James Hastings makes his ACN debut and gets the pleasure of reviewing another delicious away day. Disclaimer, he might go overboard a little.....
In previous years Norwich have been guilty of squandering good opportunities in the final third, yet Saturday was quite the opposite. Furthermore, much like previous promotion campaigns, goals are coming from multiple players and positions, we aren’t relying solely on our striker(s).
With the majority of the players enjoying a week in the Tampa Bay sun, many Norwich fans may have been worried how they would cope in the cold and miserable conditions of South Wales on Saturday. The last time Norwich took a mid-season training camp was under Alex Neil to Abu Dhabi, where following the trip, Norwich went on to get relegated with noticeable losses including at home to Sunderland, and then away at Palace and Swansea. Would we see another City collapse following the trip? Of course we wouldn’t.
This side has already demonstrated numerous qualities; togetherness, fight, the ability to score goals freely and be tight in defence. Travelling to the game Saturday I was wary of Swansea; much like Norwich of last year, they have a new, young manager who’s had success abroad, they enjoy controlling possession but can lack that spark going forward. I have often gone with the mindset of “win your home games, draw your away games,” and that will result in you being right up in the mix. This Norwich team hasn’t got that potential negative attitude. They believe, without being arrogant, that they are the best team in the league and that they can beat anyone, home or away.
The first 15 minutes was similar to that of the first couple of rounds in boxing, both teams just trying to feel their way into the match, with Swansea having a couple of early opportunities. The next 20 resembled that of Hillsborough 3 weeks ago.
A fortuitous first goal, coming from the Swans centre back, ignited the Norwich performance we’ve enjoyed in previous weeks. City found their stride and started to demonstrate why “We are Top of the League.” Slick passes, full backs flying forward, calmness on the ball, deadly in the final third. With every attack we look like we would extend our slender 1 goal lead. Thankfully, as a result of a mix up between the keeper and former Ipswich loanee, Bersant Celina, Emi Buendia capitalised and stroked the ball home into the bottom corner. Our 3rd and 4th came in typical Norwich 2018/19 style, with a host of passes between numerous Norwich players, resulting in Max Aarons (3rd goal) and Onel Hernandez (4th goal) finding themselves in the final third, both putting in dangerous crosses from wide positions to the feet of Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki, both finishing smartly.
Despite one error from Tim Krul, allowing them a slim chance of a comeback, Norwich withheld the early second half pressure (just about), and when Pukki made it 4-1, the 800 Norwich faithful could breathe, relax and enjoy the final 30 minutes in full voice. “We’re Norwich City, we’re top of the league.”
Moment of the Match
Not easy to pick out a single moment from the 90 minutes, but Pukki’s goal to secure the 3 points should get the accolade. Not just because it confirmed victory, but the quality of finish (on the turn) and the build-up play from Buendia and Hernandez.
Random Star Performer
The obvious candidate would be Emi Buendia, who in recent weeks has flourished on the right hand side of an attacking midfield trio. The young Argentine has made the position his own, showing flair going forward but also determination to track back and help out Aarons in defence.
However, I am giving this award to Alex Tettey, who has certainly surprised several fans this year. 6 months ago fans were questioning the decision of Farke and Webber to offer him a new 2 year contract. It didn’t seem to follow the “philosophy” and “project” the club is working toward. He’s 32, previously struggled to play more than 1 game a week and certainly on a reasonable wage. Yet this year he’s been the core of the team, slotting into defence to make it a back 3 in open play, allowing both young full backs to get forward and making several offensive passes. He treasures the club and wants to repay the faith Farke has placed in him. On Saturday he displayed his usual abilities and assets… calmness on the ball, broke up a couple of potential dangerous Swansea attacks, played some clinical passes, plus he didn’t get booked…
Most noticeable whinge would be the error of Tim Krul, but it didn’t cost us the game plus apart from that he had a solid game. Therefore, I am going to talk about the first 15 minutes, similar to Millwall at home and Sheffield Wednesday away, we started slowly, not stamping our authority on the game and allowing our opponents to grow into it. Thankfully, their two opportunities were wasted, but we could easily have been playing catch up.
“One Daniel Farke, there’s only one Daniel Farke”- the 800 joyous Norwich fans in the away end belting out their love for the manager. The season so far has sent out a clear message to the rest of the league… be patient with your manager and have a key philosophy on the pitch. I have so much unconditional love for Farke, his confidence has grown and much like the Lambert era, he now strolls onto the pitch after another 3 points and heads to the fans, soaks up their love, and displays his gratitude to the Yellow Army. Could he potentially be the best Norwich manager ever? Or at least in the 21st century?
Taking 800 fans on a 600 mile round trip is pretty good going, it’s the furthest Norwich fans will have to travel this year and the atmosphere was certainly helped by the emphatic win. A vast range of chants were enjoyed, including a few mimicking our local rivals ‘success’ at the opposite end of the table. Continued love for Rhodes, Trybull, Pukki and Leitner were also vocalised, but “we are top of the league” was certainly sung the most. Long may it continue.
A fairly resounding and comfortable victory for the Canaries, despite not quite being at our best, sending out another statement to our rivals. We showed that we can be clinical in the final third for another game, but as Norwich and Farke’s praise and awareness increases from pundits on social media, Sky and BBC, the key question is, ‘can we deal with the pressure?’ Judging from Saturday’s performance, of course we can. Saturday should have been a real tough game against potential play off rivals and we blew them away in 20 minutes of dominance. I could spend hours listing qualities Norwich have, but the key is we seem to be keeping our feet firmly on the ground. With the potential 3 banana skin fixtures coming up, Norwich can really stamp down our authority in top position and continue to show our attributes. Top of the league at Christmas is my prediction, and hopefully at 14:30 on Sunday 5th May at Villa Park.