If things continue the way they are, the season could be all but over before the New Year. Not something I’ve not experienced too much in my ten years as a Norwich fan.
My overriding emotion coming out of Carrow Road on Saturday was of course one of disappointment, but there was also an acceptance of where we are as a club at the moment.
We currently sit in 14th place, eight points away from the play offs and ten points away from the relegation zone. As they say ‘the table never lies’ and I think our current position in the league reflects how our campaign has gone so far. A few good results, a few bad results and a few average results. That word ‘average’ will be used to describe the remainder of the season unless something drastically changes. I’m just not quite sure what that ‘something’ is.
Our formation and style of play has come under particular scrutiny since the start of the season, with Farke’s philosophy being labelled as ‘boring’ and ‘sideways’ by many City fans. Having endured the majority of our home games this season, it’s hard to disagree.
In fairness to the City boss, he has shown his versatility as a coach by trying out different formations in an attempt to make his team both solid at the back AND have some attacking impetus at the other end. But when you’re playing in front of 25,000 fans who witnessed an impressive haul of 53 home goals last season, that’s always going to be difficult.
So many new faces arriving in the summer coupled with the fact that a fair few of them had come over from foreign leagues meant a potential teething period was to be expected. Mario Vrancic, for example, showed plenty of potential in pre-season games, with the Bosnian’s price tag of £650,000 being seen as a good piece of business. But, as we know, Vrancic has flattered to deceive – looking sluggish, off the pace and unable to deal with the cut and thrust of the Championship.
With several of City’s summer imports displaying similar attributes, our business in the transfer window has again been placed under scrutiny.
Stuart Webber made no secret of how we are now ‘fishing in a different pond’, so to speak. Gone are the days where we can splash out a few million on a player and merely hope he turns out well. Although the club is still paying for its mistakes of the past, I have every confidence in Webber and the new structure to find young and hungry players who value every second they are privileged enough to wear yellow and green. The problem, however, is that the structure is based very much on a long-term and work-in-progress model, which doesn’t appear to be progressing much at the moment.
Of course, as fans we are always going to want success now. If not success, then a little hint of some progress is required to maintain the thought that the club is going in the right direction. Up until the Derby game at the end of last month, there were some promising signs of progress, especially considering the 4-0 thrashing at Millwall before the first international break where serious questions were asked, and rightly so. In the last 6 games, the same old defensive frailties have reappeared, but the difference this time is that we seem unable to create chances at the other end.
Although I don’t want to keep banging the Huddersfield drum, it’s important to remember that David Wagner lead the Terriers to a 19th place finish in his first season in the Championship. The season after, he guides them to the Premier League following a campaign which saw the former Dortmund Under 23 coach really find his feet in the Championship. I’m not saying that Farke’s ideas are going to automatically click come the first game of next season, but so far he and his team have barely had 5 months to come to terms with what is a unique league.
Like it or lump it, as Farke described himself, this season is going to ‘be like a rollercoaster’ – and to continue that analogy, us fans are now all on board. That’s not to say that mediocrity should at all be accepted. It has been well documented in the last couple of weeks that we have the most expensive season ticket in the Championship, which on current performances at Carrow Road is unjustifiable.
A word which Farke mentioned several times during our 9 game unbeaten run was the “togetherness” of the group, which was evident with post-match huddles and that heroic performance against Arsenal. Now, when times are tough, that applies more than ever, for players, staff, supporters – everyone connected with the club.