Paddy Davitt verdict: Do City believe they belong with the gilded elite?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
To paraphrase one of Daniel Farke’s most cutting comments since he arrived at Norwich City it is about more than the Premier League badge on the sleeve.
Nelson Oliveira got short shrift, and a verbal barb or three fired in his direction, when he vented his frustration at being overlooked for the German’s first competitive game in charge.
That ended better for Farke than it did the talented yet temperamental Portuguese international forward.
Farke has since guided Norwich to two Championship titles, and a fresh tilt at the Premier League. He is onto his third contract that could see him become the club’s longest-serving manager.
His latest incarnation on the pitch emerged into the noise and the pomp of a 51,000 crowd paying homage to the champions of England.
As the teams lined up, and the fireworks crackled above the stadium, those Norwich players nervously surveying the scene in this sporting coliseum could have been forgiven for thinking this is football, but not as they know it.
Certainly a long, long way from Adams Park, and grinding out an away victory in front of empty stands.
That was the location last season of another remorseless Championship win from Farke’s squad a day or so after Manchester City’s legendary boss, Pep Guardiola, had first revealed he has a soft spot for the German and his pleasing-on-the-eye team.
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Now they inhabit the same league there was no such sentiment or benevolence displayed, once the fireworks faded and that first whistle sounded. It was a ruthless demonstration of the gulf in quality, financial power but also mindset.
Norwich’s players have the same Premier League branding on their shirt sleeves as Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and the rest. Now they have to show they actually believe they belong in such exalted company.
Not perhaps to pull off a repeat of one of the modern day shocks they achieved when the clubs met at Carrow Road in September 2019, on a day when the famous old stadium shook to its very foundations. But to prove this time around they can compete, and they deserve respect at this unforgiving level.
Norwich's squad can call themselves Premier League players if they wish, but after Liverpool and Manchester City exposed some glaring early flaws the questions will only persist for how long?
City’s summer outlay is small change to the Citizens, yet there is still an expectation they will not fold quite so compliantly when feet are held to the fire.
The defensive abdication, both individually and collectively, the lapses in concentration, and the poor decision-making, will have irked Farke far more than the final outcome most expected.
A rare yellow card shown to the Norwich head coach, as the hosts added a fourth and then a fifth goal, signalled the level of his frustration.
Dimi Giannoulis was hooked at the break after being tormented by Gabriel Jesus in a defining early barrage. You could point to hard luck stories in the manner Grant Hanley’s desperate clearance spiralled up against Tim Krul’s shoulder.
Or how Grealish seemingly knew little about his first repayment on that mammoth fee when Jesus’ cross struck him at the far post. But that would be generous in the extreme.
Bali Mumba initially acquitted himself much better than the Greek international, but was also exposed by the Brazilian, and later Riyad Mahrez.
Although Mumba’s two senior centre backs did nothing to provide an extra layer of insurance to a young man thrust into deep water.
Farke was strident in his post-match words; both towards certain players and the overall deficiencies he felt Norwich could have controlled far better. To concede four goals from the same page of the Manchester City playbook - highlighted all week in the build up - reflects poorly on coaches and players alike.
There is mitigation from an horrendous pre-season, and there are innumerable aspects of playing a Liverpool or a Manchester City when they are in this mood that can also be forgiven. But self-inflicted errors are not one of those.
A midweek League Cup tie against Bournemouth affords Farke a chance to shuffle his pack, to blood many of his summer signings from the start, and to harness some winning momentum for the Premier League visit of Leicester City.
But when they emerge against the Foxes this coming weekend, and those selected glance at that Premier League badge on their sleeve, they have to set about offering more tangible proof they truly believe.
As individuals and a football club Norwich have earned the right to be on the same pitches as these superstars and social media brands.
To bridge the chasm will require the Canaries shed any vestiges of a lingering inferiority complex.