Matt Guy: This is good, but there are more joys ahead for City fans
PUBLISHED: 17:00 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:35 27 March 2019
It has been a season of monumental change, hope and delight.
Few of us could have dreamt that Daniel Farke would usher City to first place as we approach the final few games of the infamous Championship slog.
Four points clear, six wins on the spin and ploughing through opposition teams like dominoes, there is no denying that we are sitting pretty. Whatever the remainder of the campaign holds, Canaries’ fans will feel inspired and proud of our achievements.
But let’s look forward to next year and beyond.
This is only the beginning: there is more to come.
On the surface it is difficult to imagine how this season could have gone better, nor should we necessarily need to.
However, analysing our shortcomings puts our success in an even more admirable perspective.
We started slowly, picking up a paltry five points from the first possible 18. Elsewhere, avoidable mistakes, lax set-piece defending and a sporadic wastefulness in front of goal have also been topics of contention, if we are picky. Injuries too – though out of our control – have been frustrating. Just imagine the bonus of a fully-fit Kenny McLean from day one, an energetic Louis Thompson, or an uninterrupted Moritz Leitner.
Despite our league position we still have clear lessons to learn and room for growth. This should not be a cause for concern, but instead a sign of our future potential.
For instance, even in our most impressive displays, lapses in concentration show that we have areas to refine.
Against Leeds at Elland Road, in true Norwich City fashion, we conceded in the final minutes despite a tremendous performance. A dominant showing in the recent home game versus Hull also somehow ended in a close 3-2 scoreline.
While some may criticise, these issues should fill fans with encouragement – they show that although we are winning games, we have not yet reached full speed.
This scope for further improvement extends to our forward line.
As top scorers in the entire English Football League it may seem absurd to question our goal-scoring prowess. Yet it is not the fact we need to improve; it is that we can improve.
Jordan Rhodes and Dennis Srbeny have offered dependable back-up, but we have been guilty of occasional reliance on Teemu Pukki. There is space in our squad for another prolific marksman, for someone to fill a 2017-Nelson-Oliveira-shaped void, and who can help us rival the attacking depth of Sheffield United and West Brom.
I am confident that fresh additions in the transfer window will inject a healthy competition for places among our strikers – something that has perhaps been lacking – and can elevate our offensive threat to the next tier.
Our young players also have immense potential to continue developing.
It has been a revolutionary season for Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons, Todd Cantwell and Jamal Lewis, and we have still not even scratched the surface.
Of course, we must first traverse a nervy summer – one inevitably littered with lucrative Premier League transfer propositions – but providing we can keep our fledgling stars, their progression will not cease.
The next generation should also excite fans as youth talents, including Alfie Payne and Adam Idah, patiently await their chance. Our homegrown players have been essential ingredients for the togetherness that has become such a valued asset for the squad.
With ongoing expansion at Colney and the Academy striding from strength to strength, the future looks bright.
In other words, I firmly believe that plenty more joy lies on the horizon – and that is hugely exciting. Sentimentality aside, we sit top as April approaches and have achieved this with financial restraints, an eclectic squad and some inconsistent displays.
If City can produce this level of cohesion, success and positivity against the odds, imagine what thrills await us next season as we continue improving – regardless of which league we may be in.