Paddy Davitt verdict: From youthful vigour to Premier League rigour. A path well-travelled for Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 12:13 01 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:15 01 September 2019
A Premier League pause is a perfect chance to assess how far Norwich City have come.
Not from the muck and nettles of last season's Championship to the big league in a gloriously unexpected, gravity-defying leap.
Not even as a club, from choppy financial waters through a series of chief executives and managerial changes striving for the right path.
Just look at the Canaries' rise through the footballing paths of four young men.
In this very week two seasons ago Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons were lining up for City's development side in a 2-0 league win against their Stoke counterparts, in front of a handful of diehards at Carrow Road.
Jamal Lewis was still three months from a first team debut under Daniel Farke, while Ben Godfrey was trying to impress on loan at Shrewsbury in an EFL Cup tie at Coventry City.
Now they are Premier League footballers playing in front of 60,000 people against a forward three West Ham assembled for a conservatively estimated price tag north of £90m.
Farke and his coaching staff might sit and lick their wounds over the international break but all four will be representing the Young Lions, or in Lewis' case, preparing for another leading role for Northern Ireland on Euro2020 qualifying duty.
That is the 'Norwich Way' but their story is really the story of Farke's entire squad. Go back two seasons and see where Emi Buendia was playing, or Marco Stiepermann or Tom Trybull to name but three.
In that context is it any wonder these opening Premier League salvoes suggest they are in deeper waters than any previous point in their careers; where the learning curve comes in real time.
That is not meant as mitigation for the naivety punished in three of these first four Premier League games. Farke was compelled again to talk about the 'small details' his side need to address, once he had drawn breath from justifiably highlighting the officials' reticence to sanction Sebastien Haller for an ugly lunge on Christoph Zimmermann.
Haller's reckless, sliding lunge was worthy of a red card for serious foul play.
The amateur referees and lazy pundits would be well advised to consult the laws of the game if they are in any doubt.
That it was Zimmermann isolated by Arthur Masuaku for the cross, and Haller getting the drop on Godfrey to open the scoring just three minutes later, was a source of huge irritation.
Farke also flagged Andriy Yarmolenko's alleged elbow on Trybull, which earned admonishment from the referee but no further action. Given the Ukrainian sealed victory you could be tempted to frame defeat in the context of a newly-promoted club enduring the thin end of the wedge. Particularly with another injury to another centre back days after Timm Klose and Grant Hanley were sidelined.
But that would be wrong. There were enough areas of concern within Norwich's own output at West Ham that were also evident the previous weekend against Chelsea.
City's head coach has himself come a long way since a watershed league defeat against Millwall two years ago. What we saw in the aftermath was Farke's pragmatic side, especially in regard to his midfield mix.
Alex Tettey was brought back in to offer some ballast and plug the alarming gaps when Norwich lost possession and were vulnerable to the counter.
Even before Haller's terrible challenge on Zimmermann there was a growing sense West Ham had quelled Norwich's bright, front footed start. Zimmermann himself had superbly thwarted Felipe Anderson's rapier counter.
Farke baulked at any suggestion Tim Krul's late defiance averted a heavier defeat - contending that was a by-product of risking everything with attacking reinforcements - but City's central defence and keeper are being regularly exposed.
The advanced deployment of Aarons and Lewis is an intrinsic facet of Farke's philosophy, but at the highest level the danger is obvious when Norwich cough up the ball.
There is a subtle difference between retaining a belief in the fundamentals that thrillingly swept City to the Championship title and refining and tweaking to reflect the new reality.
They now inhabit an environment where virtually every other Premier League rival has the financial muscle to attract top talent, on and off the pitch.
Farke and his players are intelligent enough to know this is a learning curve.
How quickly they adapt will dictate what this season holds.
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