Anyone for a statement?
Norwich City are rapidly becoming contenders this season and this game was a graphic illustration of their ever growing confidence.
This game, with all of its peaks and troughs, proved why Norwich are flying at present. Forced to ride a wave for periods of the fixture, Norwich had to ensure their defensive behaviour was meticulous and were required to control proceedings without the ball.
Make no mistake, this wasn’t an easy fixture.
Swansea are progressing nicely under Graham Potter’s stewardship. They resemble the Norwich visible to all last season. They retained possession successfully without making significant inroads. Prior to the introduction of Wilfred Bony, which altered the Swans approach, they were largely lateral and offensively unproductive.
This was a fixture played out between two sides who want to operate using similar methodology whilst attempting to construct a culture which shows a drastic step change in approach.
Winning would come down to who could perform this methodology better; a simple glance at the scoreline will reveal who did.
The game resembled a strategic game of chess in the opening exchanges. Swansea set the tone and attempted to construct some cunning moves in order to displace Norwich’s defensive pieces, yet it was Norwich who moved with pace and intelligence against the run of play to gain an advantage.
Norwich were the like a cat, stalking a mouse before pouncing and inflicting the killer blow.
Swansea attempted to compact the spaces in which Norwich were playing, and initally, this led to an abundance of turnovers in the home side’s favour.
After Norwich’s opening goal however, the complexion of the game transitioned so Norwich grasped the mantle and asserted their philosophy onto proceedings more successfully.
Suddenly, they were working out of these tight spaces, adopting one and two touch football whilst breaking Swansea’s press on numerous occassions.
Defending against the ball is a topic Norwich have drastically improved on in recent times.
Deployment of their philosophical approach to the game is reliant on possessing the ball for extensive periods, but there was spells in this fixture where Norwich had to control proceedings without the ball.
Breaking up play through fouling opponents or simply being resilient and condensed form the foundation of which Norwich can build on with aesthetic, slick and intelligent football.
In terms of gauging how Norwich could respond to their newfound pressures placed upon them by their league standing, this game felt significant.
Culture has become a buzzword used throughout football.
It’s something that Norwich have sought to construct after the embarked on a bold, brave new voyage headed up by Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke.
There’s a common misconception that culture relates to philosophy and the two are inexplicably linked somehow.
Development of a culture regards the formation of a set of DNA which the club is built from, it’s a progressive footballing approach being championed by the FA. Methodologies and processes are becoming more evident at Norwich City as every fixture passes.
Ultimately, comparison to last season is futile, but for contextualisation, it’s important to appreciate the process Norwich have undergone to sit, deservedly, at the summit of the divison.
The culture of the club should be engrained with that set of DNA from the top of the club to the very bottom, at Norwich, merely witnessing a squad of players that consists of global talent and academy graduates reinforces one aspect of this newfound culture being installed by those occupying the corridors of power.
The limited financial muscle power means they have to maximise resources. Ultimately, this results in astute recruitment and an emphasis on youthful exuberance by churning out young talent on a consistent basis.
Culture isn’t something to be rammed down the throats of everyone at the club, but simply used as a platform to rubber stamp the club with a set of ethos that is used as a reference point.
That culture is formed on working with integrity, resilience and togetherness.
Reference of the culture is important to consider because of the impact it has on a wider field, to supporters and the mood music created.
Currently, the atmosphere around the club is jubilant and buoyant.
Something feels different about the way this Norwich City side is being received by its supporters, the bond is emotional naturally, but they connect on a wholly different level because of their relatibilty, aesthetic football and appreciation of what it means to represent the club.
That’s embedded in them by the constructed culture, and that’s why Norwich needed definition, because they were becoming a club disconnected and based on hierarchy.
Recollection of that initial period under Alex Neil illustrates this shift somewhat. Norwich surged up the table under the Scotsman, culminating in promotion at Wembley but it simply didn’t emit the same mood music as the current team are managing.
That success was dipped in expectancy and served on a bed of higher financial power.
This time, Norwich aren’t conforming to the status quo, something which could have been attractive once more had they opted to remove Farke from office after last season.
They are bucking the trend. Proving that money doesn’t need to be the only way of achieving success. Results are beginning to be evident following the significance step change.
What’s more, this side lacks ego or reliance on a super star, they are simply a well-oiled piece of clockwork, designed to succinctly carry out Farke’s methods and dismantle sides using intellect.
Discussion of Swansea’s defending for the third of City’s goals belittles how beautifully crafted it was.
The differentiation in passing, intelligent off the ball movement before a marauding run from young Max Aarons followed by a sublime pass executed with aplomb is tapped in by Marco Steipermann. Pep Guardiola would had have been proud to orchestrate that goal.
That style of deconstructing defensive shapes has become synonymous with this Norwich side.
The theory element of Farke’s philosophy is becoming more evident with every passing week. Some of Norwich’s passages of play were breathtakingly beautiful, but all performed with modesty and quietness.
Under the radar they are no more but that’s something to be embraced, not feared. Simply because the national press refuse to provide Norwich with appropriate coverage, that doesn’t nor shouldn’t make, this season any less significant.
Emi Buendia is blossoming into one of the best players in the divison.
His technical quality is unquestionable and there for everyone to witness, his intelligence on the ball coupled with his weight of pass and creativity makes him a major protagonist for Norwich’s offensive quality.
However, it’s his physicailty, endeavour and tactical awareness that is equally as impressive.
Buendia runs relentlessly but also offers coverage for players who commit to offensive phases of play. He is contributing to goals and assists whilst leaving Wes Hoolahan as a distant memory.
All of this is astounding, but more so when his age is added to the equation. At 21 years of age, his future is in his hands in regards to how much he kicks on and develops but there is so much potential in those boots.
Teemu Pukki is an unbelievably integral part to Norwich’s philosophy, and not merely because he sticks the ball in the back on the net.
His game is more intellectual than that.
The manner in which he occupies the space between opposing centre backs and full backs emphasises his intelligence on the pitch. This provides Norwich with an option to play in behind but he also has the ability to play in front of those defenders, thus inviting Norwich’s wide operators to run beyond.
His spatial awareness and manipulation not only creates space for himself, but instructs others to respond to it. His colleagues are forced to rethink positioning and that results in more coherent attacking phases.
He will never possess the ability to compete with the more physical defensive operators in this league, but when you’re quick, both physically and mentally then strength need not enter the equation.
This club was heading for the doldrums. Apathy, disappointment and disconnect were feelings becoming all too familiar to supporters, some even choosing not to renew season tickets and declaring their love affair was becoming increasingly strained.
Being a Norwich City supporter marries with unpredictability, so when they find themselves in the midst of a positive period, whereby the club sit at the summit of the division, they need to enjoy it.
Supporters should allow themselves to be carried away by the glorious football on display coupled with an affiliation growing stronger with every passing game. It hasn’t been easy, and the endurance of poor performances makes this all the more sweeter.
Norwich City are on the rise, massing a unrelenting amount of points in the process. Whatever happens, disappointment and apathy have been replaced by excitement and hope.
There’s miles to go, but something special feels as though it’s building rapidly at Norwich City.
This side will dictate their own outcome, and fate will equal itself out in the end, but that bond between the current crop and supporters appears unbreakable, that’s something to celebrate.