd Cantwell are holding down the two wide midfield berths, City won’t have any natural width. Neither are wingers in the traditional sense and both will instinctively drift inside, leaving space outside them for Aarons and Jamal Lewis to be the ones to bomb on when the opportunity permits – something both did to good effect at QPR.
But Paul Cook’s a canny operator who had set his side up to negate this, and it was telling that neither full-back spent too much time deep in the Wigan half.
That City still found a way makes yesterday’s win all the more welcome, and it was also heartening that Farke’s tactical tweaks and substitutions are also starting to have a positive impact. It goes without saying that Mario Vrancic’s cameo was a match-winning one, but Louis Thompson and Jordan Rhodes too brought something to the party; all three putting in a serious bid for a start at Derby.
And then there was Marco… who for me should have been Man of the Match.
Stiepermann’s impact in this almost free role has been little short of sensational – like a new signing – and for long periods yesterday, it was he who looked the most likely to break the deadlock, with his well-timed runs forward in support of Teemu Pukki.
Some are awaiting the Stiepermann bubble to burst along with that of the team, but I’m hopeful both have found a level of consistency that will sustain for the long haul. A Marco in this form is one hell of an asset.
Finally, it would be wrong not to mention Tim Krul. In truth, he had very little to do yesterday but what he did he did perfectly and his cajoling, organising and rollicking of the back-four has unquestionably played its part in three clean sheets in the last four league games. So too the way he engages the River End and does his best to raise it from its slumbers. This is the Tim Krul we all wanted.
So, to the next one, on Wednesday, which just happens to be against Frank Lampard’s Derby County™, who have themselves just drifted out of the top six. Surely we can’t win six in a row? Can we?