Farke's fury, the Norfolk Pirlo and record breakers - six things learned from City's vital victory at Leeds
PUBLISHED: 12:01 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:01 04 February 2019
After a potentially season-defining success at Leeds, David Freezer takes a look at some of the key talking points following Norwich City's 3-1 victory at Elland Road.
1 – Farke set the tone of great night
Let’s kick-off with a perhaps surprising statistic. City had just 37 percent of possession as they won 3-1 at Leeds, their lowest total of the entire season so far.
While that confirms control of possession is not the be all and end all, it also shows just how hard the Canaries had to work to emerge from the noise of a sold-out Elland Road with three points which could prove pivotal.
In comparison, winning 26 tackles was the most City had managed all season – as the magnificent Tom Trybull and Mario Vrancic proved once and for all that they have cracked the English code.
That determination was made clear by Daniel Farke just 15 minutes in, with the Canaries already leading 1-0, when a poor touch from Onel Hernandez in his own box nearly gave Leeds a chance.
The head coach snapped in anger, turning and kicking a water bottle. He wanted this scalp, badly, and his players responded. Their reward? Back on top of the table for the first time in two months.
2 – Norfolk Pirlo is in super form
Before this top-of-the-table encounter many City fans were wondering if the muscle of the fit-again Alex Tettey would be needed in midfield at Elland Road – but Farke stuck with Vrancic and Trybull for the battle.
Two goals and an assist in a display dripping with class from Vrancic proved City’s boss made the correct call.
The 29-year-old is in quite wonderful form, earning him a shot at the PFA Fans’ Championship Player of the Month for January and a place in WhoScored.com’s team of the month as well.
Both of his goals at Leeds may have benefitted from deflections, with his shot blocked into Teemu Pukki’s path kindly, but the former Paderborn midfielder more than earned his good fortune.
Seven goals and six assists from 23 league games has made Vrancic a vital part of this high-flying team, stepping up crucially after Mo Leitner’s injury, but it was the crunching tackle which led to City’s first goal that really framed his improvements.
3 – Armband is suiting big Zimbo
The captain’s armband is fitting rather snugly on the big bicep of Farke’s trusted lieutenant Christoph Zimmermann. His stint as stand-in skipper may even be taking the centre-back’s game to a new level.
It was a third game on the spin that the German was captain and the determination of two blocks in particular showed Zimmermann was a man on a mission.
He chucked his body in the way of an Adam Forshaw blast in the 34th minute and 60 seconds later Teemu Pukki had put City 2-0 ahead. He repeated the bravery two minutes before the break when charging down a powerful Kemar Roofe shot.
From demanding more from his colleagues, to forcing Tim Krul away from trouble as handbags were swinging at full-time, Zimmermann was a leader.
After exposing his ripped torso in the celebrations that followed, Canaries fans can appreciate just how hard he is working to succeed.
4 – Canaries are record breakers
Oh what fun it is to see Norwich play away...
City only needed to avoid defeat in north Yorkshire to set a new club record of 13 unbeaten away league games – so to beat title rivals 3-1 and reclaim top spot wrote this team’s names into the NCFC record books in style.
That narrow 2-1 defeat at Sheffield United in August, because of an injury-time Billy Sharp goal, is still the only league loss away from home for Farke’s squad, claiming a league high of 28 points from 15 games.
While that record has been taken from Alex Neil’s 2015 side, the Scot’s team did go 14 in all competitions, leaving a fresh target – ironically enough, against Neil’s Preston next week.
The fewest away defeats in a season in the club’s history is four, managed by Paul Lambert’s promotion side of 2010-11 so avoiding defeat in six of the remaining eight away games is needed for that one. I certainly wouldn’t bet against the away day kings doing just that.
5 – Marco has won hearts and minds
In the aftermath of City’s triumph, I posted on the Pink Un Facebook page asking supporters to describe midfielder Marco Stiepermann in one word.
The German was the latest victim, sorry, focus, of our NCFC player watch so you can click here for a full review of Stiepermann’s performance – but I thought you might enjoy seeing some of those answers.
Here is just a few from over 60 suggestions: Tenacious, tank, magnificent, key, God, quality, immense, machine, gladiator, beast, incredible, colossus, baller, awesome, revelation and wunderbar!
All good fun after another excellent display from the 27-year-old but also, I have to give a special mention to this post from Robin Stuart.
It’s not one word, but one that fans of 90s music will really enjoy: “Rhythm is a dancer. Stiepermann’s the answer. You can play him anywhere. He can be defensive, midfield or offensive. On the ball or in the air.”
6 – Hold your horses for derby day
For all the brilliance of this weekend, allow me to play devil’s advocate and paint a nightmare scenario...
City could be third by the time the derby kicks off at Carrow Road on Sunday, if Sheffield United win at Villa on Friday and Leeds bounce back with victory at Boro.
Slip on that huge banana skin against Town and then lose an undoubtedly tough match against Alex Neil’s Preston three days later and this weekend’s joy will soon feel a bit silly. I’m not trying to be negative but merely emphasising nothing is settled with 16 games left.
Two successive defeats will see this yellow balloon burst with a painful bang, so there’s absolutely no room for any over-confidence.
Now is the time to dig even deeper, put the pedal to the floor and make the most of a wonderful opportunity against Paul Lambert’s desperate Ipswich side – with City having more than three times as many points (57) as the Tractor Boys (18) before the battle begins.