Lee Payne: Increase the pace and it could get even better for City
PUBLISHED: 17:52 08 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:29 08 October 2018
Another international break is upon us. Aren't we lucky?
They may be an irritating interruption to domestic football but what internationals do well is neatly divide the season into digestible chunks where it is possible to take stock and consider how each team is doing.
As far as Norwich City goes, definite progress has been made in the month since the last break. Five wins from seven games in all competitions has changed the mood around the club and released the pressure that had been growing on Daniel Farke.
One win from six league games at the start of the season had made Carrow Road a fairly miserable place to be, with an increasingly vocal section of the supporters calling for changes from coaching to board level.
It never really felt like anything drastic was about to happen, but things had to improve or Norwich could have been stuck in a relegation dogfight before the first frost of the winter had bitten.
Both Middlesbrough and Wigan visited when in the top six, yet City impressively beat both of them without conceding a goal. Boro had not conceded a goal since the opening day, but we found a way through and managed to see it out.
The only goal in that game was scored by Teemu Pukki, who was in such sublime goalscoring form that he was voted the Player of the Month for September.
MORE: Six things we learned from Stoke defeat
The Finland international was widely expected to play second fiddle to the proven Championship striker Jordan Rhodes when he arrived, and it is testament to his performances that he has kept Rhodes on the bench. To be fair to Rhodes, when he was given a chance to start in the cup match at Wycombe he scored a hat-trick. It’s pleasing to see genuine competition for places up front in the team.
Norwich were, frankly, poor against Wigan. They gave the ball away countless times, but they came out of it with all three points. This has been a rare feat for City under Farke – winning when playing badly – and it was a good thing to see. There is not a single team that can play well all the time and being able to pick up points on an off day is a very useful trait.
The next thing to look at is City’s form on the road. When they went to Reading in mid-September, Norwich hadn’t won a league game away from Carrow Road since January. Not only did they win at the Madejski, they then won a televised game against QPR and took a point away from the much-fancied Derby County – who, in case you hadn’t heard, are managed by Frank Lampard. Let’s hope this trend can continue. Successful teams don’t just pick up results at home.
It was all going so well, but Norwich were somewhat brought back down to earth with a frustrating home defeat to Stoke at the weekend. Stoke have a squad full of Premier League players so it was encouraging to see how well City played against them, despite the result.
The Stoke game highlighted some of the reservations I still have about this Norwich team. They still have a tendency to do everything too slowly. They don’t seem to have enough pace going forward and they seem to want to take too many touches all the time. I like the Farke style, I’d much rather watch that every week than a Tony Pulis side, but I just wish they did things quicker. I really believe that with a bit of urgency City would be nigh on impossible to live with.
As I was walking out of the Barclay on Saturday, I overheard a man who dryly murmured ‘I could have been painting my bathroom today’. Come on, mate, it’s not that bad is it? Personally, I’m enjoying watching Norwich again and I think it might just get even better.