David Freezer: Carrow Road complacency a danger after City’s winning streak
I’m a bit worried about the return to Carrow Road today.
Perhaps that says more about my football constitution than most Norwich City supporters but, still, I’m concerned about over-confidence this afternoon.
The four wins on the spin which have been enjoyed in the past couple of weeks have brought a vibrancy and enthusiasm back to all involved with the Canaries but that must not transfer into complacency.
It’s a concern I put to Jordan Rhodes at Wycombe on Tuesday night, fresh from his rejuvenating hat-trick in the Carabao Cup, and his reply was simple: “They’re above us in the table!”
They may average less than 12,000 crowds at home and they were in League One last season but the Latics are very much on the up.
I’m not saying they’re world beaters but a team which won 3-0 at Stoke and who have beaten Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City already this season deserve respect.
Norwich fans need no reminding of the momentum a League One title triumph can bring and Wigan did so with a huge 98 points, three more than Paul Lambert’s team of 2010 managed.
Daniel Farke’s squad deserve a welcome home reception similar to the remarkable noise which roared Justin Rose and Jon Rahm to the first tee at Le Golf National as the Ryder Cup kicked off in Paris yesterday.
Much has happened since the 1-0 defeat of Middlesbrough at Carrow Road two weeks ago but cast your mind back to the cracking atmosphere and united spirit which drove City over the finishing line that day.
That’s the noise which can give home players the added edge they need and can cause visiting teams to feel nervous as they head for Norfolk.
That day saw sparks of life for Farke’s best-laid plans, sticking to the passing principles and positive play against a Boro team set up to be solid and give themselves the best chance of nicking an away win.
Frankly, City’s German coach made the experienced Tony Pulis look like a dinosaur, as Farke’s team played football around the muscle instructed to hold their positions and try to stop Norwich playing.
The plan failed and with Marco Stiepermann, Max Aarons and Emi Buendia combining to create the moment of quality that was needed, the irrepressible Teemu Pukki poked home the goal City needed.
It’s a moment which has had a galvanising effect.
Pukki was on target again as the Canaries dictated play to deservedly win 2-1 at Reading, thanks to a timely reemergence from Mario Vrancic, before Farke’s methods really started to flourish in front of the TV cameras at QPR last weekend.
Steve McClaren’s team were embarrassed as City went in at half-time with 72 percent of possession, with the score somehow still at 0-0.
The hosts didn’t know what had hit them, they couldn’t get near the ball.
Ironically it was once the Rs started to fight back that the space opened up and allowed Todd Cantwell to combine with Stiepermann to create the chance Pukki needed.
It may have been a slightly fortunate goal but fortune favours the brave and, despite McClaren’s bizarre claims to the contrary, there was only one team on the Loftus Road pitch who deserved that lucky break.
City had to work seriously hard in all three games to get the fine margins to fall in their favour, so the pressure was off for Tuesday’s cup fun at Wycombe.
At 4-1 up the game really should have been put to bed but without the midfield solidity provided by Alex Tettey and Marco Stiepermann in recent weeks, to allow Moritz Leitner to use his class to dictate the pattern of the game, it came dangerously close to descending into penalty chaos.
Of course it’s the first time City have won four games on the spin under Farke.
The last time four successive victories were enjoyed was under Alex Neil, when five straight September successes left City top of the Championship in 2016.
Neil also conjured five on the spin in 2015 en route to the play-offs but if those achievements are matched against Wigan today – and that’s a big if – sights can be set on the six successive wins the Scot inspired soon after his January 2015 arrival.
First though, it’s time to focus on Wigan and returning to the midfield dominance which brought success in the last three league games.
My team for today: Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann, Klose, Lewis; Tettey, Leitner; Buendia, Stiepermann, Cantwell; Pukki
Bring back the steel
Covering the Canaries has certainly kept us on our toes so far this season – so much so that Tuesday’s win at Wycombe was the second 4-3 result already.
Scoring more goals was a clear objective for Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber this summer and the early signs are good, with 13 scored in nine league games but 23 in 12 matches when you include the cup action.
In the goals conceded column it’s also 13 in those nine Championship fixtures and 18 across the dozen games in all competitions.
Keep that rate up this season and it’s going to be an exciting campaign but it may leave some rather frazzled reporters needing a lay down.
It would be easy to be concerned by seeing three conceded against League One opposition in midweek but Alex Tettey and Marco Stiepermann should bring the steel back to City’s midfield against Wigan today.
Just one conceded in controlled performances in the last three league games has been the key stat.
Earlier this season I mentioned it’s worth keeping an eye on Lincoln City this season – where a Canaries academy product is enjoying something of a renaissance.
Jason Shackell has scored a late winner two weekends running for the Imps, to keep the club’s impressive revival on track, sitting pretty at the top of League Two.
The centre-back celebrated his 35th birthday this week, so watch out Cheltenham Town this afternoon.
Shackell is also playing alongside another former City player, with left-back Harry Toffolo starting every league game so far this season for Lincoln.
Also worth keeping an eye on, fellow Canaries academy product Jamie Cureton has taken his first steps into management with Bishop’s Stortford.
The 43-year-old striker has taken caretaker charge and won his first two games – scoring his third of the season to make sure of a 3-1 win over Carshalton in the Bostik League Premier Division last weekend.