I try my best to avoid the trap of finding parallels between the start of this season and September/October 2018 – the club is, after all, in a very different place right now – but how was it possible to ignore Marco Stiepermann splitting the Brizzle defense wide open for Teemu Pukki’s opener yesterday in a move straight out of the 2018/19 playbook?
Answer: It wasn’t.
Throw into the mix Pukki’s all-round game bearing more than a passing resemblance to an early-2019 vintage, Emi Buendia hitting a 2019-19 vibe, and the look and feel of a team that can carve open chances for fun, and it’s not just us who’d be well advised to note the similarities.
Thankfully, goals numbers two and three had a more contemporary look with, firstly, Jacob Sorensen and then Ben Gibson using their favoured feet to hit raking killer-passes that again opened up an oddly generous Robins’ defence.
While Pukki’s finish for the second owed a bit to a slight deflection, Buendia’s for the third was a thing of beauty, made all the more special by it being something of a rarity. He’s been so close to opening his account for the season, including five minutes earlier and at Brentford on Tuesday, so Emi wasn’t the only one buzzing to see one of such quality hit the net.
In a team of good players, he’s our special one. Let’s enjoy him for the next couple of months and hope, come January, we’re in a position where Stuart Webber can successfully spin him the ‘give us until the end of the season’ line.
But it wasn’t just about Emi, as pivotal as he undoubtedly is, as it was an all-round team performance that brought together all the good things we’d seen over the opening eight games and suppressed most of the not-so-good-stuff, like the defensive cock-ups.
It wasn’t of course without its moments – we’re Norwich City after all – but a soft goal courtesy of some switching off and a Nahki Wells ‘Panenka’ that sailed over the Clifton Suspension Bridge shouldn’t detract from what was an accomplished 90+ minutes – the best of the season by some way.
Daniel Farke – the target of several brickbats over games one to eight – has to take some of the credit and his decision to retain the very right-footed Sorensen at left-back to keep the team disruption to a minimum, while counter-balancing it with the pace and thrust of Przemysław Płacheta was one that paid off nicely.
By adding Płacheta to the starting XI, City still retained some attacking impetus down that left side whereas a Sorensen/Cantwell combo would have offered only limited thrust by virtue of the latter’s natural tendency to drift inside.
And fair play to the Pole. In addition to the searing turn of pace we already know about – and which we’re yet to find a really effective use for – he offered some reliable and energetic support to Sorensen when it was needed.
Some better decision-making from Placheta late on, with Bristol City throwing numbers forward, could have seen a fourth – either for him or Pukki – but while it didn’t happen, it did demonstrate perfectly what an asset he will be on this type of away day.
He’s given Farke a conundrum of the good kind.
Tim Krul too deserves a mention. He’s one of those we’re in danger of taking for granted, such is his consistency and excellence, but his non-flamboyant style can’t disguise what a brilliant keeper and, even more importantly, character he is for this team.
The save at 2-1 was, of course, crucial but equally important was the psychological pressure he heaped on Wells as he took aim for the suspension bridge. By the time he strode up to strike the ball, Tim’s reputation and helpful advice would have rendered that goal less than half its actual size.
We stress over how to fill Buendia-shaped holes in the squad but there’s an argument to be had around any Krul-shaped void being even more difficult to fill.
For a useful snapshot of his influence on the group, I’d recommend a quick look at the club’s The City View video of the Brentford game, where they give us a behind-the-scenes insight. Fast forward to 5:50 and you’ll see what I mean.
Also worthy of a mention is the ever-burgeoning partnership between Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson. Both, for different reasons, have needed game time to find their best level but both are now approaching it, as well as developing a good understanding of each other’s qualities.
They look like a partnership.
While clean sheets haven’t been especially plentiful and we’ve had the usual array of defensive calamities, almost unnoticed we’ve jogged along at less than one goal per game conceded. That in itself is quite the turnaround and can only bode well.
So, one of the good days, albeit against a team who were surprisingly, even by our standards, a bit delicate (it’s not often I write that).
They were also a team who had a go and allowed us to play – another helpful trait – but were despatched in a way that’s become almost alien.
Let’s not shout about it, but this is promising.
KATHY BLAKE says
Agree with all this Gary. The prospect of lockdown football is a lot more tasty than than the corresponding games during the last one. Shamefully my gut reaction to Boris’s speech yesterday was ‘Will City still be able to play?’.
Jim Davies says
I believe Tim’s mind games before the penalty included telling Wells “whatever you do, don’t go straight down the middle” – could have been embarrassing if he’d done his Panenka properly!
Timmu was pointing to exactly where he wanted Sorenson to play that ball, and the Dane duly obliged. Timmu was due the bit of luck he got with the deflection. The whole team provided the sort of performance we’ve been hoping for, and it was nice to play a team who wanted to come out and play football, not just park the bus.
Gary, if you’re worried about the possible Tim sized hole in the future, we could do worse than pinching Bristol’s keeper. He was their man of the match.
A performance, a result, and a bacon buttie at half-time. What could be better!
Mike Reynolds says
Jim Davies says
Yes, you’re right (with the bacon buttie, too!)
Colin B says
A good analysis Gary.
Despite some different personnel that performance was very much of the Championship winning vintage. The one combination that you didn’t mention was the quality of Rupp and Skipp. Rupp has found his feet in this league and his consistent form over the last few games has been a revelation. Skipp looks like he will have a very decent career.
Two tough home games to come. Keep the unbeaten run going through those and it will start to look like we have got through the Premier League malaise. What was good yesterday was Pukki and Buendia looking like they are back to somewhere near their best. Credit to Farke and his backroom team in getting their heads in the right place.
