That was pretty good wasn’t it.
That it came with a sting in the tail in the form of Craig Bryson’s 86th-minute equaliser was gut-wrenching at the time but shouldn’t disguise what was a quality City performance – one I’d argue was probably the pick if the bunch so far.
Certainly, there was a maturity about this display that sets it apart from most of what occurred last season and, for those who have been crying out for a distinguishable style and method to emerge, it’s there for all to see – home and away, regardless of the opposition.
Last season’s good run, which happened around this time, was built on performances that were in many ways the antithesis of what Farke-ball stood for, especially on the road.
We’d dig in, scrap it out, frustrate, and invariably rely on a moment of inspiration from James Maddison (or Yanic Wildschut!) to pinch a goal and the points – Sheffield Utd, Boro, Ipswich and Reading all suffered at our hands in this regard.
Now, we still do the digging in, the scrapping and the frustrating, but when we’re not doing that we do the things that Daniel Farke holds dear – keeping hold of the ball, building up patiently from the back, working it through the thirds and, now, all with added attacking thrust.
Of course, Farke wants City to have the majority of possession – another stat that he holds dear – but against sides whose plan is to do exactly the same, like Derby, something has to give and there are occasions when you have to more without the ball than with it. The trick is to make the 42% of possession count – just as they did last night.
And both in and out of possession there were some outstanding performances last night. Marco Stiepermann has deservedly taken the plaudits of late – and put in another good shift last night – but it was his compatriot in the engine room who, for me, shone brightest. Mo Leitner, alongside the better-than-ever Alex Tettey, was simply outstanding from start to finish.
It was clear when he entered the building last January that we had a master technician on our hands, one who given time could pick a pass and dictate the tempo and direction of travel. That much was obvious although, in truth, a combination of niggling injuries and said J Maddison were to limit his impact.
His summer arrival on a permanent basis was a major bonus but it’s also fair to say that despite some obvious flashes of his class, Mo’s early season offerings were fitful, with questions being asked of his suitability to the maelstrom of a Championship midfield.
But Farke’s decision to break up Tetbul and slot Mo in alongside Alex has worked beautifully. It permits him more touches, gives him the chance to get on the ball with an extra millisecond of time and, most importantly, gives him the opportunity to dictate. In a more advanced role, it felt as if he was still trying to all of those things but to a diluted effect.
Yet what Mo has done now – or at least did last night – is take that onto another level. It’s like he’s tapped into that same energy source that enables Tettey to operate with such command and vigour in that role of defensive shield, and his work-rate last night was out of this world. His Prozone stats will make interesting read this morning.
Throw into the mix his ability to mix it and annoy the Derby faithful, and I’d argue last night’s was as good a performance as I’ve seen in a yellow shirt all season – and there have been some good ones.
But it wasn’t just about Mo, and it was another one of those where it was every inch a team effort, with on this occasion Timm Klose getting the reward – his sterling defensive work alongside Christoph Zimmermann earning him his goal from Emi Buendia’s nicely delivered corner.
Derby’s late leveller was of the sloppy and soft variety, unfortunately, but to point any fingers off the back of that level of performance and five straight wins would be churlish.
So, now the bar has been set and it’s fairly high. This is what this group are capable of delivering. Good runs come to an end of course and are invariably followed by fallow spells, but to have hauled ourselves out of the doldrums, it would be good to hang in or around the playoff places for a bit.
And then see where it takes us.