Paddy Davitt verdict: Something is afoot at Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 12:47 04 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:59 05 February 2018
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Daniel Farke felt it. Now Norwich City fans can see it.
Whether the Canaries can engineer an improbable push for the top six this season, or simply lay the foundations for a realistic crack next, there is now a sense of momentum behind this new way.
Upcoming away trips to the two clubs currently in the automatic promotion places may serve to temper soaring optimism.
But Derby County, next up, is also a pertinent reminder of the fine margins buffeting Farke and Stuart Webber’s brave strategy.
That tired, listless home defeat to the Rams - a few days after a herculean League Cup effort at Arsenal - was the trigger for a downward spiral.
Norwich picked up just one league win in the next 10 games; three points from a possible 30. Even a slim haul of 10 more points from that sour run would have propelled City comfortably into a play-off place on the turn for home.
That is a source of frustration but perhaps hope for the future.
Another tricky summer transfer window must be navigated.
James Maddison may have to depart to balance the books, but Webber and Farke appear increasingly adept at that twin-track challenge.
Financial pruning will again be the order of the day, while equipping the German with the tools to look up rather than anxiously over the shoulder - as was the case entering a nasty festive spell of fixtures against teams looking to suck Norwich back into the depths.
That feels a long time ago now when you watch Moritz Leitner caressing the ball to all parts of Carrow Road in a tantalising second half cameo.
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Middlesbrough will point to the numerical disadvantage from Rudy Gestede’s rush of blood.
They may be right, but it hardly altered the dynamic for Farke’s side; they have faced it with varying degrees of difficulty in the majority of a testing season at home.
Boro sought to narrow the pitch and plant two banks of four in front of Darren Randolph.
Norwich were again measured but lacking in penetration until Tom Trybull unleashed a corking 25-yard effort that flashed past the Republic of Ireland international.
City were unable to embellish the margin of victory thereafter, but this was a clinical, efficient effort in front of their own.
Nelson Oliveira was twice foiled by Randolph following the interval, when Norwich injected pace and width into their attacking movements with Jamal Lewis and Josh Murphy raiding deep.
Onel Hernandez burst clear in the final moments but pulled his angled shot wide of the far post.
The unmarked Leitner took a dim view of the Cuban’s bid for glory, yet even in that one jet-heeled burst you could seee how Hernandez’s searing pace offers another dimension to Norwich’s forward motion.
A lack of variety has hindered any prospect of sustained progress.
In City’s most testing spells their play is laboured and predictable.
Now Farke has constructed a solid defensive platform you sense he is moving on to the next phase.
Leitner will need time to adapt to the rigours of the Championship, but his assurance on the ball is a cut above the English second tier.
The urgency with which his new team mates sought to service him underlined they know they have a gem in their midst.
Maddison will no longer have to carry the creative burden alone.
The England Under-21 starlet exudes maturity in the way he plays and conducts himself, but one should not underestimate the distraction of constantly being touted with a mega-money move.
Maddison would not be made of flesh and bone if those links to some of the biggest clubs in the land had not weakened his focus.
That was what Farke alluded to on Friday, when he spoke of a calmness setting over his players in the last few days.
The transfer window is done, those in the building now are part of the German’s plans. Those who have left, be it on a temporary or permanent basis, are not between now and May.
There are no high profile cup trips to Arsenal or Chelsea; and only a limited number of midweek Championship assignments.
What exists is an opportunity for further progress.
For youngsters like Jamal Lewis to become the cornerstone of what Farke is trying to build, for new players like Leitner and Hernandez, and Dennis Srbeny, to underline they fit his template.
Confidence is high. Results are good.
City will show no fear at Derby or Wolves.
It is the rest of the Championship who might have cause to feel the tremors rumbling in Norfolk.
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