Winning every week isn’t an option but, if any promotion charge is to be mounted, it’s integral that you avoid defeat in games where you underperform.
Given the nature of Norwich’s positive form, forgiveness can be awarded to them, naturally, there was going to be a blip at some point. With flu infecting a majority of performers, the sense with this fixture is that it was one for Norwich to get through unscathed rather than excel, perhaps.
The Championship is a rigorous and enduring division, one full of peaks and troughs.
Some could have been excused for thinking there was an invincibility around this squad of players, their late winners against Millwall and Bolton just emphasise how integral determination and holding a never say die attitude is. Resilience personified, when the clock ticks down to its conclusion, they don’t panic but tweak and adapt.
Tactical adaptations won Norwich a point.
Daniel Farke’s introduction of Onel Hernandez encouraged Bristol City to drop deeper, Jordan Rhodes gave Norwich an offensive edge in the box they lacked previously.
Consideration for their away record this season is integral to emphasising the achievement to date. The only fixture where they’ve returned to Norfolk empty handed is Sheffield United, and the nature of that was highly preventable.
There is a level of expectancy that the players have constructed now due to them relentlessly performing and winning games.
However, performing at maximum capacity every week is impossible.
Cliché states something about league campaigns being enduring marathons rather than short sprints. Sometimes, you have to find a result in an ugly fashion, it’s a testament to their mentality and ability to adapt what they can do. Ultimately any success in this division is reliant upon picking up points against the odds.
Patently, Norwich struggled.
In midfield, there were cheap concessions in possession with Moritz Leitner’s absence pertinent once again. Defensively, they lacked presence and leadership, Timm Klose’s injury didn’t help. Offensively, they lacked their usual fluidity and intricacy. It just wasn’t their day.
Norwich City of old would have rolled over and accepted their fate.
After Bristol City went in front, Norwich’s youthful nature seemed exposed. There was a vulnerability about how they responded, make no mistake, they were on the ropes waiting for the haymaker to arrive.
But they dug in.
Any definitions of them this season will include their strong mentality and resilience, one which has been constructed from the togetherness that is so critical to their on-pitch performances. Possessing technical ability is merely one characteristic required, but sometimes the size of your heart and depth of your reserve can win you points on their own, for Norwich, this was the case.
That earmarks a good side, one which can operate in lower gears but is still not capable of being defeated.
When operating at the top end of the league, sides inevitably raise their games, Bristol City restricted how Norwich dictated the game with a constant and intense high press. Lee Johnson is a progressive English coach, and his tactics exposed the Canaries for extensive periods.
From goal kicks, they strangled the game, ensuring the pitch was as minimal as humanly possible. It wasn’t just pressing in space, but also man for man. Norwich conceded possession in poor areas due to their commitment to pressing high alongside why Norwich was responsible for a high volume of fouls.
Naturally, most will elect to pinpoint Norwich’s lack of steam as opposed to their opponent’s energy and bravery.
Similarly to Bolton, their approach was offensive as they were intent on enforcing their methodology onto the game as opposed to allowing Norwich to assert theirs and gain control by setting the rhythm of proceedings. It wasn’t just a direct game aimed towards Famara Diedhiou, but they made it a full-throttled, intense Championship affair.
Tim Krul has proved himself to be a divisive figure amongst supporters.
Unlike the majority of signings in the last two seasons, Krul was a name Norwich supporters did recognise. Expectation marries with his name in that sense, supporters witnessed his penalty saving exploits in the World Cup and performances for Newcastle in the Premier League; they expected him to still be the same goalkeeper.
In many aspects, he is.
A dominating and commanding presence, Krul is the component that allows Norwich’s youthful operators to play with a clear head. His experience is a desirable factor, but also his shot stopping, one which has kept Norwich in multiple games.
On the flip side, Krul has made errors – like every player on the pitch. At the end of the day, he dons yellow and green, that alone should be enough to warrant the support. He does need to improve, that’s glaringly obvious, but those in front of him do need to protect him more at points.
Criticism for the opening Bristol City goal is harsh.
The initial shot takes a deflection and he’s wrong-footed, to shift momentum and get any sort of contact on the ball is impressive in itself. It’s time to show Krul show support, he’s just as important as anyone.
Prior to this season beginning, it’s fair to say it was viewed as a blank canvas.
Few questioned whether Norwich had the colours necessary to paint an established, award-winning painting. Last season, they proved they had the brush strokes and talent in bits that could lead to them achieving something unforeseen.
Games like Saturday merely highlight the journey Norwich are embarking on, they don’t possess the depth of resources, but they do have quality. That won’t always shine through in this league, but so long as they maintain their philosophy and self-confidence, they will overcome challenges.
Whether they’ve conceded top spot and who to is irrelevant, so long as they sustain that gap between themselves and the third spot is the most important thing.
Context is key, nobody anticipated Norwich being in this position.
Looking beyond the next fixture is a futile task but as supporters, there is a natural inclination to regardless. Should Derby beat Nottingham Forest on Monday evening, that gap will be reduced to four points. Leeds travel to in-form Villa next Saturday, a tough fixture for anybody.
Response to this fixture is key and will graphically illustrate how deep Norwich’s willingness for success is.
If they can avoid defeat, they will head into Christmas in the top two.