And so it came to pass. An ‘along came Norwich’ moment if ever there was one.
I deliberately steered clear of Twitter last night; the little taster I had between the end of the game and 5 o’clock was sufficient to suggest that carnage was about to unfold.
That’s not to say some of the criticism wasn’t justified. After a day that had far too many echoes of last season it’s impossible to maintain a fixed smile on the premise that the new era needs time and it’s all going to be okay. And it didn’t take long at Villa Park for the smiles turned to grimaces.
The P word was of course prevalent in post-match discussions but rather than ‘patience’, it was how ‘predictable’ yesterday’s failure was that formed the core of the debate:
- Predictable that we’d offer Villa their first taste of victory this season
- Predictable that we’d end up with egg on our faces at Villa Park
- And predictable that rather than stick another nail in the career coffin of John Terry we’d offer him a perfectly timed filip
Good old Norwich.
All of which made for fertile ground for those for whom the summer months must have been frustrating in the extreme with its positive mood and feeling of a new, innovative era.
Talk of early changes to the Carrow Road set-up were as nonsensical as they were predictable but one has to consider that the time understandably being afforded to Team Farke as it attempts to gain its own foothold in English football, and all while getting a new message across, is time that’s precious.
This season is crucial for so many reasons, the most obvious being one that starts ‘parachute’ and ends ‘payments’, and every dropped point, whatever the mitigation, nudges us ever closer to the time when said payments dry up with nothing to follow.
And so while we have to be patient and have to understand that a new philosophy does indeed take time to embed, we also have to understand that the clock is ticking. If the financial landscape looked a little barren from May to August 2017, just wait until May to August 2018.
So, days like yesterday do come at a cost; not least for the effect they have on belief and momentum.
Daniel Farke spoke pre-QPR of the efforts of his team to lift the morale of the younger players, those who haven’t been there and done it. Well those same words are needed again this week. And the more they’re trotted out there’s a danger they get diluted. It’s an unhealthy cycle.
Naturally the defence have taken the brunt of the wrath – and there’s no escaping that had it not been for the brilliance of Angus Gunn it would have turned exceptionally ugly – but that City were outplayed and outfought in every department is a worry, and shouldn’t be simply attributed to teething troubles.
To be out-muscled is unforgivable on any level, whatever the circumstances, and it doesn’t rely on familiar faces and familiar surroundings to match your opponent in the physical confrontation. It’s a basic but one that wasn’t met yesterday.
But the most glaring problem that Farke has to address is in the centre of his defence. Without that solid base all the gone stuff starts to unravel quite quickly. That both Marcel Franke and Christoph Zimmermann had stinkers yesterday was the biggest, if not the only, problem and all after both covering themselves in glory on Wednesday night.
Yesterday was clearly the complete opposite.
And it’s a riddle that’s not easily solved. Russell Martin has proved himself another option in a three but is certainly not the answer in a two – and himself had a rotten one again yesterday. And Timm Klose, still on the road to full fitness, now finds himself in the frame as one of those whose reputation is being enhanced by him not playing.
Let’s not forget, in Germany he’s consistently played at a higher level than the two current incumbents and already has a season of Championship football under his belt. He also has a left foot and naturally slots in as a left-sided centre-back more naturally than the right-footed Franke.
His return, for me, can’t come soon enough. And at 17:00 yesterday, I also can’t pretend I thought sending Sean Raggett back to Lincoln until January was a great idea.
However, to focus solely on the deficiencies of our two German centre-backs ignores the support – or lack of – that was afforded by both full-backs; both of whom struggled against the power and energy of Hourihane, Green, Davis and co.
It was simply one of those days when to pore over all the wrongs would take far more than 1000 words. And those wrongs would include a team selection that appeared, on the face of it, to have been subject to one or two changes too many.
That James Maddison needed a rest was probably understandable – given he’s played almost every minute so far – and so too Wes given he played the full 90 on Wednesday night, but to take both out of the XI also rid the team of its inventive streak. To have started one and maybe replace him with the other would at least have ensured a magic spark was ever present.
Those though who lambasted the Head Coach for starting Cameron Jerome ahead of Nelson Oliveira would be well advised to listen to his post-match comments – the latter clearly struggling with a knock – and for all the ills of yesterday it wasn’t Jerome ahead of Oliveira that was the root cause of defeat.
But Team Farke must look at its own decision making in the same way they’ll demand the players examine theirs. To ship four goals and have your keeper play a blinder cannot be brushed off as ‘early days’, even if this Villa side is one that’s far better than their opening three games had suggested.
Yet we must hold our collective nerve and keep the toys in the pram. When the fixtures were announced most considered it a difficult opening and so it’s proved. Now’s not the time for a meltdown.
This, whether we like the word or not, is a project. It’s still developing. And yesterday was a bad day.