To say that being a Norwich City fan is hard at the moment would be an understatement of monumental proportions.
As the central defensive carousel turned once again at Brighton due to even more injuries there was plenty of cause for concern before a ball was kicked, but the performance itself was the toughest of tough watches as the Canaries looked utterly devoid or confidence or creativity.
Despite Marco Stiepermann hitting the bar early on it was realistically a case of waiting for the fatal blow to fall, and to be fair it was only a combination of desperate defending and poor Brighton finishing which kept City in the game for so long, and when the goal did come the fact that the scorer simply ran between two City players with neither getting tight to him just about summed up the afternoon.
The whole ethos of City’s game under Daniel Farke is about controlling possession and yet their passing on Saturday was dreadful as was much of their decision making. On the odd occasions they did threaten around the Brighton box the ball was either given away or the move became over-elaborate, with Emi Buendia in particular always seeming to want to take one touch too many.
It would be easy to be overly critical of Buendia, and some have, but given his competitive nature, I think that this is a case of trying too hard to make things happen, and to be fair he has created more goals and chances than any other City midfielder this season.
What we’re currently seeing is a vicious circle. City at their best control the ball using quick passing and movement with lots of bodies committed to getting forward, but that requires confidence, something which is now in very short supply.
The constant reshuffles have resulted in the team playing around the opposing press, one of the key elements of last season’s success, much less than at the start of the season. The fullbacks are also less reluctant to fully commit to attacking as they are acutely aware of the space being left behind them while the creative midfielders are finding it harder to get close to Teemu Pukki, who once again cut a frustrated figure at Brighton.
This, in turn, makes it harder to keep the ball and as a result control of the game is lost and confidence further eroded.
However, some realism is called for. The impact of the loss of three centre backs simply cannot be overstated, not least because it has meant that Ibrahim Amadou has never played in his correct position, and on Saturday it also took Alex Tettey out of the defensive midfield role where his experience would have been crucial at the Amex.
I’ve seen a few comments to the effect that City should have signed another centre back in the summer but that is simply 20:20 hindsight. With four specialists and two who could also play there, City were as well-stocked as most clubs.
At least Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley are on the way back and I think that it’s only then that it will be possible to make a measured judgement on City’s ability at this level, but of course, it’s essential that they don’t find themselves too far adrift by the time they return.
Last season was a fairy tale and way beyond any of our expectations but this season has seen us return to earth with a bump and inevitably that has seen the usual Delia/Farke/Webber out nonsense crop up once again, with even the odd call for that doyen of footballing excellence, Sam Allardyce, to be recalled from the wilderness as our saviour.
There is no doubt that Farke is finding the Premier League a sharp learning curve just as he did the Championship two seasons ago but there is no way that the club will jettison someone of his undoubted talent, particularly given the injuries that he’s had to deal with and his superb working relationship with Webber.
How quickly people forget that just 16 months or so ago City’s continued existence hinged upon the sale of James Maddison. Since then Webber has been totally honest about the financial situation but however many times he explains that the club has had to clear substantial old debts and that promotion doesn’t mean that they immediately receive a huge cheque, there will always be those who want to know why they haven’t spent more money, completely ignoring the substantial new contracts for all of last season’s stars.
It’s inevitable to an extent that fans see each season as a microcosm, but Webber has been very clear that this is a long-term project and that we are well ahead of schedule. Whatever happens with the first team this season, we will have seen another year of young players getting good experience on loan to continue to stock the conveyor belt that has produced the likes of Godfrey, Lewis, Cantwell and Aarons.
It’s hard to see such a likeable group of players losing but there is no way that the mistakes of the past will be repeated and for that at least we should be grateful.
Like every other Norwich fan, I would love to see sustained success but not as the result of gambling on our future. I dislike losing as much as the next fan but the fact that I have absolute belief in Farke and Webber makes it a little easier to bear.
Ignore the noise.