Matt Howman: Canaries must be braced for a different test of their resolve
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The upcoming run of fixtures probably couldn't have come at a worse time for Daniel Farke.
Injuries across the board and perhaps our biggest month of the season is about to begin this Saturday against fellow promotion hopefuls West Brom, another side looking to bounce back from a run of poor results to keep the pressure on our automatic promotion spot.
Farke will be anxiously checking the treatment room at Colney because without our key players who are nursing injuries of varying seriousness, we could be in danger of faltering in our push for a top two spot when each game from herein could be a key decider in the chase for promotion.
It's important though to take stock of how much Farke has developed this team in such a short space of time and it could be a point in the season where fans have to manage expectations and be patient that we could see a slightly lower level of quality on the pitch, especially if players are having to slot into unfamiliar roles and fill in for first-team regulars.
Players such as Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, and even some of the more experienced players across the team, have been riding on a high of confidence across the season and that's helped build our momentum as each game passed and enabled us to find plenty of last-minute goals.
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We're now entering a completely different phase of the season and the mentality needed to win games is going to test these players in a completely different way.
Norwich started off this season looking like a mid-table outfit without much purpose at either end of the table.
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Farke's tactics clicked and he has since managed this side into an excellent position. However, we've now become a marked team – sides want to get stuck in and prove they can beat this young, exciting side and as teams have pushed forward on the break, we've seen how exposed we are to conceding multiple goals a game.
A string of games against fellow promotion chasers and a derby match against an Ipswich side with nothing to lose will likely lead to cagier games, less chances throughout and both teams not looking to give anything away.
Norwich may find themselves needing to sit back for extended periods and soak up the pressure; if the Derby game is anything to go by there's a lot of work still needed on the training pitch to be prepared.
Farke will be looking closely at how we can stem the flow of goals at the back, a string of decisions not made easy with his growing injury list.
However, he may find the solution to shore up the midfield with strength rather than look to his ever-decreasing playing options in defence.
Todd Cantwell for me is a player who has come on leaps and bounds but these upcoming fixtures are going to need strength across the pitch. It seems the perfect opportunity for Trybull to come in and potentially nail down a first-team position and it can't go unnoticed how excellent Mario Vrancic has been in place of the injured Moritz Leitner. Tom Trybull is the pick for me on strength but both players may be called upon to play a key role in navigating this key month of the season.
Farke will be looking at the calendar and if we can take 10 points from the next five games, I think he'll be a very happy man. The following run of fixtures leaves plenty of opportunity to deliver more points on the board with a side that's hopefully fully fit and looking at a serious chance of automatic promotion.
Come the end of the season, whatever happens, Farke has already led Norwich to their best season since Lambert's back-to-back promotion year.
It's not down to where we are in the table, or whether we're in the Championship or Premier League, it's the way he's got us playing. Exciting, free-flowing passing. Technically and tactically some of the best football ever played at Carrow Road and all achieved on a shoestring budget, utilising the academy and between him, Stuart Webber (and unfortunately Leeds are doing something very similar) showing the rest of the league how it should be done.