As months go that was alright, wasn't it? Norwich have suddenly found some Championship nous and things are looking pretty wunderbar. Clare Thomas takes a look back at what occurred.
September. It’s a month where anything seems possible, where things start afresh. It’s that back-to-school feel; the month in which you get your books out and start as you mean to go on. August is just for mucking around, and not taking life seriously. August doesn’t really count in football. Look at Harry Kane. And Ipswich.
Daniel Farke understands all the serious stuff starts in September. The changes in Norwich City since the last international break have been staggering, and that is in no small part down to our head coach who has learned fast, and is already on course for the ‘student of the month’ award.
It was always going to take a bit of time for him to get things right; a team full of new players, many of who had never played in England let alone the crazy world of the Championship. The need to be patient was continually drummed into us as fans, yet at the end of August many had already abandoned such a virtue. Panic had begun to set in; Farke seemed out of his depth. The defence - the one thing he had been tasked with improving - was as porous as it ever had been. Some even lamented the loss of Bassong and Bennett. Yes, things were that bad.
Yet, while many around him lost their heads, Daniel Farke used his wisely. He demonstrated an admirable lack of Schweinkopf-ness, and abandoned the free-flowing, possession-based football that was his ideal, for football that actually works at this level. A robust defence. Determined, high-energy performances. Scoring crucial goals and then proceeding to frustrate the opposition with some gamesmanship and winding-down of the clock. We have become more ticky-tocky than tiki-taka and haven’t made many friends in doing so. But hey, this is football, not Facebook. Nice little Norwich has got us nowhere. The last time we had a bit of swagger and steel about us and put a few noses out of joint was under Paul Lambert, and that got us absolutely bloody everywhere.
All of a sudden we aren’t playing by the rules anymore. We’ve been upsetting Boro fans with our time wasting and having the audacity not to ‘offer anything’ after scoring. Naughty Norwich, defending a lead. We’ve angered Chris Wilder with ‘bus gate’, although it turns out that it wasn’t just for you, Chrissy; it seems we are regularly pushing the boundaries of how late we can leave it to arrive, as well as delaying our appearance for the second half. Daniel is not one to hang around. Get in, get on. And it appears to be working.
Aside from Farke’s change in philosophy there have been other factors to our record-breaking month. Timm Klose returning to the team and showing the leadership that was lacking in an inexperienced defence, for one. The surprising talent of Tom Trybull is another. Treebull. Troybull. Whatever; he’s Try-fic. Alongside Tettey, he has added a robustness to the midfield, crucial in the Championship. He embodies the new look Norwich; the tough cool kid you’d catch behind the bike sheds compared to Jonny Howson’s preppy head boy. We may not be so pretty anymore, but we are oh-so-effective.
Six games unbeaten in the league. Three away wins out of three. Only five scored but just one goal conceded; it has been a month like no other. With words such as ‘pragmatic’ and ‘frugal’ being bandied around these are unfamiliar times for Norwich fans used to goals a-plenty at both ends. Thankfully the emergence of James Maddison has been like a cosy comfort blanket in this crazy new world. He possesses the skill and grace to keep the ‘beautiful’ football dream alive. His performances have been as bouncy as his barnet, and his goals simply sensational.
The misfortune of Pritchard’s injury has been the fortune of Madders, allowing him the game time to grow into the league, and he has proved he is very much at home at this level. His professionalism is admirable; while his peers have been falling out of boats, Maddison remains on terra firma, practicing those free kicks. He’s the kid that stays late after school to go to the library. What seems amazing is that he is yet to be capped at any level; if the U21 scouts can make it as far as New York FC to call up Jack Harrison, surely they can make it to East Anglia and call up James Maddison? Hey England, in case you haven’t noticed, we have another Golden Balls over here.
It hasn’t all been positive this month; the lack of goals is a concern and we’ve struggled to break teams down at Carrow Road. The dwindling supply to the strikers has put extra pressure on them to convert, and the continued absence of Oliveira has given rise to yet more Cameron Jer-moaning. Marley Watkins’ red card against Reading was a throwback to the reckless ‘Class of 2016’ and we’ve also had the near-drowning of Josh Murphy. Thankfully first officer Klose and his shipmates were on hand to haul him back aboard. There will be more choppy waters ahead for the good ship Norwich but Ivo Pinto appears an excellent captain so far. The Portuguese always were good at sailing.
So that’s September. It’s the month that marked the end of summer, but the start of a new term. Report so far: still work to be done, but much improved and showing excellent promise.
Sometimes what feels like the end is often just the beginning.