There’s little point in sugar coating it. Anyone who watched or listened to yesterday’s dismal draw with Barnsley will know that what was produced was a far cry from what we desired.
Whether it was a far cry from what we expected however is a different question because in reality yesterday was merely a continuation of almost all that has gone before at Carrow Road this season – albeit this time with added exasperation and frustration.
There’s a danger too of us slipping into this general acceptance of ‘in transition’ and ‘work-in-progress’ equating only to very ordinary, lifeless performances. Yet surely while in the midst of evolving we are still entitled to expect a few thrills and spills along the way even if we also also accept these will be interspersed with setbacks?
In isolation yesterday’s soul-less display could have been assigned to the one-of-those-days category but so much of it bore all the hallmarks of the eight home games that had gone before it and it most certainly wasn’t just one of those days. In fact if anything it was a deterioration, even to the extent that yesterday Barnsley edged the possession stat that Daniel Farke holds so dear.
Yet for all the ills on display it was the apparent listlessness and lack of energy that was most startling, with zero evidence of the freshness and eagerness you normally expect to see after a two-week international break.
Quite what has happened since that heroic defeat at the Emirates is the $64,000 question but its upshot is that before that run we were getting 7/10 performances across the board that have now dropped of to 4s and 5s. Only Grant Hanley, James Maddison and Angus emerged from the wreckage of yesterday with anything resembling credit, the rest I’m afraid mere shadows of the heroes who triumphed at Brammall Lane, the Riverside, the Madjeski and Portman Road.
Where my take on it differs from some is that I still believe there is a team in there that can compete at this level. We’re clearly nowhere close to top-two material, top-six is an optimistic shout as things stand, but the eight-game unbeaten run was sufficient for me to believe there is enough here – even in transitional form – to be a competitive Championship outfit. I do agree however that we didn’t look like one yesterday and we have to remember said eight-game run included just a single home win.
I’m also unconvinced by the argument that says we’re seeing now the impact of dumbing down the quality of our squad. Yes, we have – through necessity – slimmed down the squad in terms of numbers and value but, as Barnsley proved yesterday, the Championship is not just about big names, big fees and big wage packets. It is possible to produce a side that plays with tempo, verve and desire in the division and not be solely reliant on a bottomless pit of cash.
Unfortunately that brings us back full circle to the $64,000 question again – why are we currently so void of that tempo, verve and desire?
Worryingly Farke was asking those same questions post-match and other than offer up nervousness as mitigation he was unable to explain why the passing was so slow, laboured and without purpose. Worrying too was that a 4-1-4-1 formation that had been two weeks in the making was deemed unfit for purpose just 45 minutes into its introduction; the reversion to three at the back then contributing to the Tykes equaliser.
What followed was the head coach trying everything in his power to find a formation and formula that would help us gain a proper foothold in the game but to absolutely no avail and Adam Davies in the Barnsley goal was in truth comfortably protected by his back-four for most of the afternoon. And there’s the rub – Carrow Road holds not the slightest fear for opposition teams. They arrive knowing if they stick to their defensive plan we’re unlikely to hurt them and that if they stay in the game there are points to be had.
That only QPR and Birmingham have been unable to successfully execute their game plans is a telling stat, so too that we have only scored seven goals in nine home games, of which only two have been scored in the first half.
The stats make for ugly reading, the performance had ugly stamped all over it and the mood inside Carrow Road was most definitely turning that way by the end of the game; the smattering of boos being the loudest noise the ground was able to muster all afternoon.
Normally an away game in just a couple of days would be perceived as an ideal way to get this defeat out of the system but unless, from somewhere, Team Farke can inject some pace, life and vigour then Tuesday night at the City Ground could be a tricky one.
But, we’ve been here before and recent history tells us Novembers and Norwich City are not always a good combination. Let’s stick with it and keep the toys in the pram.