Home joys, knitting and no need for Blue Monday – Six things learned from City’s victory over Birmingham
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After a near-perfect weekend for Norwich City in the Championship promotion race, David Freezer takes a look at six key Canaries talking points.
1 – No need for Blue Monday
Today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, known as Blue Monday – but not for Canaries fans.
It's the last Monday morning before the long wait until pay day ends, for most people, but after a dream weekend it's unlikely City supporters will be feeling too glum.
The novelty value of being able to watch the other Championship scores roll in with three points already in the bank was already nice – but then Leeds lost at Stoke, keeping Daniel Farke's team just a point from top spot.
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At the same time, fifth-placed Middlesbrough dropped two points at home to Millwall and Ipswich stayed rock bottom after a 2-0 loss at Blackburn, despite Paul Lambert's desperate charm offensive.
Then it got even better as third-placed Sheffield United lost 1-0 at Swansea in the day's late kick-off, to stay three points adrift of Norwich. If Bolton can deny West Brom a win tonight as well, then it truly will be Yellow Monday in 2019.
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2 – Marco the knitting champion
No, not at knitting jumpers to survive the winter cold, it's knitting City's midfield play together where Marco Stiepermann is proving so important.
The German's rebirth as an influential figure for Farke has already been well documented but that influence was clear as Stiepermann returned from injury, having limped off after 20 minutes of the 1-1 draw at Brentford on New Year's Day.
The 27-year-old brings the best out of Teemu Pukki and knits City's attacking play together in an unorthodox manner, with his strength and speed of thought causing problems for opponents.
The superb lofted pass that Onel Hernandez wasted at the start of the second half, sending the winger clean through on goal, was nothing short of sublime and deserved to be an assist.
Stiepermann has become a vital part of the spine of this Canaries team – which still has Timm Klose and Mo Leitner to return yet as well.
3 – Pukki set to surpass big names
There were some excited Finnish fans looking forward to seeing Teemu Pukki in action – and they weren't disappointed.
The striker's overall displays may have been slightly less impressive recently but with Stiepermann back in full flow it was no surprise to see the Finn back to his best, with a typical poacher's goal, sandwiched by two other near misses in the first half.
It's a superb 16 goals in 25 league games now, with 11 of them in his last 13 – causing plenty of worried looks as he slid off the pitch in pain after nearly clattering an advertising hoarding.
Fortunately Pukki was fine to continue and keep running the channels to fine effect – with his strike moving him level with the 16 league goals Cameron Jerome managed in 2016-17, who scored 20 in the successful 2014-15 campaign.
He looks likely to pass the 19 of Robert Earnshaw (2006-07) and Iwan Roberts (1998-99) and at this rate he may even surpass Grant Holt's 21 of the 2010-11 promotion season.
4 – Relief that Emi will be okay
Two assists and a key pass inside 39 minutes – there's not much more Emi Buendia could have done to help City bring an end to their run of four league games without a victory.
The Argentine attacker was the star of the show before limping off, 10 minutes after an awful tackle from Maikel Kieftenbeld which should have earned the Birmingham midfielder a red card.
It was the latest attempt from the Blues to stop the Canaries' creative force, who had freed Jamal Lewis ahead of the left-back's cross for Pukki's goal.
His switch to Max Aarons before teeing up Mario Vrancic contributed to City reclaiming the lead and then a delightful corner gave Tom Trybull an easy header for 3-1 – with Farke thankfully confirming a dead leg which shouldn't be too problematic.
It's 10 assists and three goals from 26 games in all competitions for Buendia now, as City fans enjoy seeing a young talent flourishing into a top-level player.
5 – Control is good sign for run-in
One defeat in 16 matches. Just let that sink in.
The Canaries have lost just one league game since being beaten 1-0 by Stoke on October 6 – and that was because of an unfortunate Timm Klose own goal, three and a half months ago.
The 4-3 home loss to Derby in December is the only taste of Championship defeat since then, yet there were definitely nerves creeping in after one win in six matches, despite very decent draws at Brentford and West Brom.
Now the first win of 2019 is safely in the bag, that 'wobble' of seven points from a possible 18 suddenly becomes an unbeaten three-game run – and still crucially averaging just under two points a game.
To win by two clear goals for just the third time this season at Carrow Road was hugely important as well, with Farke admitting a more pragmatic approach in the second half made sure of the win over the Blues, showing the sort of control that successful teams need.
6 – It's raining goals for home fans
As entertaining as the spoof video the Canaries have released to sell season tickets is, supporters don't need too much persuading to head to Carrow Road at the moment.
Scoring at least three goals for a sixth successive home game is impressive by anyone's standards and last season's paltry total of 25 goals from 23 home league games has already been beaten, with 29 scored in 14.
Keep up that return and Farke's impressive team may even have a shot at the club record in the second tier, of 55, managed during 2016-17.
According to the reliable @NCFCnumbers account on Twitter it's the first time since 1962-63 that a Canaries team have scored three goals in six consecutive Carrow Road games.
Of course the only real stat that matters right now is the three-point gap to third place, as belief that a Premier League return might be possible grows – but you can't beat entertainment for a happy home atmosphere.