Rewind two fixtures, and confidence in this Norwich City side was rapidly diminishing.
However, after recording their first back-to-back victories since the beginning of the year, suddenly an injection of positivity and self-assurance is visible within this team. Quite the transformation considering the manner at which Leeds United dismantled a Norwich side comfortable with being second best only three games prior to this victory.
The tirade of criticism that landed at Daniel Farke’s doorstep after that defeat was justified considering the way City waited for their opponents to pounce and it was a case of damaged limitation.
Despite those question marks increasing around Farke and his team, the last two performances have extracted the qualities Norwich supporters wish to consume on a regular basis.
Offensive productivity but also doggedness and resilience are characteristics Norwich have discovered which have contributed to the improvement in performances. Similarly, to that positive run they embarked on last season, it has been built upon a foundation of hard work and togetherness.
Buendía and Aarons on the right.
Cantwell and Lewis on the left.
Daniel Farke is getting it right with the kids, and they’re paying him back. #ncfc
— Michael Bailey (@michaeljbailey) September 19, 2018
Norwich now possess a self-confidence that wasn’t evident prior to the international hiatus. Considering the youthful complexion of this team, they are currently getting results that match the effort on the pitch.
Teemu Pukki is the man spearheading operations currently, favoured to prolific Championship striker Jordan Rhodes, that in itself speaks volumes.
Yet his tireless pressing, his quality in the final third and ability to get beyond defensive lines with his pace results in a constant headache for those defenders having to operate against him. Pukki exudes confidence, Norwich have lacked a player of his ilk for years.
He encapsulates the exact direction this project wants to explore; a foreign exploit, signed for little but produces match winning moments in the heat of battle in the Championship.
Pukki has been a revelation.
Bottle his energy and the manner he selflessly works for the benefit of his team mates, he is a man bang in form and constantly improving.
When you also consider the minimal fanfare his arrival into NR1 was marked with, coupled with the mostly negative reviews from old employers, namely Celtic, Pukki’s impact has been nothing short of astounding if not unprecedented.
Worth noting his body shape as he caressed the ball into the corner as well. Pukki almost adjusts his shape so it’s facing the opposing touchline and bends the ball with care. It was poetry in motion and right now, when Pukki is provided with a sniff of goal, he grabs it with both hands.
With injuries mounting to key players, Farke has opted to provide opportunities for Emi Buendia, Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell over safer, more experienced operators.
Norwich’s wide areas contained plenty of youthful endeavour but also raw materials, but it remained to be seen whether they could operate successfully in conjunction during both offensive and defensive phases of play.
In Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons, Norwich have players who are psychologically resilient but also simplify the game to its basics. That is what has made their emergence so successful, because they’ve played with expression but also a recognition of the step up in quality.
Todd Cantwell is the next academy product to roll off the production line. The boy from Dereham will have been determined to emulate the success of his aforementioned colleagues and nail down a starting berth of his own in Onel Hernandez’ absence.
Cantwell’s role requires risk taking and a different use of the ball in possession.
He is one of the players tasked with deconstructing defensive structures and creating opportunities, so talk of overplaying and not operating simply will be emphasised by some. Instead, the manner at which he played through Pukki with a delightful weight of pass coupled with his performance late should be highlighted but also means retaining his position for Norwich’s trip to QPR on Saturday should, deservedly, follow.
For all of the criticism aimed towards Farke, his enthusiasm to include academy prospects and young players will benefit Norwich as they progress into the future.
Farke arrived as a proven educator at one of Europe’s best clubs, and although Norwich have struggled to progress over his as a collective during his tenure, it’s simple to handpick numerous case studies of individual improvement which displays Farke’s undisputable coaching ability.
Teemu Pukki makes scoring half chances look easy. We have unearthed a gem that suits are system perfectly #ncfc
— Little Norwich (@littlenorwich) September 19, 2018
When Stuart Webber arrived, he witnessed a support base feeling distanced from it’s starting eleven. The inclusion of academy prospects, and all the excitement that arrives with it, will only bridge that gap in the short term.
They have rewarded Farke’s bravery. Risk-taking in management can be a dangerous game, yet by deploying youngsters coupled with experienced heads seems to be providing equilibrium and upward mobility for this Norwich side, whilst ensuring the Canary nation fall back on board with the project.
It was scrappy. For extensive periods in the second half, Norwich opted to defend too deep, too early and were punished when Reading capitalised on that. However, the mental strength displayed hereafter to dust themselves off and regroup before netting only 64 seconds after displays the maturity of this City side, albeit if not in age.
Marco Stiepermann has become somewhat of a revelation.
Stiepermann despite glimpses of his ability last season, but he has undoubtedly settled into a position in which he is comfortable and used his physicality and simplicity on the ball to his advantage. His powerful surges from midfield are providing Norwich with an altogether different dimension and having ball players around him is certainly enhancing his game.
Lets pray this is a period of prolonged performance from Stiepermann and not simply a peak in his efforts.
Top half! 12th feels about right at the moment. Based on the opening 8 games (normally a decent gauge), not good enough for top 6; too good for bottom 6. But, back-to-back wins is encouraging. #ncfc
— Das Finz (@JamesFinbow) September 19, 2018
From that point, whereby Mario Vrancic reintroduced his quality onto the Championship stage, Norwich controlled proceedings with excellent game management. Negotiating fouls and breaking up the momentum of the game ensured that both the clock wound down and Reading couldn’t get another foothold in the game.
Credit to Farke, the changes he made influenced proceedings accordingly.
Mario Vrancic scored the winner, Tom Trybull personified calm and control as he retained possession and maintained his position to provide a stability that Norwich should have taken more of an advantage of.
Even the decision to bring on Jordan Rhodes was efficient management. He won corners and provided Norwich with an out ball to release any mounting pressure.
Overall, a job well done and one to get punters back on side.
Norwich have a chance to build serious momentum and change the manner of which their start of the season is viewed by consumers. A win at Loftus Road would symbolise a real turning of a corner, but considering it’s the first league away win of 2018, it will be savoured, and rightly so.