Michael Bailey: Yellow peril, Swans patience, promotion curves, Marco’s rage – Six things learned from Norwich’s Swansea win
And the Norwich City beat goes on – PinkUn Show host Michael Bailey laps up six more imperious lessons from a super sixth EFL Championship win for the leaders, this time at Swansea.
1 – This is getting trickier
Transparency – that’s the new watchword at Norwich City following last week’s annual general meeting, so here is my contribution: learning six things from each game at the moment is pretty hard.
This Norwich City side is settled. It’s playing well. The individual form is pretty consistent too. In fact, I’ve always been a little unconvinced about discussions over consistency in results – because that’s effectively a discussion about whether a side is good or not.
I guess the element that has come to the fore this season is consistency in performance – something that does come with more control and ability to refine, than simply that final score.
And it has to be said, right back through to the very first game of the season – that 90+4th minute equaliser at Birmingham – there has been a remarkable consistency in City’s performance level throughout the campaign.
So... learning that Norwich City are good? I’ll take that.
2 – Yellow peril will soon be on hold
It’s been largely under the radar so far this season – a little bit like City in general – but Tuesday is a key night for both Moritz Leitner and Max Aarons.
The pair are currently on four league bookings this term, meaning a fifth against Hull and they will miss the visit from Rotherham on Saturday. Fortunately with the first EFL amnesty coming after game 19, it means if the pair survive that then they should be good for a fair while to come.
For the record, the amnesty for 10 bookings comes following game 37 – and it should be easy enough to remember, as it’s also against Hull when they come to Carrow Road in mid March.
Hull’s top scorer Fraizer Campbell wasn’t so lucky; his fifth booking came on Saturday and he will now miss Tuesday’s game.
The final paragraph here should be dedicated to the new, somehow improved Alex Tettey: just two bookings in 16 games is uncharted territory. Quite remarkable.
3 – Time to consider some cotton wool
Given the look of the Championship table and City’s potential are starting to take shape this season – I think we can be confident enough to say that – it’s probably only natural to start wondering about the things that might go wrong.
OK, so that’s a remarkably negative statement. But it also reflected the feeling we all had when Emi Buendía went down in a heap, the referee swiftly signalled for the stretcher and the prospect of leaving Swansea with a major long-term injury blow started to rear its ugly head.
Fortunately Emi sprung back up – obviously to boos from the home crowd – and Moritz Leitner did likewise after holding his lower back following a Swans challenge.
City’s fitness is the great unknown in their January planning. So far City have ridden every injury blow beyond every expectation.
Maintaining that freshness and level all season will represent one of Farke’s big challenges from here.
4 – There is fire in the bellies
My dear colleague David Freezer saw it for himself while watching City train in Tampa: Marco Stiepermann making it clear he was desperate to win a particular session, with a physicality – and basically physical arguments – that might have caught out more fledgling observers.
And there it was again in Swansea, to the point Christoph Zimmermann was required to step in and tell his team-mate to cool it.
On the flip side, if something goes on in a match to a Norwich player, it really irks me if they are left to fend for themselves. Their team-mates should step in. Nothing overboard – just an example that the lot in yellow are one, tight group and they’ve got each others’ back.
It was rather glib of me to compare Marco to James Maddison in our post-match interview – but in turn, Marco is doing a superb job in that forward role.
And his physicality is one of the biggest factors. Here’s to the fire continuing to burn.
5 – Swans’ song will needs bravery
For a side hoping for an immediate Premier League return, at home and against the team leading the Championship, Saturday’s defeat would have been a painful one for Swansea.
That point was underlined by the boos, angst and on occasion abject silence that flowed through the Liberty Stadium for 90 minutes.
Graham Potter is no fool. His public marvelling at Farke’s work with Norwich and repayment on City’s investment in time and faith during a difficult first season, was as much for his benefit: look what’s happened there; given me the same here and I’ll give you the same final product.
That may well prove true of course. Potter is talented and he has an excellent club and group of players to work with – even this season. Some of their issues on Saturday were akin to those at Norwich in Farke’s first term.
But City’s patience was not the norm – meaning how the Swans’ top brass deal with this season will be intriguing.
6 – They are almost ahead of a curve
We all know the targets for success – and on Saturday, the Canaries got involved.
City’s 36 points from 18 games is officially two points per game – the widely held target for automatic promotion, as a season’s average. Which means Norwich really need to excel beyond that for when their run of form slows – or at least they need to if the promotion conversation this season is to be a serious one.
Saturday was also the first time City overtook their 2003-4 progress, when they had 34 points from 18 games – and went on to win the title.
The prospect of facing Hull, Rotherham and Bolton should represent a huge opportunity; although in reality that is not how the brain of a City fan works.
In direct conflict with all that, no one should be thinking Norwich are ‘doing a Wolves’ this season either. Wanderers already had 41 points after 18 games. Only keeping feet on the ground from here will keep the City pot bubbling from here.
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