The highs and lows of following your football team. Ecstasy and sheer delight in the stands at Carrow Road in the game week 5 fixture v Man City, followed by a mass goal drought and being played off the park. Who would have thought I am writing this next article some seven game weeks later, having won no more games, picked up a solitary point and having only scored two consolation goals.
It’s only early November, but the season is turning into a massive anti-climax like many of our other previous promotions under this board over the past two decades. We are really struggling in all areas of the pitch, except this time there won’t be a January transfer window Steven Naismith / Dean Ashton style panic signing, as we are told there is no money in the piggy bank. You guys know all too well about our woes, as over recent weeks the community have started to move off once decent budget assets in Cantwell and Pukki, who were flying in the early gameweeks. Nothing seems to be coming off for these guys anymore and it’s a painful watch.
Confidence amongst the young lads is at an all-time low, and not a game goes past when we aren’t punished for a daft defensive error. These young lads individually are very good at times, but collectively at this level the likes of Godfrey, Aarons and Lewis are probably not ready to line up together each week alongside a Central midfielder who is being asked to play out of position and fill the gap. Not for the first time, you’ll hear me rattle on about us crying out for an experienced leader with quality at the back who has been there and done it at this level. The lack of investment in key areas last summer is becoming more and more evident as the weeks go by, especially when you see how well Sheffield United are doing. Hats off to them, Chris Wilder seems to have got his recruitment spot on by getting the balance right between signing new players, and giving their promotion squad a shot at the big time. No question, we went a bit over the top dishing out long term deals to all of our squad who were not proven at this level over the summer, as a fair chunk of the squad haven’t stepped up and bar the odd game looked out of their depth. Probably only Krul, Godfrey and Pukki have adapted and looked at home, while Onel Hernandez back from injury offers a small glimmer of hope as a pacey outlet assuming his delivery can improve. I was so excited to watch 6.0m Emi Buendia in the Premier League but think he’s been poor and the games seem to have passed him by, apart from the odd moment of genius. Despite his four assists you wouldn’t touch him or any of the others at this moment in time.
Worryingly we seem to have been well and truly sussed out tactically, we are disjointed, making changes most weeks, and don’t seem to have much of a Plan B. Losing away games with a default 2-0 scoreline against those we should be competitive against & potential relegation rivals, will only end one way if things don’t change rapidly. We would consider ourselves to be a passing side, but the amount of time we lose the ball is incredible and we look so nervous. The shape is poor when we haven’t got the ball, and often by the time we are back in position the inevitable has happened.
In many of the early fixtures we’ve been conceding 20+ shots a game by not closing teams down, and we seem so easy to play against. To win a game will often mean us scoring three goals, no mean feat when your star striker is feeding off scraps and isolated in a similar way to Harry Kane at Tottenham right now. There are also many similarities with Manchester City with their defensive crisis and having to play central midfields out of position at centre half, maybe not quite getting the defensive recruitment right in the summer and shipping too many goals. The difference however is they can normally outscore the opposition, Norwich won’t be able to do that most weeks. However frustrating the injuries have been, the players coming back haven’t improved us that much and let’s not forget that the Man City game was when we had half of the squad missing. How ironic. Actually despite us having had so many wounded soldiers, it’s probably worth pointing out that Christoph Zimmerman is the only man on the treatment table now that would normally be in the team, apart from that we are more or less back to full strength. Zimmerman is expected to be fit for the Sheffield United fixture in GW16 and one can only hope it will be a season defining moment, and it will give everyone a big lift. At least then though, we’ll have a settled back line with some structure, which will finally allow Ibrahim Amadou to make his long awaited debut in midfield.
This brings me to whether or not this whole process has been thought out successfully. Probably not. The hierarchy have the best interests of the club at heart, and seem to have accepted relegation already by not over spending and risking the long term future of the club. The upgrade to the training ground, clearing the debts, the new contracts for existing players – all well and good, but what is football when it feels like after everything we went through last year to get here and we aren’t giving it a proper good go, content to take relegation and the parachute payments that follow. The board will say we are ahead of ourselves as part of a four year plan and didn’t expect to get promoted last year. However we know full well that if relegated, more players will be sold and our weakened squad will stand a worse chance of getting promoted again as the money won’t be reinvested on players. Stuart Webber (Sporting Director) more or less waved the white flag in his interview on Sky before the Watford game, by admitting we can’t cope without investment at this level and under Delia we’ll be nothing more than a yo-yo club.
Regardless of the results over the next few months, I don’t believe Daniel Farke’s job is under threat (fifth favourite in the sack race and 12/1) and he’ll be here for the long haul. But one thing for sure is he needs to adapt tactically in some games and change his approach. A lot of Norwich fans have been calling for two defensive midfielders in the 4/2/3/1 to make us a bit more solid defensively, but it remains to be seen if that would make a difference. The key thing to us staying up will be servicing Teemu Pukki in the same way we started the campaign. Fresh from his three goals on international duty and qualifying for Euro 2020, he should have a spring in his step and be full of confidence once again – but he can’t do it on his own.
Hopefully at some point this season, there will once again be a time to own Norwich assets. Maybe we’ll get a double gameweek and the Norwich 19/20 version of Shane Duffy can pop up as Triple Captain.