In a tragic week where the footballing world came together and united as one, Norwich City delivered a similarly pride-inducing and evocative display of their own.
Daniel Farke’s side were rampant at Hillsborough, dismantling a perplexed Sheffield Wednesday and prompting chants from the travelling yellow army about this team’s parallels with Brazil and ‘sexy, sexy football’. For forty-five glorious second half minutes, this was Farkeball at its beautiful, brilliant best.
This was the type of performance that City fans have craved for so long, a fluid and seamless passing display that oozed aesthetic joy while being graced with a long-awaited sense of ruthlessness. During the second half, Wednesday’s defence found Farke’s attackers about as elusive as a Brexit deal.
The metronomic Moritz Leitner dictated, the bundle of energy that Emi Buendia represents twisted and turned, and the increasingly precocious Max Aarons resembled an indefatigable torpedo down the right-hand side. For the 2000 or so of us in the Leppings Lane End, this truly was a performance to savour.
City’s November away day hoodoo? Nonsense. Our inability to win at Hillsborough for seventeen years? Think again.
What we are witnessing this season is a team who do things differently, a group of players who never know when they are beaten and a squad that knows the intricacies of each other’s games inside out.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for City, however.
It was that tame, tame penalty effort from Mario Vrancic that set the tone for our first-half performance, a period in which Wednesday largely dominated and one where Farke’s players struggled to find their usual purpose and tempo.
For considerable spells, it just felt as though it was just going to be one of those days.
City toiled for those first forty-five minutes, visibly struggling to find their usual passing rhythm that has become such a marked feature of recent weeks. Leitner and Alex Tettey failed to dominate centrally. Vrancic, Buendia and Onel Hernandez were unable to click. Teemu Pukki was starved of any meaningful service.
The fact that City came through that first-half unscathed says so much about the character of this team.
Christoph Zimmerman, Timm Klose and Tim Krul defended their goal resolutely in the face of a Wednesday onslaught at times, maintaining a stalemate until the break that laid the foundations for that remarkable second-half. Following Vrancic’s miss, heads could have dropped. In this team, however? Not a chance.
What Farke told his players at half-time must have been nothing short of Churchillian. City were transformed once they started shooting towards their own supporters, beginning to assume the shape and style we have become so accustomed to watching over the past two months.
On Guy Fawkes weekend in South Yorkshire, this magnificent group of players began to deliver some footballing pyrotechnics of their own.
Leitner led the way, continually redistributing possession and seeking to create. Vrancic put what was a below-par first-half performance behind him and spread the play majestically. Meanwhile, the talismanic Pukki never stopped looking to run in behind and find pockets of space.
And then there was Aarons, City’s full-back sensation whose lung-busting run in the build up to Pukki’s second goal has become almost pervasively viewed on social media.
Once again, Aarons demonstrated a sense of maturity well beyond his years on Saturday afternoon, undertaking his defensive duties with solidity and providing a consistently potent threat going forward. Don’t be surprised if any of the big boys come knocking in January, City fans.
‘We are top of the league’ was the cry of the contingent of yellow and green foot soldiers, revelling in Sheffield United’s inability to get a result at Nottingham Forest. Despite Leeds’ victory at Wigan on Sunday lunchtime that saw us demoted to second – albeit only on goal difference – these really are memorable times that we all must cherish.
Granted, it wasn’t all perfect on Saturday and yes, Farke and his team took until half-time to fully find their characteristic rhythm, but what ultimately matters is that eventually they did. Wednesday barely had a sniff during that second-half, seemingly bamboozled by City’s darting movement off the ball and unerring ability to dictate the play on it.
Eighteen months on from Farke’s coining of the term, his players have now come of age as the protagonists on the pitch he promised us all last May.
This run is showing no signs of stopping. City’s next fixtures read Millwall at home, Swansea and Hull away, followed by Rotherham and Bolton back at Carrow Road. Could fifteen points be viable? Without trying to let irrational intoxication take over, it’s difficult to see any reason why not.
But the season remains in its early stages. City – and the rest of their competitors – still have two-thirds of their Championship games to play, and, with such a youthful and inexperienced squad, the extent to which this team can sustain this sort of form will be fascinating to monitor.
We all wait with bated breath.
For the time being, however, we must simply enjoy the sumptuous football we’re being treated to. This team are playing with a sense of rhythm and togetherness we’re yet to have witnessed for a long time. Fans are united. Farke is becoming collectively more adored by the day.
On a tragic week for football, City reminded us all of just why we love this beautiful, marvellous game.
Header Photo – Jake Mann