Michael Bailey: Targets, memories, Emi and Krul – 6 things learned from Norwich City’s demolition derby
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
A derby success, but then so much more besides – Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey dissects the Canaries' latest derby success over Ipswich Town and all it entailed.
1 – The good days are mounting
His name reads close enough to 'good day' in Spanish to get the treatment – and he is certainly having a lot of them. Just a quick reminder: Emi Buendia cost Norwich City £1.5m in the summer.
Two numbers from Sunday's East Anglian derby do the business: five and four. That is five times he was fouled – more than any other player in the 90-plus minutes. And four key passes, distilled to two assists and taking his season's total in all competitions to 12.
It's hard to work out what's most impressive about Buendia: the fact he is 22 years old, that this is his first season in English football, that he's as technically gifted as any player I've seen play in yellow and green, or that he keeps dealing with such robust attention from all that make the Championship such a tough challenge.
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Buendia is one of the key figures that has turned City from also-rans into title chasers.
In his 25 league outings, City have lost twice and won 17. And counting.
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2 – Leaders gonna lead
Christoph Zimmermann had an excellent first season in England – especially given the jump in level he had to make. Perhaps most impressive of all, is how his second season has been another leap forward.
Sure, there have been lapses. The way Billy Sharp ran off his shoulder will probably still grate with the 26-year-old German centre-back.
But the pay-off has come most other weeks, including at Elland Road and continuing in derby victory over Ipswich Town.
Zimmermann on Sunday was immense. In the only moments where Town threatened to hurt their hosts, it was Zimmermann's body that got in the way. And in the other moments when Ipswich plumped for a ruck, Zimmermann was the man calming down and reminding people of their place.
City have a few captains at the moment – but that shouldn't take away from how Zimmermann handled himself and his team-mates in victory.
3 – Krul is the thin end of the wedge
There was a fair amount of stick flying about following the battle of Elland Road – perhaps that was always going to be the price the winners would pay – and most of it headed the way of Tim Krul.
To some of a certain persuasion, the City goalkeeper should have been serving some sort of ban this weekend. In the real world, that was never on the cards – and instead we got to see the big plusses he delivers for Daniel Farke's squad.
That may sound weird given Krul will have had fewer afternoons as comfortable as Sunday. But his calmness and ability to take the sting out of situations was vitally important to the tempo of the entire game.
Krul actually sent out 30 long balls on Sunday – far more than his opposite number, and a sign of the press Ipswich put on City.
The rest was unflappable and you imagine Krul's experience from here on in could be invaluable.
4 – Actions speak louder than words
Paul Lambert couldn't remember what happened six minutes ago when asked about his 4-1 and 5-1 derby successes with Norwich. He's had half of Glasgow hating him, he recalled.
Yet by the time Sunday afternoon was with us, Lambert was lamenting the short memories of Norwich City fans having raised the club from League One – and having proven unable to deal with Norfolk virtually ignoring him for 42 minutes.
There was something quite sad about how it all played out in the dugouts for Lambert. A man that had revered here for so much good work. A coach with the world at his feet and big jobs on his mind.
And there he was six years later, left prowling behind a couple of Carrow Road stewards and a police officer. An image that will last a lifetime.
The fact Sunday is dealt with may well represent a weight off City's shoulders – and it could be that come mid-February, Town will be mathematically unable to usurp them. Remarkable.
5 – Investing in the future
The project that has lifted Norwich City to their new heights came with a huge degree of vision, transparency and thought – to the point that the miracle now comes only with credit from those who know the story. Chimes of luck and fortune simply miss the point.
All of that makes the situation at Ipswich a truly fascinating one.
Fair play to the Ipswich fans, for starters. That was a hiding to nothing on Sunday – and they came in good number, sang throughout and made it a proper derby. It always takes two to tango.
No doubt some of the coping strategy comes from having Paul Lambert as their boss. The man (a few) Norwich fans love to hate – although Lambert appears to love to hate them more.
His record is now worse than Paul Hurst's and at either end of the pitch, they look entirely devoid of Championship quality. Now the derby is dusted, how long and far this story runs will make for compelling viewing.
6 – The bigger picture is starting to look good
Teemu Pukki stated it: City still have 15 games to go. That's a lot, until you realise that by this time next week it will be just 13. And then you start to realise everything is going to ramp up to levels we haven't seen so far this season.
It will be a huge test of character for players who haven't been through it, fans who may be nervous, and everyone else in between. And yet, such moments so rarely come around that to fail to enjoy it would in itself be a missed opportunity.
So here we go. Norwich City are – and will be – the only side this season to break 60 points after 31 games. What does that say?
Well, 16 teams have managed that in the previous 10 seasons and 14 were promoted – including West Ham via the play-offs in 2012. In 2016-17 four teams managed it, and three of them went up.
So 15 games to go and for me, 10 wins needed to be sure. There's miles to go, yet the countdown has begun.
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