The Canaries sent shockwaves through the footballing world at the weekend after convincingly beating current Premier League champions, Manchester City at Carrow Road. Daniel Farke and his modestly assembled group outsmarted and outworked Pep Guardiola and his billion-pound squad, the most expensive in history.
Norwich’s 3-2 victory was a seismic result. To provide context it was Manchester City’s first defeat to a promoted since Burnley beat them 1-0 in 2015 during the tenure of Manuel Pellegrini. It was Pep Guardiola’s first defeat to a promoted team since his Barcelona team lost to Hercules in 2010.
Saturday was Man City’s first defeat in 28 games, it was also only the second time they have conceded two goals in the opening half an hour of a game since Leicester City managed the same feat in 2016.
Ederson – City’s goalkeeper – joined Ben Wilson (Cardiff) and Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich) in being the only three players to face Norwich and concede more than two goals without making a single save.
Manchester City losing is a rarity, that alone is enough to send fans, pundits and journalists into overdrive, but to lose to a promoted side so convincingly is what made it so seismic.
Farkeball is no fluke, but the efficiency and style with which the Norwich players carried out their task under such a barrage of injuries was what made it so astounding.
They had eleven injuries heading into the game; Klose, Zimmermann, Hernandez, Aarons, Trybull, Leitner and Vrancic were all ruled out through injury. Hanley, Godfrey and Krul were all doubts and Roberts was, of course, ineligible to play against his parent club.
The circumstances in which Norwich City found themselves prior to kick-off suggested it would take something miraculous for them to get anything from the game. However, the efficiency and verve on display throughout the 94 minutes really was something to behold.
It was clear that Farke and his team had decided that conceding possession to Manchester City was necessary in order to protect Tim Krul’s goal. Cross after cross rained into the Norwich box and more often than not these crosses were met by the head of Ben Godfrey or Ibrahim Amadou, both of whom were imperious despite a short lapse in judgement when Aguero headed in Manchester City’s first goal.
The quality of the Norwich performance and the level of planning that had gone into the match was reflected in the goals they scored as they looked to exploit set-pieces, break on the counter and press during the transitional phases of play.
Kenny McLean confirmed post-match that Norwich had identified the near post as an area of weakness when Man City defend corners and the Scot took full advantage, losing his marker, Rodri, and powering a header past the flapping Ederson.
The second Norwich goal was a thing of beauty, with the ball making its way from Tim Krul to the back of Ederson’s net via the irrepressible Emi Buendia, a slide rule pass from Marco Steipermann and my now-favourite disguised pass of all time from Teemu Pukki, before the Dereham Deco kept his head and tapped in at the far post.
Farkeball at its finest. We really were taking the pi55 at this point.
The third goal, courtesy of Nicolas Otamendi, was borne of a press Norwich set whilst Manchester City were playing out from the back, Buendia barged his compatriot off the ball before squaring it to Pukki to tuck home, naturally.
This was the moment a victory seemed achievable, or at least conceivable – I think most people had expected Manchester City to pull it back up until this point, but the third goal gave Norwich the belief that this result was there for the taking.
The efficiency of the Norwich performance is best reflected by the shots on target metric – three shots on target and scored all three of them. By contrast, Manchester City had eight shots on target, scoring just twice. Aside from Raheem Sterling’s header which hit the post in the first half, Krul assuredly kept out everything else City threw at him.
With all the plaudits the club have received since Saturday’s result, Norwich felt like the epicentre of the footballing world. If anything was to burst the bubble it would be a hard-fought trip to Turf Moor and that’s exactly what Norwich must navigate this weekend.
Burnley are at the other end of the Premier League footballing spectrum to Manchester City. Sean ‘low block’ Dyche and his Burnley team will defend their penalty box commandingly before lumping it up to Ashley Barnes to win a free kick on the halfway line.
When Norwich come up against any direct, combative team, I have flashbacks to Millwall and while the team have come a long, long way since then, Burnley’s aerial presence is something we are going to have to deal with. However, if the Manchester City result has taught us one thing its is to never doubt this special Norwich team.
One final point, this week has bought to light that Stuart Webber is close to signing a contract extension and while I don’t wish to belittle the efforts of Farke and his players, Webber’s contract extension is the most important of the lot.
Stuart’s vision and execution of said vision have propelled City forward quicker than any of us would have thought. The process has worked and now we are reaping the rewards.
Long may it continue.