Paddy Davitt: Can you hear it? Change is in the air at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
You can talk all you want about a work in progress but Norwich City's brave FA Cup tilt against Chelsea was a better indicator a changing of the guard is underway.
Russell Martin had a microphone in his hand, as he conducted media duties.
Meanwhile, Jamal Lewis was running Davide Zappacosta ragged in the latest outing of a career that continues to soar.
Steven Naismith remained in the shadows, prior to in all probability a January transfer window exit.
James Maddison is now front of house, directing operations and weighing in with the goals and assists which will ensure his name remains prominent in the gossip columns.
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Nelson Oliveira and Cameron Jerome were again effectively sidelined through injury and fitness concerns.
Oliveira made a late cameo but it was Josh Murphy who impressed in a forward line that saw a high degree of mobility and cleverness, in tandem with Maddison and Alex Pritchard.
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When Antonio Conte takes a break from berating Jose Mourinho to praise City's organisation and tactical nous you know Daniel Farke's squad has had a good day. The Italian could appreciate Norwich's pragmatism and innovation in the manner they nullified a subdued Chelsea.
Granted, it was a much-changed Blues' line up but the price tags were still vast and the expectation amongst the majority who headed to Carrow Road was the gulf in class would be apparent.
What we saw was a composure and a coolness; traits City managed to harness on their long unbeaten, club record breaking run, which headed south after another sterling League Cup effort at Arsenal. Inconsistency has blighted City's season.
But with key players fit and the likes of Lewis starting to blossom the body of work since Brentford is hugely encouraging.
Yet that should serve as a pertinent warning. It is only a matter of games when the mood music was sour, the criticism directed at the top brass. Even Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber were not immune from a sharp focus on their recruitment and footballing philosophy.
Nevertheless the building blocks are there.
MORE: Have your say on our Pinkun forumAdd in the way Ben Godfrey sparkled on Sunday for Shrewsbury, in helping to force Premier League West Ham into an FA Cup replay, and the rising optimism is infectious. The method is there. It has been there all along, in fairness to Farke and Webber.
It is simply easier to buy time and earn backing from the terraces when fans can witness visible signs.
Chelsea will attempt to make the most of their Stamford Bridge reprieve. Conte may restore some of his frontline options but City can travel with nothing to fear. The confidence is back. Farke's immediate task now is to channel it into propelling Norwich up the Championship standings.
He was asked again afterwards what is possible over the second part of the season.
Perhaps wisely, he elected not to forecast how high they can rise in the coming months. Such predictions have a nasty habit of falling flat. But in the most difficult periods Norwich have looked depressingly predictable and one-dimensional in their approach.
Now there is a vigour, a fusion of youth and experience, and in returning to a back three against Chelsea a welcome flexibility.
Whether Farke's late call to protect Oliveira's body triggered a change of shape is irrelevant. City showed they had the personnel and the tactical awareness to implement a formation that freed the likes of Lewis and Ivo Pinto, whilst retaining a sturdy last line bolstered by the ever-improving Christoph Zimmermann.
If you want a poster boy for this season of transition at Carrow Road, it is Zimmermann - as much as it is Maddison.
An unheralded player plucked from the fourth tier of German football who endured difficult moments but is now on an upward curve.
Michy Batshuayi cut a miserable figure before Alvaro Morata was similarly unable to get the better of Zimmermann and his able lieutenants.
If City had not suffered that prolonged downturn prior to Christmas another positive episode against the Premier League champions may induce a feeling complacency was the biggest danger.
It is not.
It remains inconsistency, and Norwich must roll on to promotion-chasing Bristol City with the same mindset, the same robust, intelligent approach that has characterised their work since they were booed off against the Bees.
How times change.
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