11 days after the initial game, Norwich headed to Stamford Bridge in hope of causing a seismic shock in West London.
The game plan would remain the same, a solid unit keen to frustrate the hosts and seek to exploit the pace of Josh Murphy on the counter attack. Without the defensive protection usually provided by Alex Tettey and Tom Trybull, Norwich operated as a tighter unit, with the aim to force Chelsea into alternate passing styles.
This encounter seemed to lean in the favour of Daniel Farke’s philosophy being better tailored to the division above. From the physicality of the backline to the visible togetherness, this was a night for all those who follow Norwich City from all corners of the globe to be visibly proud of their side.
The adaption to potentially dangerous situations was seamless during the first half. A lapse of concentration halted 145 minutes without conceding against the Premier League champions. The application of the game plan was relentless in regards to enthusiasm and effort, but the implications could be season defining as Daniel Farke opted for a strong starting line up.
This was more than an individual player or the division amongst supporters surrounding the ownership, this was a performance emboding togetherness, belief and pride. Nobody mentioned transition, philosophy or patience as Jamal Lewis’ header kissed the back of the net; this was a football club who have been conflicted on key themes being united on the topic that matters, football.
That Timm Klose cross and that Jamal Lewis header was determination personified.
Psychologically, they were fatigued and physically they gave their all. That moment was euphoric and displays the level of character and resilience present in this current group of players. Even with departures to key protagonists and a head coach desperately lacking resources, Norwich performed valiantly.
This was quite some feat for a group still finding their footing in the Championship.
Pride is the overriding emotion. This club has been wedged apart with off field politics and the disappointment of player sales, but anyone who can attach themselves to Norwich City will be satisfied with the level of performance from their side on Wednesday evening.
This game can be filed alongside Arsenal.
With a gruelling Championship schedule, opting to field his strongest eleven may prove costly as Sheffield United visit Carrow Road on Saturday.
Yet, with a severely depleted squad, Farke was reliant on fatigued players, both psychologically and physically, to endure another dosage of football. One which would play out over a lengthy period of time.
The character of this squad was unwavering throughout the fixture, and the away end was filled with bedlam and as Lewis headed home in the dying embers of the game, that goal reinforced the togetherness present both on the pitch and in the stands.
This maybe the embroynic stages of Operation Farke, but with the frameworks and apparatus being slowly constructed, the future is suddenly looking considerably brighter.
This wasn’t about one player nor was it about one head coach. The team believed in the plan and applied it with meticulous precision. Many would have played it safe with an eye to Saturday’s fixture, not Farke. He dared to dream, and he took City supporters on that dream with him.
His brave decisions and tactical nous is hard not to conform with. Admittedly, the early periods of his reign were compounded with culture shocks but even in the heat of external pressure, he is constructing a side on a shoestring.
This wasn’t an aging side using experience and guile to negotiate a tricky cup tie, it was a youthful and inexperienced team applying a game plan conjured up by an astute head coach. Suddenly, Norwich is graced with an influx of youth ranging from James Maddison to Todd Cantwell.
Yet with the hosts creating various subplots including a diving epidemic. Norwich remained concentrated and focused throughout, and that was another pleasing characteristic of a side keen to leave the antics to the big boys.
The manner in which Christoph Zimmermann commanded his third of the pitch resembled a former Chelsea captain in his more fruitful days. Who knew Zimmermann would mould into such a colossus for the Canaries? This is a man who was operating in the fourth tier of German football last campaign.
Outstanding at the Emirates and he provided evidence of his quality once more in West London. Zimmermann, similarly to his compatriot Trybull, epitomises everything this new regime is about. Importing players who are considered a risk on a low budget and relying on a will to perform for the football club for upward mobility.
Even Mario Vrancic, a player who received the brunt of the Norwich fanbase following a period of adaption and lacklustre performances seems to be blossoming. His range of passing is technically outstanding, his physicality improving and his defensive positioning unrecognisable. Improved.
Witnessing Norwich’s desire to maintain to this ball playing philosophy was pleasing. The DNA of Farke’s football was visible throughout, even when Norwich was chasing the game.
There were areas of discretion however; Harrison Reed’s wandering in the first period left Norwich’s defensive shape exposed and stretched. Even as the game progressed, Norwich were comfortable and confident whilst in possession, playing with swagger and arrogance at the home of the champions.
Question marks will remain of Nelson Oliveira’s commitment to the cause despite a pleasing 90 minutes.
Finally, a word on Jamal Lewis. This is a man who, at 19 years of age, continues to develop into a consistent and mature footballer. His confidence and self awareness whilst in possession of the football is a rarity for a man of his age. He fully deserved his goal and possesses the talent to be a key protagonist in this side for years to come.
It’s difficult to remind yourself he has played in just six senior matches.
Sure, this may have implications further down the line in regards to fitness and performance, but perform as they did tonight, and this season is far from finished for the Canaries.
They may struggle on Saturday, but let’s enjoy this performance.