Punt and Parsley pour over a potential promotion party. City really are going up, aren't they? They talk about a rash Emi, a possibly perfect central midfield combo and Pirate Pukki......
Random star performer
Emi got the goal, the assist and the red card. Pukki’s brace was hard earned, the Finn turning in a forward play masterclass. If Teemu wasn’t linking the play or offering intelligent running, he was dashing back 70 yards to cover Max Aarons. Marvellous.
Looking beyond the obvious though, Trybull and McLean produced a central midfield performance of ridiculously high quality. Headers, second balls, aggressive tackling, speed of thought in positioning, switching play with 30 yard passes. The pair of them displayed it all today, never once over playing or overshadowing each other. In their 8 game run together, they’ve learned to perfectly complement one another, with both showing they possess every aspect of the modern midfielder’s skillset. Remarkable given neither were considered as starters just a few months ago.
Moment of the match
The decisive, and perhaps most noteworthy, moments were conjured up by 5 foot 7 of football heaven. That first goal, coming so soon, effectively ended the contest. Most travelled to Carrow Road with confidence but any potential doubt of new manager bounce or playing first in another weekend of the title race dissipated as Emi stroked home a beautifully carved out passing move. It was a procession after that but the speed and tempo City started with earned the early goal.
Emi's immaturity, petulance and lack of self control resulted in his straight red. The excuses made of the lax refereeing and lack of yellows on the challenges upon him up to that point don't hold any weight, though we do agree with some of Paddy Davitt's Twitter commentary that Farke could have avoided the situation by yanking the diminutive Argentine when he was showing signs of boiling over. But then Farke could win the Champions League final and I'd (Tom) want his subs to come earlier.
Tactically this was nothing to write home about. Unchanged, more of the same. But when the same is this fucking glorious there’s no need to tinker. Kudos to Farke however if he was the architect of Godfrey and Zimmermann deciding to switch play regularly with raking and accurate cross-field balls. It lead to the opener, and seemed a clear and deliberate ploy to bring the full backs into the game much higher up the pitch than their usual starting positions. Either that or they had got bored of playing it short all season.
The on-pitch celebrations at the end of the game felt like players and manager (in particular) believed this to be the crest of the promotion hill negotiated and that the remaining 6 games are a downhill jaunt with the wind in our sails and friction and gravity unable to hinder our relentless march on the Premier League.
Farke made a point of applauding all 4 stands rather than his usual standalone love-in with the Barclay and the way he lingered over the acknowledgement of the support the team received gives the reassuring sense of job done. It would be a staggering capitulation to throw away an 8 point cushion with 6 games left. On today's performance you'd be hard pushed to see where we could drop a point, let alone lose the 3 games required to see us finishing third.
Biggest positive to take
Having spent quite a bit of time pouring over the highlights of previous games this season, there were definitely more heart stopping moments than of late. This team is growing, not just cantering towards an end of season promotion parade, but actually upping the gears and finding new levels.
Much of that comes from the base City are building. Defensively the centre back partnership looks at its strongest all season. They can do the last ditch stuff, it’s just that they don’t really have to that much anymore. Danger is snuffed out much higher up the pitch, allowing that masterful midfield to start pulling the strings once more.
Emi’s dismissal was clear cut, yet it didn’t need to happen. You can argue that’s the way Buendia plays, and it would be valid. He hustles, bustles and flies into challenges only the recklessness of youth really legitimises. It was all entirely avoidable though, and while City could quite easily cope with his absence on the day given the lack of a threat QPR were posing, the 3 game ban will come as a real blow. The challenge for Farke is now to choose whether he shuffles his pack, possibly accommodating McLean higher up the pitch, or opt to let Cantwell loose once more. Big responsibility for someone so young if he goes for the latter.
Pre-match calls for noise in the River End were kind of heeded, but the volume of the South Stand was more impressive, with a second half to and fro between fans situated near the away supporters and the Barclay providing some second half light relief.
The atmosphere wasn’t electric, although it was never likely to be given the way the match panned out. Yet there was almost constant chanting of the usual promotion repertoire and a desire to see this team over the line. That should be applauded, especially as it came from all four stands.
Either QPR are dreadful or Norwich are world beaters. Actually, scratch that, possibly both statements are true.
The encounter felt like a procession once City were two goals to the good. A bit like the Lord Mayor’s procession in fact, as Pirate Pukki provided a rave-up right at the end.