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First Team

Opposition View: Norwich City

David Freezer, a Norwich City writer at the Eastern Daily Press, with the lowdown on The Canaries

26 October 2018

Barring two narrow defeats in the first three games and a convincing defeat at the hands of Leeds, it’s been quite a pleasing start to the season for Norwich, hasn’t it?

It certainly has, six wins in the last eight league games has allowed Canaries fans to cautiously think about a challenge for a play-off place this season.

It’s not just about the results though, it’s the style of play. Daniel Farke’s attempts to control possession and use highly technical players has clicked this season, playing higher up the pitch and moving the ball quickly - and the confidence has flooded into the squad.

Frankly, most of the teams City have played just haven’t quite known how to handle the slick passing and movement, while the clinical goal-scoring of Teemu Pukki and Jordan Rhodes has allowed them to come out on top of games.

The next aim is to make games more comfortable as all of the recent wins have been by one-goal margins, when they should have been more comfortable.

Daniel Farke has recently described the Canaries as the Championship’s ‘Team of the moment’ – in which area would you say they’ve improved the most, to warrant such a title?

It’s the way they’re dominating play. For instance, they fell behind against Forest and Villa in their recent games after shaky starts but stayed calm, took control of the game and then found the incisive passing to keep the opposition on the back foot.

They’re not the finished product yet but the atmosphere at Carrow Road has improved hugely this season, as fans can see long-term planning is starting to come to fruition. There’s a united spirit on and off the pitch, with the players aware that they have to work and scrap for every point in this league, when that wasn’t always apparent during Farke’s first campaign in England .

They probably would have beaten West Brom earlier in the season, had Jordan Rhodes not missed a penalty at 1-0 up, and lost 1-0 to Stoke due to an unfortunate Timm Klose own goal, which was followed by the Potters parking the bus.

It’s only October, so promotion thoughts aren’t really on the agenda yet, but fans can see things are clicking into place at the moment.

You’ve previously highlighted the cost-cutting requirements the club needed to implement to balance the books in the absence of parachute payments – what did you make of their transfer business in the summer?

It was another busy summer, with deals in excess of £20m for star man James Maddison and £10m for academy product Josh Murphy keeping the club’s financial rebuild on track.

While a huge wage bill has been slashed, the work is not finished yet, and it’s likely more big-money sales will be needed at some point, with some big contracts from the Premier League days due to expire at the end of this season.

Making Moritz Leitner’s loan permanent for around £1.3m from Augsburg is looking inspired, as he’s in top form. Teemu Pukki has been an absolute steal on a free from Brondby, although has a short-term hamstring injury picked up while playing for Finland at the moment.

The experienced Tim Krul was also free and is slowly rediscovering confidence after a major knee injury finished his time at Newcastle . Jordan Rhodes is proving a good loan signing and Emi Buendia is a former Argentina U20 international who is starting to shine.

Injury and illness have prevented midfielders Kenny McLean and Ben Marshall from making an impact yet but both should be major parts of the squad eventually.

How beneficial is the return of Onel Hernandez going to be?

His pace is so difficult to deal with, once he’s got a run on defenders it’s difficult to stop him without at least conceding a foul.

He missed four games due to hernia surgery but City dealt with his absence due to the emergence of academy product and local lad Todd Cantwell, who is more of a playmaker but outrageously talented.

Both of them are key men in creating chances, with Leitner finding them quickly from midfield to allow them to attack.

Which player has impressed you the most so far this season?

Leitner and Pukki have been excellent but perhaps the big surprise has been the emergence of Marco Stiepermann as an attacking midfielder, having failed to impress during his first season in England , even playing at left-back at times.

The German is strong, determined and has a classy touch. His ability to control possession in the opposition half has played a big part in City’s passing game being more effective higher up the pitch.

Timm Klose is also having a great season in defence, particularly when you consider captain Grant Hanley has been out injured since early September, and has reclaimed his place in the Switzerland squad.

How does Daniel Farke set up his side and can you give us any early team news?

It’s mostly a 4-2-3-1 but the midfield is quite fluid, so that can often become a 4-1-4-1 in attack.

Louis Thompson is out after dislocating his shoulder in Tuesday’s win over Villa, Hanley (thigh) is expected back next month, as is fellow Scotland international McLean (ankle).

Alex Tettey is back after his wife gave birth shortly before the Villa game in midweek and likely to come in for Tom Trybull.

Ivo Pinto and Marshall are yet to force their way back into the squad after injury and illness respectively, striker Nelson Oliveira is out of favour.

Matt Jarvis and striker Carlton Morris (both knee) are out long term.

What’s your score prediction for the game?

I’ll go for 2-0 Norwich , as it’s clear Farke is not underestimating Brentford’s threat.

There will be Pay on the Day from the Carrow Road Ticket Office, cash only:

Adults (18-64) £25
Seniors (65+) £15
Under 18 £10
Under 12 £5

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