Andrew Delf says
Colin, Lucas Rupp is fast turning into a really top quality midfielder in this division and is currently the beating heart of the team.
martin penney says
Cyprus canary says
Yes I have had to eat my words concerning Rupp he joins the play up really well.
Andy W says
Things are often never as bad or good as they seem Gary (please note City fans ready to dismiss Farke after an unlucky loss to Derby). We have been building some momentum and with the 10 game mark coming up on Tuesday, it would be a good time to take a first look at the table. I don’t think many fans will be disappointed in what they see.
Buendia and Pukki will get a lot of plaudits for their performances yesterday, along with Krul. However, it was Aarons that really caught my eye. He was half a yard quicker than anyone around him and is clearly destined for bigger and better things, just not sure when.
Roger Cole says
Good positive piece. Hats off the Brizzle coming out to play but they were the home team, albeit having a dip in results after a good start. They were moaning about injuries but we have two or three first picks out as well. Let’s see how our fragile but growing confidence manages our next two games, at home to teams who are on a good roll. I think the sharp end up front will take care of itself but one or, better, two clean sheets would give me some belief we can challenge seriously for promotion.
Chris S says
Things are going well with positive results coming with hard work and a bit of luck, the team gradually coalescing into focus, and momentum developing. I really think this division is there for the taking this year with no clear favourites. As ‘weak’ a Championship there’s ever been in my opinion. If any one team gets it right they could win it by 20 points. Let’s hope it’s NCFC.
The points about Krul are spot on. Reminds me of the Chris Woods days where you got so used to his superb saves you almost started to take them for granted.
Alex B says
An excellent summary of the game yesterday.
Whether by plan or not you didn’t make one mention of the Ref who I must say was definitely trying to book every city player or was he trying to match up his Yellow card with the city shirts, yet not one of the Robin’s got booked.
Chris Martin had a good game hustling and bustling and what a finger tip save from Krul, but at least twice he should have been booked but the Ref must have got his Red blinkers on.
Does any one know when the Yellow card amnesty comes into play as a few city players could be getting close to the 5 mark for a 3 game ban???
So it is Millwall up next can we continue this winning streak or will they turn up early to kick some backsides Mr Rowell seems to be getting them to be more consistent this early part of the season.
The big question will be for the defence is where will Zimmerman, Byram fit in when both are fit.
Stipelman has a good understanding with Pukki that didn’t get a good run of games last season for some reason maybe Farke thought he was to slow for the Premiership but once full match fit he is going to be an important ingredient again this term.
Onwards and upwards
Stay safe and stay healthy
Jim Davies says
Alex, it’s a one game ban for five yellows, and the amnesty doesn’t come in till after Christmas, when you can run it up to ten yellows, but then you get a two match ban. Three match bans are for red cards for violent conduct.
Although there were a couple of Robins who could have had a booking, I didn’t think any of ours were unjustified, and that overall the ref had a decent game, certainly better than some we’ve had recently. He certainly knew of Krul’s reputation for “constructive” time wasting, and jumped on him really quickly to nip it in the bud.
Colin B says
Given Hanley’s and Gibson’s current form I cannot see Zimmermann getting into the team when he is fit. Byram may have a chance ahead of both Sorensen and Quintilla.
Summed it up well Gary love to see those types of games everyweek im not worried about clean sheets its points that matter i like to be entertained so 32, every week is Great for me still noticed people moaning about rupp and farke yesterday noticed it was the usal ones who Just moan for the sake of it keep well😊
Good sum up Mr G, shades of this group are starting to find their feet, listening to Radio Norfolk pundit, Mark Walton who is by far the best pundit they ever have. Was purring over some of the play, that says a lot for me.
After Tim, awesome save, that is more than 2 in two games, I thought back to his first season when those around my in the Barclay End, did nothing but moan about him. I knew he was a top keeper in his day at Newcastle, and that does not disappear. He just needed time, now I believe we have one of the best if not the best in this league.
Nobody had a bad one each and everyone put in a darn good shift a total team effort, I have to gib=ve my gong for the match to Tim Krul had he not pulled out world class saves, we would be lamenting dropping points
Steiperman on form makes this team tick. He plays that role between the lines so well and it opens space for Emi and Pukki because defenders don’t know whether to step out to Steipi or not. Plus his size, strength and ease on the ball allow us to hold the ball better up top – something we lack if it’s Emi and Cantwell there. If I was Farke I’d be doing everything I can to get Steipi’s mentality right each week – with our team set up, we can’t afford for him to be off colour.
Cyprus canary says
If only he had an extra yard of pace!
Colin B says
If he had two extra yards of space he would be at a top team anywhere in Europe.
Alex B says
I know we are fairing quite well but I have seen Villa getting beaten, Burnley not won a game same as Sheff U all the teams that were suppose to be better than city last season now proving they aren’t that good
plenty of good luck says
Norwich was very lucky. Bristol city missed penalty, shot to inside post, Krul made couple of very good saves….Pukki was very clinical, his scoring chances were not enough good even 1 goal, but managed to score 2 goals. Hopefully now nonsense talk about lack on confidence end. Norwich basically never create very good scoring chances, it always needs for scorer quite a lot individual skills to score. Idah goal is only one I have seen and he had to just shoot to empty goal.
Placheta has awful game vision, he is very typical one sided winger who have pace but is not able to understand game. When a player has no understanding when he should pass it destroys plenty of scoring chances.
Manager Farke seems to use basically same lineup, problems will come because of tiredness and that will increase injuries.
Yer and Norwich missed a hatfull and were the better team Bristol so lucky not to hace a stuffing !