Paddy Davitt verdict: Daniel Farke needs help to build on festive spurt
PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:05 02 January 2018
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There is a clear sense the plates may have shifted under Norwich City’s faltering Championship season.
Losing to Brentford was an inauspicious start to a festive spell that carried the potential to propel City forward after a prolonged slump.
The mood was rebellious. The anger directed towards the club’s figureheads in the closing stages of that 2-1 loss to the upwardly-mobile Bees.
What a difference in the soundtrack at the final whistle yesterday after a stirring second half comeback to sink the Lions.
This was big on many levels. It may not address those underlying concerns about the longer term direction of the club or convince the doubters. It will take a far longer seam of consistency to suggest a corner has been turned.
But there can be no doubting the commitment or the character of the group Daniel Farke is trying to meld.
This was a personal victory for the head coach, after the flak he endured for his rotation policy in the drab goalless affair at Burton.
Given the Brewers’ comprehensive New Year’s Day romp at Hillsborough, that may not be the worst point added to City’s growing collection.
After Steve Morison had rifled Millwall ahead with an audacious long range lob over Angus Gunn, Farke must have feared the worst. On such calls managerial fates can be decided.
Which is why it was fitting the second half comeback was engineered by players who owe a huge debt to the German.
Tom Trybull is at Carrow Road because Farke was an admirer of his craft and passing ability; his calmness in tight spaces and his game intelligence. Sporting director Stuart Webber is on record as crediting Norwich’s head coach as the driving force in recruiting the unheralded midfielder.
Trybull arrived on a free transfer but is now a key component - a fact acknowledged by the new contract offer on the table he revealed after his goalscoring exploits against Millwall.
James Maddison was already at Carrow Road but essentially a peripheral figure under the previous management.
Now he is absolutely critical to what the City head coach is striving to build.
Young, technically gifted and fully on board with Farke’s quest to forge a new identity. The duo combined to cancel out Morison’s opener before Maddison latched onto Alex Pritchard’s cute reverse pass to drill home the winner.
It was a role reversal of their decisive intervention at St Andrews on Boxing Day and that clever free kick routine.
That 2-0 away win at Birmingham is arguably the most cohesive of Farke’s reign. Defensive solidity, midfield protection and a counter-attacking edge all fused into the perfect away performance.
That is why the laboured, fitful, sparse offering from a much-changed side at Burton induced so much frustration.
Yet it is difficult to contest the same players would have found the reserves of strength required to hit back, as they did after Morison’s opener.
Farke’s bravery should be applauded. Now he needs help from above.
Webber and the club’s board will have decisions to make over this transfer window.
There may not be a financial necessity to offload the brightest and the best at Farke’s disposal but in order to refresh the squad, exits are inevitable.
That is the inherent contradiction.
To progress City must retain the likes of Maddison and Pritchard but in so doing they have to match the ambition of players with the potential to play in the Premier League.
Farke was right to raise the bar when he spoke to the media after this game.
City can cast optimistic glances above them in the table rather than fret about being sucked into a relegation scrap.
But the horizon will contract if the squad is weaker beyond February 1.
Farke’s focus is simply on winning games.
The festive victories over Birmingham and now Millwall illustrate he has a formula and a settled line-up that can prove residually effective in the Championship. Injuries and suspensions are obstacles to navigate but there is tangible evidence now of an identity and a culture starting to evolve.
When you see Jamal Lewis combining with Josh Murphy down the left flank, or Maddison with Pritchard, or Grant Hanley and Timm Klose standing tall in the most fraught moments when Millwall rumbled forward with reinforcements, then there is reason for optimism entering 2018.
But it must be tempered with what happens off the pitch in the days ahead.
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