For City, this season has been a constant tug-of-war with adversity.
Numerous hurdles have been placed in their path, odds stacked against them at every junction and yet their positive, philosophical approach is still being attributed, by some, to luck.
In truth, they’re not considered by most outside of Norfolk as real or worthy contenders, but despite a tricky Christmas period – over which they were not firing on all cylinders – they remain genuine promotion contenders.
Responding to the obstacles and still managing to discover results despite them, illustrate a side with the necessary components to mount a serious challenge at the summit of the division.
A blip of sorts was to be expected, no team in this or any league are constructed to perfection and all of City’s contenders have flaws that will be exposed between now and May.
For Leeds, that flaw is Marcelo Bielsa’s insistence on having a thin squad, and history shows us that Bielsa’s side tends to perform worse after Christmas due to his high-intensity training and the increasing fatigue on his players. Considering he has worked in countries who have a winter break, it’ll be intriguing to witness Leeds’ fate over the next couple of months.
West Brom score an incredible amount of goals and possesses offensive talent that most Premier League sides would enjoy having at their disposal, yet, similarly to Norwich, they have frailties defensively and the potential recall of Harvey Barnes would see arguably their best operator removed from their side.
[Fingers crossed – Ed]
Norwich’s flaws are there for all to see. There is no longer a radar under which they can operate – the resources, roles of analysts and technology make this an impossibility in contemporary football. The nature of football in 2019 means opponents invariably know precisely how you play prior to kick off, although translating that knowledge into methods of stopping an opponent is somewhat harder.
Positively, when Norwich have operated in top gear, it appears no method is good enough to halt their relentless energy and passing between the lines. No side is yet to restrict City from, essentially, doing what they wish in possession.
Set pieces and defensive behaviours have been questionable for periods in games, but these are things that can be eradicated on the training pitches of Colney.
Farke has proven how adept and proactive a coach he is, with his weekday work invariably implemented the following Saturday. Supporters only need to evidence the improvement of players both individually and collectively in this campaign compared to the last.
Last season shouldn’t be referenced at every given opportunity but it does act as an interesting backdrop to how the cogs have now been placed together to create a side, built on scraps, that outperforms even the richest of Championship sides.
If they can just eradicate the concessions from set plays, then that will stand them in positive stead as we enter what will be a season-defining period for the Canaries.
The festive period and the sheer amount of games placed significant physical demands on the players, yet, it will be the month of January with will ultimately define City as either top two contenders or playoff hopefuls.
Merely working your way down the fixture list for this month makes for an anxious task.
City face sides who themselves have big dreams of what this season’s culmination could mean for them. But the Premier League dream is so alluring for supporters and creates such a massive increase in demand and expectation, it can all become simply too much for some teams.
Saturday’s clash with West Brom at the Hawthorns will be the sole focus of those occupying the corridors of power this week, with the stakes being so high, but injuries will be yet another hurdle for the Canaries to overcome in their bid to create something completely unforeseen by anyone.
An upbeat injury bulletin delivered by Daniel Farke at this Friday’s pre-match press conference would go some to instil confidence in the travelling away contingent.
City, however, have only beaten three of the current top ten and with the four of the next five games against sides residing there, it’s a statistic Farke will need to see improved upon before his team embark upon the before the altogether very different challenge of the East Anglian Derby.
With home fixtures against in-form Birmingham City and – FA Cup fourth round depending – Sheffield United, these games will again test the reserves of Farke’s men.
Fear though isn’t a word that enters their vocabulary; this is a Norwich side as vibrant as the shirts they wear. The youthful exuberance means they should continue to be expressive and maintain the positive work they’ve created to date.
Having licence to be creative within a strict philosophical framework offers the creative players key carte blanch to influence proceedings. All too often in the past, player’s heads have been filled with tactical instructions and the magnitude of the fixture, and this has prevented self-confidence spreading throughout the team.
Watching City play has been a constant source of joy this campaign, one where low expectations were matched by the initial atmosphere, and yet slowly dreams and matching belief are creeping ever closer to becoming a reality.
These upcoming fixtures shouldn’t strike fear into the hearts of those of a yellow and green persuasion, but merely reinforce how joyous it is that these games actually mean something, especially after the previous two campaigns. If it’s accompanied by a hint of nervousness, then so be it – that’s a good thing.
This young, unpredictable and unrelenting side deserves our support and belief that they can conquer – but also, should these games be lost and performances disappointing, they need to know the fans will be there to pick them up and give them further reason to push on.
At the beginning of the season, nobody was expectant, few opted to even believe a top ten finish was achievable but this side has reunited supporters and got Carrow Road rocking from its very foundations. Fearlessness and togetherness form part of the strategy being implemented at the top of the club, and the supporters have embraced that movement.
More than ever, the adversity is mounting, but one thing you can never do, as proclaimed by Daniel Farke, is write this team off.
Bring it on.