David Freezer: Determination and desire have been key to faith in ‘Farkelife’ returning at City
PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:54 22 September 2018
The surge in positivity for all connected with Norwich City this week has really shaken off some early-season nerves.
One of the biggest cheers of the post-match celebrations at Reading was saved for Daniel Farke, as the faith which many had been clinging on to earned some timely justification.
After the Canaries players had been across to savour their deserved win with the 919 away fans at the Madejski Stadium, City’s boss emerged after a host of celebratory handshakes – and was greeted with a grateful roar as he thrust two upturned thumbs into the air.
The German wore the smile of a man who has had to be patient, who has had to wait to feel the benefits of his best-laid plans, who has had to brush off plenty of criticism – and whose players are starting to carry out his plans.
Two wins and moving into the top half of the table, with a chance of moving into the top six for just the second time during Farke’s reign, has released a lot of pressure.
The deserved defeat of Boro, bringing an end to the promotion hopefuls’ unbeaten record, was extra satisfying as it came from the positive, attractive style which City have been pursuing in the last 18 months.
Then the midweek 2-1 victory over the Royals came courtesy of some more clinical attacking play – but both came due to a clear increase in commitment to disrupting the opposition when out of possession. It’s almost like the penny has dropped.
By all means try to dominate possession but move the ball quickly, get near the opposition penalty box and let that technical quality shine.
Recovering possession as quickly as possible and fighting for the right to play the football is even more important though, that’s where the battle for supremacy on the Championship battleground is won and lost.
Of course Teemu Pukki is the hero this week, with two goals taking his tally to seven in 11 games for club and country – and goals in his last four games.
The forward’s clinical finishing is proving something of a revelation, of the level you would hope from an experienced international striker playing in the English second tier.
His speed of trigger ensured a scrappy winner against Boro, after a classy touch, but his finish at Reading was sublime.
That his midweek goal was created by Todd Cantwell, the latest academy product to grab his chance with both hands, made for an even more enjoyable evening.
The reworded version of Blur hit Parklife – ‘all the Germans, so many Germans’ – had almost become a chant that drew derision among some fans last season and was mostly dropped from the Carrow Road running order.
But such is the satisfaction of the desire and quality that City’s boss is wringing from his injury-hit squad at the moment, that ‘Farkelife’ even made a re-emergence at the Madejski.
Two wins does not make a season, of course, but it is the desire displayed in this week’s games that has stoked hopes of a brighter future – as well as the emergence of Cantwell and Max Aarons alongside Jamal Lewis in the squad, with Ben Godfrey not far behind and keeper Aston Oxborough getting his first taste of matchday action on the bench.
Whether it’s Pukki somehow finding the energy to tear forward late on and keep causing problems, Marco Stiepermann’s determined drive down the left ahead of Mario Vrancic’s winner or Alex Tettey bursting into the box in the game’s closing stages – this City team have got their teeth firmly into this season.
Summer signing Emi Buendia also deserves a mention for his tenacious work to protect Aarons, still just 21 years old himself. While the Argentine’s attacking play hasn’t quite caught light yet, it’s not far away.
His adjustment to English football is progressing nicely and you sense a goal could really launch another new crowd favourite.
All of which tees up today’s game against an impressively resurgent QPR nicely, taking a great deal of pressure from City’s shoulders at Loftus Road.
As long as that effort and intention continues, most fans will probably bee able to stomach a defeat if things don’t work out today – ahead of next weekend’s home clash with Wigan.
Playing without that pressure might just help to keep this rejuvenated squad in a good place – but they cannot take their foot off the pedal for a second if they are to get a third win on the spin, for the first time on Farke’s watch.
My team for today: Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann, Klose, Lewis; Tettey, Leitner; Buendia, Stiepermann, Cantwell; Pukki
It was great seeing Todd Cantwell take his chance to impress at Reading – and that league debut could be well timed for Dereham’s finest.
It looked quite likely that the 20-year-old would get another loan spell this season, after doing so well in Holland for Fortuna Sittard last season.
Thankfully however, the creative talent was kept around the City squad and has shown good early signs that the latest Norfolk boy to represent the Canaries has a bright future in the professional ranks.
With his contract signed back in 2016, Cantwell’s deal currently runs until the end of the season – although there is an option for a further 12 months. A new deal can’t be far away after becoming the latest poster boy for the club’s academy ethos.
Although he performed well on the left, the pass for Pukki’s goal showed the central playmaker role he thrives in. Marco Stiepermann has that role locked down at the moment but the maturity shown by Cantwell bodes well for his continued involvement.
Time for revenge
City don’t need to look far for some added motivation at Loftus Road this evening.
The 4-1 drubbing suffered by Daniel Farke’s team on Easter Monday last season was one of the real low notes of last season, when the aerial threat of QPR’s giant striker Matt Smith proved too much.
It was an embarrassing display and one that can add fuel to the fire against an Rs side that has been resurrected by Steve McClaren after a dreadful start to the season.
Six of the starting XI that day are no longer with the Canaries, as well as Nelson Oliveira, and it’s likely that only Christoph Zimmermann and Mario Vrancic will be the only surviving members.
Having not managed to win three games in succession during Farke’s reign a win would be a real statement of intent from a City squad which looks to be united and enjoying the approach of their head coach.
The last time Norwich won back-to-back away games? After a 2-1 win at Reading in September last season. Let’s take that as a good omen.