This week has probably seen most of us put aside our favourite box set to binge-watch the 97th-minute winner against Millwall approximately 785 times.
And yet, despite having it on permanent repeat, something new becomes apparent with each viewing; the gift that keeps on giving.
It’s the little things, beyond the obvious moments like Mario Vrancic turning on a pfenig to slide the ball through to Teemu Pukki, or Pukki lifting it into the net courtesy of a quick one-two with the Millwall defender’s shin.
Little things like Tim Krul and Zimmbo fist-pumping before the Millwall corner. Vrancic and Pukki performing a perfect synchronised cross-over to reposition themselves.
And Mo Leitner in acres of space, waving his little arm at Timm Klose to show him, yet Timm – a central defender – choosing the less obvious route of a cute backheel to Emi Buendia, giving Emi the smidgen of space he needed to run into and pass to Vrancic.
Even in the celebration there are little things to pick up on. In perfect homage to a previous 96th-minute banana going of Carrow Road, an over-exuberant man falls over the exact same hoardings.
Pukki deftly spins out of a neck-high embrace, leaving Max Aarons and Jordan Rhodes to comically whack heads with each other instead. Alex Tettey abandoning the pile-up of players to do his signature dance.
And on the bench, Ben Marshall hoists Daniel Farke into the air and spins him round in a move straight out of Dirty Dancing. And the best thing? All this within 60 seconds of Millwall taking a corner.
Aside from giving us endless viewing pleasure the fact that there are all these little nuances to pick up on, in such a short space of time, speaks volumes about the way Norwich City are playing (and celebrating). This is the beautiful football Farke told us of. Beautiful, possession-based football. And it is a joy to behold.
For 25 years I’ve watched City, starting my journey in the great Mike Walker days (the original version, there was nothing great about the sequel). I’ve witnessed us finish third in the Premier League, our glorious European campaign, Huckerby et al rampaging their way to the Championship title, the magical Lambert era, and Alex Neil’s swashbuckling surge to Wembley glory.
Yet I am at a loss to recall a Norwich side that played such effortless football as we are now. Every player is comfortable on the ball, the passing is crisp and effective. Our touches are deft, little spaces are made – and found.
We are patient in the build-up, which at the moment appears to be the whole of the first half, and positive in attack. Pep would be proud. Each week there seems to be a new ‘watch it a thousand times and it’s still not enough’ goal scored.
The Millwall winner capped them all for the sheer audacity it. For even in the 96th minute, we didn’t abandon our philosophy but went about our business as if we had 96 minutes left. We calmly passed it out from the back, player to player, probably confusing the Millwall players into conceding the goal.
I have no doubt that the mantra ‘thou shalt not kick it up’ reverberates around the group in our pre-game huddle. As Leitner emphasised in the post-match interview, they all believe in what they are doing, from the first minute to the last. And as each game and glorious goal-passes, that becomes more and more apparent.
A fascinating stat came out this week, one that on the surface appears damning, but delving a little deeper actually shows what Norwich have been doing so well: the percentage of time we have spent winning this season. It stands at just 20.6%, a figure which finds us positively mid-table in 15thplace, yet our win rate is 58.8%, higher than any other team in the league.
I’m not usually one who pays attention to facts and figures, but this one struck me. So many things can be read from it; that we don’t panic if we fall behind, that we win games late on. That our fitness is excellent, which in turn enables us to out pass and outrun the opposition, wearing them into the ground as the game reaches its conclusion.
The effectiveness of our substitutes; Farke can bring on people like Vrancic and Rhodes, highly skilled players who easily have the capability of turning a game on its head. Each substitute slots effortlessly into the equation, and we carry on as we were with that little bit of extra energy injected.
No matter who is on the pitch, we have a real identity. Every player is capable of scoring or assisting. There is no central focus like last season’s James Maddison show. Anyone and everyone has a turn on the ball, all with the confidence to be positive in possession.
Our central defenders are not just Big Lumps, they maraud up the pitch, toes-a-twinkling. They unleash classy volleys into the net (even if it was disallowed – did you see that?!). Okay, we are not perfect, and there is a mistake in us, but even then we continue to believe that we can overcome those mistakes, no matter how late in the game.
Keep calm and pass the ball.
And pass the ball…
And pass the ball…
And pass the ball…
Whether we can continue this when key injuries hit, and the games keep coming thick and fast remains to be seen. The story is not yet over. But right now, this is Norwich City 2018-2019, and it is glorious to behold.