At the end of what had been a truly horrific week – just another in a very long line – it was again left to Daniel Farke’s men to put a collective smile on the Canary Nation.
And they delivered… again.
While to some, games of football appear non-consequential as the world struggles to contain a pandemic that’s killed 1,907,608, to others (like us) they offer us a brief window of respite. A chance to remove oneself from the almost continual gloom and, for a couple of hours, to invest totally in something far removed from a killer virus or a deranged, tangerine-tinged man-baby with an unhealthy lust for power and a penchant for lies.
That City were also able to deliver us a win was merely a bonus, and the big concern has to be for how long can elite football safely continue as case numbers continue to rise and more and more games are being either called off or compromised. Our own Tim Gough described it perfectly in the week.
On that basis, we have to squeeze every last drop out of the current season; one that for City is gathering momentum as we enter its second half.
Yesterday’s win was okay, nothing to scream from the rooftops about, but oozed professionalism and efficiency; two components needed to ensure progression through to the next round of the FA Cup.
And having made seven changes to the team that beat Barnsley, Daniel Farke was right to be content with his and the team’s performance and, in the circumstances, his description of it being “perfect” was about right.
The game time afforded to those who’ve been injured was invaluable and it helped that Xavi Quintilla and Bali Mumba both used their first competitive games for a few months to further their respective causes.
While Mumba’s performance was more than sufficient to remind Team Farke that even without the services of Sam Byram we have some quality cover for Max Aarons, Quintilla has triggered a conundrum.
The Spaniard, when fully fit, clearly offers more than an alternative to Jacob Sorensen at left-back. He offers the answer. The Dane was only ever the most temporary of solutions but embraced it in a way neither he nor Farke expected, and by those performances at left-back alone, he earned his chance yesterday in his natural central-midfield home.
That he and Quintilla both did well has created the type of problem coaches thrive on.
- Go with your fit, first-choice left-back and end up leaving Sorensen out of the XI completely as he’s not going to usurp Ollie Skipp
- Go with Sorensen at left-back and you take away balance and the attacking threat down the left that Quintilla has been brought in to provide.
- Reward Sorensen with a start in central midfield alongside Skipp and you potentially leave out McLean, who also did well (and scored) yesterday in a more advanced role.
Take your pick.
A rather more straightforward call for Farke will be who leads the line against Cardiff. While Jordan Hugill probably had his most productive afternoon in the yellow shirt, and scored a good goal, he remains a slightly uncomfortable fit for Farkeball.
Hugill is clearly a great character and plays a key role in the dressing room, but on the pitch, there is a jarring around the way he’s being used and how he fits in. Pukki is integral to how we play because of his clever movement and ability to run down the sides of centre-backs to either create space or get on the end of through balls. We build from there.
Hugill is happier to receive the ball with his back to goal but rarely do we ‘play off’ our centre-forward, and, equally, he thrives on crosses into the box of the type he scored from yesterday. Pepe Placheta’s cross was beautiful but far from the norm, with Farkeball non-reliant on such a supply; balls in from out wide are normally reserved for the near-post and on the ground.
This is not to say Hugill has no role to play in the upcoming promotion charge – he clearly does – but so limited have his first-team opportunities been, as we gather ourselves to go over the top, we’re still searching for a way to best utilise him.
But, his goal yesterday will have been a massive fillip.
Daniel Barden was another whose confidence will have soared as a result of a fine afternoon’s work. The 20-year-old showed no nerves whatsoever as he made two saves in particular – at the beginning of each half – to help steer the Canaries to victory. Also worthy of note was his calmness with the ball at his feet.
I don’t think any of us would baulk at the prospect of him covering for Tim Krul for a few weeks as the Dutchman recovers from the virus, and can think of no greater compliment.
And then there’s Tettey.
In addition to offering up yet another masterclass in calmness and authority, he also conjured what has to be the best moment of 2021 so far. If you haven’t seen it (with “full credit to @ncfcMC”)…
Who saw that coming? Because I didn’t.
We knew he could tackle, organise, make simple passes, and occasionally let fly with a good old-fashioned howitzer, but pirouetted drag-backs? Not in a million years did I expect that, but it was joyous. What a man.
If this is to be his final hurrah and none of us are there to witness it, then that in itself will be a tragedy.
But, on the day, it was job done and we can accurately describe ourselves as “being in the hat” for the fifth round, even if we’re yet to progress beyond the fourth. Let’s take it.
And let’s never take for granted the joy that Tettey and co bring. I’m probably more guilty than anyone of not always appreciating the Norwich City effect on all of our lives, but with the heartstrings being tugged in all directions right now, our wonderful football club offers an irreplaceable constant.
Let’s cling to that.
Never Mind the Danger