O ye, of little faith. Well, by ye I actually mean me.
I was convinced that last night, after a couple of fine wins, was going to be one of those games that brings us all crashing back to Earth; where those whose heads had started to poke into the clouds were given a Steve McClaren induced reality check.
Instead, it was our friend with the umbrella who ended the game with a perilously fragile grip on reality and what actually occurred on the Loftus Road pitch.
“That was very harsh. We deserved more. We didn’t deserve to lose.”
“The cards didn’t fall our way.”
“But why we’ve lost is that we didn’t score. It’s simple.”
And his pièce de résistance:
“It wasn’t even a proper goal”.
‘Wally’ is far too kind and gentle.
I’ll not bother dissecting our Steve’s comments, suffice to say what our friend seems to forget is that the game was being played on live TV in front of a few hundred thousand viewers, most of whom will conclude he was talking a load of old twaddle.
Back in the real world, City were excellent value for the win and but for some wastefulness in front of goal, especially late on, would have won by two or three. Instead, they did find themselves hanging on a little in those nervy closing minutes and also needed referee Darren Bond to turn a blind eye to Timm Klose’s clumsy WWE move on Massimo Luongo.
But hang on they did and, it has to be said, handled the aerial threat of the giant Matt Smith – on as a late substitute – rather better than they did last season. Despite what McLaren says, to have conceded a late equaliser would have been very harsh on our heroes in lime green.
If anyone had suggested we’d emerge from Boro (h), Reading (a) and QPR (a) with nine points, especially off the back of a run of stuttering form, we’d have simply laughed. Boro were reportedly flying, Reading had finally discovered how to win and QPR had just snaffled ten points from their last twelve, yet along come Norwich (sorry boys) to upset those three individual applecarts.
No wonder no-one likes us 🙂
That Daniel Farke saw fit to pick an unchanged line-up was a big positive even before a ball had been kicked, and certainly was a massive vote of confidence for Todd Cantwell. And the Dereham youngster delivered again, even if he will have woken up this morning with his ears still ringing from a Tim Krul verbal volley.
But youngsters learning not to play hideously intricate passes on the edge of their own penalty area is all part of their learning curve. And don’t expect him to be trying anything like that again anytime soon.
Of more interest was the way he constantly found himself in goalscoring positions – more so as the game wore on – and provided some really clever link-up play with Jamal Lewis, whose stock simply rises game on game. Cantwell’s first goal is not far away, nor is the day when Lewis gets linked with one of the big boys ahead of the January window.
Max Aarons too, to continue the academy theme, was simply brilliant again – and to think this was only his fourth first-team start. That he’s playing with the maturity of a Championship veteran is crazy but also a massive nod to everyone from academy coaches past and present all the way through to Farke and Webber.
As a wise tweeter said last night, some more experienced right-backs on the club’s books could do worse than learn from Max!
But this resurgence in form has not been about individuals, but the way those individuals have slotted into and improved the shape and cohesion of the team.
Christoph Zimmermann over the last week has been simply immense and is the same Zimmo who tackled with his head at Molineux last season. Rather than suffer by losing the talismanic Grant Hanley, we’ve improved.
And Marco Stiepermann in that advanced midfield role (I hesitate to call him a number 10 because he’s really not) has been sensational. I took some flak last season for defending him when some were questioning his right to be a professional footballer, but I’m glad I stayed with him because now he’s being played in his prefered position he’s thriving.
He adds something different, something that’s arguably been missing from the midfield in the Farke era to date, and his ability to mix it allied with his knack of carrying the ball and being comfortable in possession has altered the dynamic of the midfield. And in a good way.
That this re-shuffle has necessitated the more mobile Teemu Pukki to be the lone striker, as opposed to the goal-poacher that is Jordan Rhodes, has simply worked like a dream. In fact, better than any of us even dared dream – and that includes his coach.
Such is his touch in front of goal right now, he expects to score every time he sets foot on the pitch. He was half-a-second late arriving for Lewis’s cross – City’s only genuine opportunity of a first-half they had dominated – but there was no way he was going to miss from Stiepemann’s deflected cross. Schteve saw it as ‘lucky’; most of us saw a cleverly improvised finish from a striker in the richest vein of form.
All of which leaves us just two points from the playoffs and four points off the top of the table, which given the lesson Leeds gave us less than one month ago is ridiculous. If ever proof were needed that the Championship is the most unpredictable (and ridiculous) league in the world…
So, the end of arguably the most successful week of the Farke tenure, not just in terms of results but also the manner of the results. We’re no longer $hithousing away wins as we did on the good run that started around this time last year; we’re earning them by playing our way, and not adapting to the vagaries of the opposition.
And I rather like it. I think we could all get used to it.