Listening carefully to Stuart Webber discussing supporters frustrations at David Wagner’s football philosophy while at Huddersfield reaffirms the how big a task transforming a football club actually is. Webber speaks of criticism of the ‘tippy-tappy’ football and how the Yorkshire team’s supporters took issue with it in the embryonic stage of Wagner’s reign, stating how they thought it should be exchanged for a more direct style with two ‘up top’.
Now Webber is under the weight of expectation at a club with higher aims, but while some supporters opt to take a more short-term perspective of matters at Carrow Road, Webber and Daniel Farke are seeking a long-term formula. Regretfully, that means a short-term acceptance of up-and-down results in exchange for longevity of success.
Being realistic, it may take a series of seasons for Farke and Webber to undo the mess they inherited upon taking the reins in NR1. For Farke, he discovered an ageing, over-paid and unsettled squad while attempting to implement a radical new philosophy and working style in a frenetic summer of change.
Webber discovered a club with an underperforming academy, senior team and a structure that needed major surgery.
This was never going to be a seamless transition without growing pains and teething issues, both on the pitch and off of it. From Millwall to Ipswich and back to Bolton, the consistent inconsistency epitomises where we stand at present. A team who are in phase one of a mass reconstruction.
Naturally, there are issues. The defensive woes of August, the inability to score goals and the Carrow Road form all need addressing – granted – but the emergence of James Maddison, the ability to grind out results away from home and the defensive stability of late have all been positives.
Being a pragmatist, I would argue the improved away performances were a short-term fix and Farke desires an altogether different way of operating away from home. Nor do I genuinely believe that the lateral style of play is the finished article.
This team has so much more to give.
Never have I encountered a club where the pendulum swings so drastically depending on results. If we lose, the team are relegated according to their fan base, while one victory is met with extol and players are being described alongside hefty price tags.
Norwich fans must take the long-term standpoint and not dismiss new ideas in the same way Huddersfield did initially.
If anybody needs a constant reminder of how far City are off their final destination, then only remember the sheer competence of Wolves and the manner of which they swept us aside at Carrow Road. The argument of financial muscle is another one altogether; while Norwich shouldn’t go seeking external investment, they shouldn’t discount its influence altogether.
Sure, there is imbalance in the team. A 4-2-3-1 requires athletic, direct wingers and shoehorning Wes Hoolahan onto the right side just congests the middle. Six league goals at home aren’t good enough and Cameron Jerome will be inevitably scapegoated, but with him being the only fit striker, is that really his fault?
Tactical imbalance and ineptitude to offensively create chances will be fixed. If you require evidence, reference the creation of a defensively robust Norwich side following the last international hiatus. If Farke has addressed the creativity issues in the same manner this time, this City side will be a free flowing outfit by the time Barnsley visit Norfolk.
But that’s a huge if.
Furthermore, this time a year previous, Norwich sat in the top six of the Championship, while eventual play-off semi-finalists Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham did not. This division requires teams to be in touching distance of the play-offs come New Year. If Norwich are flirting with the top six come January, they still have a real chance of finishing within it.
This is a transition season. A season whereby Norwich will beat some really excellent teams (Middlesbrough and Sheffield United) and get defeated by more substandard ones (Millwall and Bolton), but are we mid-table fodder?
Based on the evidence provided as a third of the season has been played, the answer is yes. This is a team who, by their own admission, haven’t been good enough at times. While arguments can be presented that the absence of certain players will improve results, the style of play needs developing, particularly at home.
The battle of realism versus hope and expectation is rife with supporters. We have no divine right to beat anybody in this league, and the nature of it means complacency will be matched with defeats. The realistic viewpoint is one that is difficult to take, but one which will aid this period of transition.
Being involved with Norwich has been energy sapping in more contemporary times with periods of glory under Lambert and Neil, for a shorter period, being discounted for the poor periods overseen by Hughton and Adams. This is a club who has no time for a short term field of vision, but one which will be built slowly, establishing a DNA in the process.
It may feel like Norwich are going backwards, but the scale of change meant this was always going to occur, and whilst we are slowly rebuilding, we will encounter sides who are destructive and unmanageable, players will leave for silly money with no household names being recruited, but it’s a journey and something special is happening.
A period of good form will always end and a slide will occur; this is a young side who absorb confidence but is also possesses the characteristics of a teenager – sometimes moody, lazy and unresponsive.
Stay with it, this team will only get better and more consistent, but that may not happen anytime soon.