Paddy Davitt verdict: Now you have your answer, Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 13:17 16 September 2018 | UPDATED: 06:55 17 September 2018
After the cheers subsided you may have detected another sound at Carrow Road. The slotting of pieces into a jigsaw.
Daniel Farke and his Norwich City players orchestrated an uplifting afternoon, to beat Middlesbrough far more comprehensively than the final scoreline suggested.
The Canaries were superior in every facet, not just on the pitch but in Farke’s selections and tactical strategy.
Home fans fed on slim rations for too long responded in kind. Carrow Road was vocal, energised and passionate.
Be under no doubt that conversation between many fans, you know the one about how you lift the sterile atmosphere which has provided the backdrop to much of Farke’s tenure, is also happening inside the club.
You can trial singing sections, fan marches, even potentially at some point in the future safe standing areas.
But the equation is simple.
Serve front foot, high tempo, entertaining football on a regular basis and supporters who have had a tendency to slouch in their seats will edge further forward.
Boro, perhaps inadvertently, played their part in a circumspect, almost introverted approach that did Tony Pulis and his expensively assembled squad no favours.
Yet City’s mix of youthful brashness and steady experience accepted the invitation and set about the task of ending the Teessiders’ unbeaten league surge and breaching a backline which had not conceded in 503 minutes of Championship football.
City’s play was cohesive, intelligent and proactive.
The visitors started brighter but were pushed back, with Max Aarons and Emi Buendia raiding down the right and Jamal Lewis veering into Onel Hernandez’s slipstream. It was a reassuring balance mirrored in the middle of the park.
Marco Stiepermann’s selection behind Teemu Pukki caught most by surprise, but Stiepermann was not far short of a revelation.
The awareness to find pockets of space between the lines, the ability to switch play, the willingness to try his luck from range and that added bite across the centre of the park were marked features of a stand out appearance in a fitful Canaries’ career.
Stiepermann’s inclusion allowed Moritz Leitner to continue his blossoming partnership alongside Alex Tettey in a deeper role.
The union may only be two games old, after Farke opted to pair the duo together at Portman Road, but it already feels like the breakthrough moment 12 months hence at Bramall Lane, when Tettey and Tom Trybull came together to unleash a fertile period in results and performance that has remained elusive since.
Leitner appears to now have the time and space to showcase his full array of passing. While Tettey’s presence affords him protection when Norwich is out of possession.
The by-product here was a variety and an edge to the Canaries’ attacking patterns which stretched and seemingly confused promotion hopefuls.
Pulis had seen enough barely eight minutes into the second half, when he introduced recent signing George Saville. That was a tick in the box for Farke.
This spirited win was for the head coach as much as his players and the fans.
With each frustrating episode in these early weeks, following on from an alarming slide in output down the stretch last season, the scrutiny intensified. Farke’s measured public tone may create the wrong impression, when his team’s promptings lack urgency or become too predictable.
But his decision-making is laced with a bravery that should be applauded.
Not every manager in a similar situation would trust a raw talent like Aarons to such a degree. Or expose Buendia quite so early to the unique demands of the English second tier; particularly after he struggled to exert any influence at Ipswich Town.
Or demote Jordan Rhodes, for that matter, to effectively accommodate Stiepermann and push Pukki forward. All underpinned by losing a colossus in Grant Hanley for the foreseeable.
The mark of the man is Farke chose to deflect any praise towards those who had carried out his instructions and the vocal fans who sensed a genuine shift and amplified the work of the boys in green and yellow.
Now the quest is for sustained consistency in performance and result. The glow from Middlesbrough will swiftly fade if Norwich become bogged down again at Reading, QPR or against Wigan.
With youth comes fluctuations in form and doses of naivety. But the underlying curve has to bend upward from here.
Fail to follow up Middlesbrough and the questions will return.