Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's spirited 1-0 Championship win against Swansea City
PUBLISHED: 14:56 09 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:48 10 March 2019
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his Swansea City verdict after the Canaries’ 1-0 Championship triumph
1. Comfort break
Not for the first time this season Daniel Farke was spot on. Swansea City by some distance were the best team Norwich have encountered since arguably Leeds’ comprehensive early season Championship win at Carrow Road.
The slick manner Graham Potter’s side moved the ball from back to front, the interplay allied to the terrifying speed of Dan James at the sharp end produced a bumpy ride for the Canaries.
Particularly in the first half when all that was missing was the presence of Oli McBurnie to provide some genuine cutting edge. McBurnie’s absence through illness was undoubtedly a bonus for Norwich. But half-time offered a chance for some vital respite and the response after the break told you all about why the Canaries are sitting on top of the pile.
That will to resist when it was clearly not going to plan was embellished by a virtuoso finish from Emi Buendia that fizzed into the net and bounced straight back out, such was the velocity of the strike.
To win a game in that manner when they had been schooled by a side emulating Farke’s favoured possession-based approach felt extra satisfying.
2. Staggering scouting
When you watch the majesty of Buendia’s goal, plus that escalating tally of assists, it beggars belief this was a player scratching around on loan for a side relegated to the Spanish third tier last season.
Buendia’s signing was the product of a scouting system which, along with the free transfer arrival of Teemu Pukki, must be the envy of so many in the Championship.
Norwich have signed two players who have been absolutely pivotal to the promotion push for a fraction of the money rivals have lavished on alternatives with bigger reputations but much slimmer measures of productivity.
It prompts the question just what could Stuart Webber and his recruitment department do with a Premier League budget which should enable upgrades? They will have to go some, however, to top the two card trick that enticed Buendia and Pukki to Norfolk.
3. Proceed to the Premier League, Onel?
Hernandez might be the darling of a certain catalogue shopping empire but the day job is also going pretty well at present.
There are still plenty of questions about the consistency of his decision-making but what is not in doubt is the ability to provide width and a counter-attacking outlet to inject dynamism into Norwich’s attacking urges. Both came together perfectly in the crucial moment of the match, when he darted into the Swansea penalty area and then picked the perfect point to roll the ball back for Buendia to do the rest.
There was also a rather crucial, if less heralded, pivot and pass on halfway that triggered the match-clinching goal at Millwall. Buendia and Pukki on that occasion earned the plaudits.
Yet Hernandez in his own way is leaving an indelible mark on this incredible campaign that may now end in promotion.
4. Thanks Alex
The response since Norwich succumbed to Alex Neil’s Preston has been faultless.
Any doubts about the fight or the spirit within Farke’s squad, or the ability to respond to adversity, have disappeared after slipping to a 3-1 defeat at Deepdale just under a month ago.
City have since banked a faultless 12 points, inflicted a first league defeat in 14 on Bristol City and set the record straight at Bolton and Millwall, after league defeats at both outposts during Farke’s debut season.
To slip into another gear and put the foot down again bodes well for the final push.
Norwich have engineered a position of real strength. They have also sent a signal to their rivals who, like the rest of us, would have been closely observing for any signs of fragility following that Preston slip up. Swansea, in their own more refined way, were no less obdurate than Millwall last season, but when the dust settled the outcome was identical.
5. Picture the scene...
You claim the Championship manager-of-the-month prize after four clean sheets and 13 points from a possible 15. But you wake up on Saturday seven points behind the leaders.
Chris Wilder may not have slept quite as soundly after Norwich turned up the heat, ahead of the Blades’ Yorkshire derby against Paul Warne’s relegation-threatened Rotherham United. The same could be true of Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds, who head to play-off chasing Bristol City this weekend. Neither assignment looks routine.
The degree of difficulty just ratcheted up a notch after City cashed in on their Friday advantage. With games running out and points getting piled on by Farke’s squad do not underestimate the mind games at play. Especially with Leeds and Sheffield United set to do battle in seven days time.
Farke joked he was more interested in how his next opponents, Hull City, go at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
You can be sure he will have a keen interest in events at Ashton Gate and Bramall Lane. Like the rest of us. Sit back and enjoy the show.