That’s what you call a response!
After defeat at Preston, events at the University of Bolton Stadium (can we please just all agree it’s the Reebok) clearly took on an even greater importance, and so for City to deliver in such an emphatic way, with the pressure valve twitching onto eleven, was quite something.
For a while now the quality of the football has been such that someone, somewhere was going to get a proper shellacking at some point, but to find that level of performance in response to a disheartening defeat took perfect responses to another level.
Yes, poor old Bolton were ordinary and yes, Phil Parkinson did play into City’s hands a little by adopting a defensive set-up and by opting not to press high, but still this was a Bolton side that won away in midweek against a useful Birmingham team and who, unlike some, are still in striking distance of safety.
The fast start Daniel Farke had demanded was delivered and there was to be no repeat of those fraught opening 24 minutes down the road at Preston, where their high press and equally high intensity caused varying degrees of panic. This was different.
This time, despite Bolton looking to use the physicality and bulk of Clayton Donaldson and Josh Magennis, City were not to be knocked out of their stride and instead quickly settled into that pleasing passing rhythm we’ve become so used to. But this was Farekball-plus.
With Tom Trybull over his midweek wobbles – for which there were mitigating circumstances – and Kenny McLean slotting in alongside him to add a classy, cultured edge to the midfield ballast, the engine in the engine room purred like a vintage Rolls Royce.
And what followed was a 45 that was up there with the best witnessed by the yellow-shirts, not only in the Farke era but in many that preceded it. This really was the beautiful game.
We’ve seen it in spells and when it flows there’s undoubtedly something special about the cohesive way this group shift the ball, but when said beautiful football ends in three of the best goals you could ever wish to see then it really is on another level.
Chuck in a fourth for good measure after the break and those lucky foot soldiers in Bolton were witnessing something first-hand that will be talked about for years to come; the culmination of hours of Colney training drills when all the detailed work put in by the coaching staff finally came to fruition.
Yet, while this may have been the best example so far of Farkeball in full flow, we do see it every week. It’s our new norm, and in my 40-something years of supporting City, this is just about as good as in gets in terms of beauty and aesthetics.
Quite where this all ends is anybody’s guess, because while City would soar away with the title if it was based on artistic impression, Leeds, Sheffield Utd and West Brom simply refuse to go away. This really does look like it could go to the wire
All of which makes the return to fitness of Mo Leitner and the belated arrival – through no fault of his own – of McLean to the party as particularly timely.
Preston was a timely wake-up call for us all, including Team Farke, and with it came a reminder that for all the skills and desire of Emi Buendia, the pace and tenacity of Onel Hernandez, the power of Marco Stiepermann and even the predatory instincts of Teemu Pukki, Farkeball hinges on those two deep-lying midfielders.
If the mix is right and that pair are able to dominate the ball, then it flows. Leitner, the best technician of the bunch, has an amazing knack of controlling the tempo of a game and ensuring that it’s played on our terms but, as Connor described in his fine ‘Tettey’ piece, there aren’t too many occasions where Farke could afford to put another ‘passer’ in alongside him.
Equally, there will be days – like Leeds away – where we know the opposition are likely to have the majority of possession, when the midfield pairing’s key task will be to offer an effective shield to the two centre-backs. Good use of the ball, when they get it, is obviously important too – and Trybull and Mario Vrancic achieved the balance beautifully at Elland Road – but defensive solidity is crucial on days like those.
So, in the thirteen cup finals that remain, the combination that Team Farke plumps for in the engine room is going to be vital. As much as they have tended to leave a winning side unchanged, I’d argue there’s a case to be made for ‘horses for courses’ as we enter the final straight.
Once Alec Tettey and Mario Vrancic recover from their respective ankle injuries and assuming everyone else stays fit it will be a case of perming two from five, with all of them offering something different, which adds up to an enviable task. But a crucial one.
But, that’s for Daniel, Ed and co to decide and for us it’s just a case of basking in the glow of being back on top of the league while, despite being “incredible”, “excellent” and “relentless” according to their manager, our friends down south remain nine points adrift of safety.
It’s always a challenge to take it all in when in the midst of it, but this really is a special time. Soak it up folks, this football and the direction it’s taking us makes this a season that’ll go down in Canary folklore.