Paddy Davitt: United we stand, Norwich
- Credit: PA
It is not only talent that will keep Norwich City in the Premier League. It is the inner belief they actually belong at this level.
Trading blows for portions of all the opening four league games is one thing. But to cross that line and return with points takes something else when you reach the very highest peak.
Norwich have been punished ruthlessly for individual errors; both in thought and in deed. But perhaps sub-consciously there was still some vestiges of an inferiority complex.
Especially in those opening tussles against the super elites of Liverpool and Manchester City.
Go back two seasons and the youngest players in Farke’s roster have spoken anecdotally about the sense of awe and wide-eyed amazement when they lined up alongside the likes of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk and the rest in the Anfield tunnel. That was the Premier League curtain raiser against the newly-titled Champions League winners.
It must have felt an awfully long way from Hull on a dank Tuesday night in the Football League grinding out a goalless draw.
By the end of that particular campaign awe had turned to awfulness as City meekly exited the Premier League.
The inquest has been liberally discussed since, and the response emphatic to lift a second Championship crown under Daniel Farke.
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But now they are back in an environment where even the most minor indiscretion can trigger a devastating phase of play that ends with the ball deposited past Tim Krul.
Inferiority is not something one would associate with Brandon Williams.
The blond-haired full back who arrived on a season long loan from Manchester United with more than 50 senior appearances not simply at one of the biggest clubs in this country but a worldwide institution.
Williams is used to the spotlight and the searing focus that comes with wearing that famous red shirt. Yet even he was not immune from a costly mistake in the green and yellow, with a heavy touch and turnover leading to Leicester City’s opener at Carrow Road last time out.
But boy did he respond at Arsenal.
Farke labelled his swarming, suffocating defensive job on Nicolas Pepe ‘outstanding’.
You could argue Pepe should not have been allowed to get his shot away in the lead up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s rather messy winner, but Williams’ goal-saving block from the same player earlier in the half was top drawer.
It was an individual display at a level both Williams and the majority of his Norwich colleagues need to produce on a weekly basis. It must become the norm, rather than the exception. Starting against Watford this weekend.
There was no hint of inferiority, nor any misplaced respect, from the defender towards Arsenal’s array of attacking talent. The 21-year-old tackled, harried and dominated his own duel with Pepe.
He clearly views this loan posting as a chance to demonstrate he belongs on the Premier League stage; both to a Norfolk audience and no doubt his parent club, as he strives to advance his longer term claims at Old Trafford.
It may not have been the primary reason Farke wanted him on board, but that aggressive edge and fearless character are qualities the German needs to source in abundance from inside the Norwich dressing room.
“He is a confident young guy, he's competitive and he’s also brave,” said the City boss, when Williams was first unveiled.
“I like this but to be honest I expect it from a player who has had a lot of appearances for Manchester United already, which tells you everything about his mindset that he has played for a club where the pressure is high to win every time.
“You need a special character and a special attitude to handle that level of pressure. I'm quite sure Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) wouldn't have chosen him if he wasn’t prepared. We worked on this business for quite a long time, weeks, because we were fully convinced of his qualities.
“Sometimes it is a bit easier to play with a top class side than being the best player in a team who were only recently promoted. So we have to be a bit careful but we are fully convinced of his strengths, and it was definitely a position we were looking to strengthen, because we just have one natural left full back in Dimitris Giannoulis.
"But it is too much to expect him to be a leader for us.”
Farke may have to revise that last statement if Williams continues in the same vein.
There was an assurance and an authority to how he rose to the challenge against Arsenal in such a grand arena. He set a standard for himself but also showed to the rest of Norwich’s squad what it will take to be competitive and to pick up Premier League points.