Most footballing folk accept that pre-season is all about the players honing their match fitness and the manager embedding his plans for the season ahead. Therefore, results are by and large meaningless – unless, of course, you have a good one.
And yesterday’s win against FC Augsburg was a good one.
The Germans will be competing in this season’s Europa League, courtesy of a fifth place finish in the Bundesliga, and, along the way, managed to pick up a 1-0 win in the Allianz Arena.
(Although beating Bayern Munich away is really no big deal).
But the point is, they’re no mugs and friendly or no friendly they’ll be gutted at losing to little Norwich, especially little Norwich who were all decked out in their fancy green, yellow and orange deck chair shirts.
A defeat for City wouldn’t have been the end of the world – for all the reasons stated above – but there is no doubting a win of yesterday’s ilk puts a spring in the step. And when one of Alex Neil’s most potent weapons in the early part of the season will be the momentum borne of a glorious promotion that’s important.
The last thing he’ll want is for the current confidence and feel-good factor in the squad to evaporate thanks to a collision with the buffers.
Things are not perfect of course – let’s not get carried away – and with less than a fortnight to go before the big KO the manager has already spoken of his frustration at not having a few of his transfer targets already embedded in the group.
Thankfully Alex Neil does at least appear blessed with a modicum of patience, unlike a Scottish manager who has gone before him, and his on-the-job crash course in the realities of a Norwich City-style transfer window so far looks to have served him well.
But, post-match, he confirmed he is still on the lookout for more bodies – three or four in fact – which will include a keeper, a left-back and a striker. Interestingly, no mention of a centre-back.
So, once the dust settles – and it doesn’t settle until September 1 – we should expect to operate with a maximum of six new faces, including Graham Dorrans. And to me that sounds about right. Evolution not revolution.
I’m unsure if I’m permitted to mention Watford, given the fractious relationship their fans have with this site (nice one Russ ;-)) but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that, to date, ten new faces have been acquired over the summer by the Pozzo family.
Much was made of the unique relationship Watford’s ‘class of 2015’ enjoyed with the club’s supporters, their partying with the fans to celebrate promotion being cited as evidence of that bond, but one wonders how those same players are feeling now. Ten new faces means ten unhappy ones.
There was an interesting interview on talkSPORT this week, when Alan Brazil (yes, I know) spoke with former Tottenham and Liverpool director of football, Damien Comolli.
The topic of conversation was naturally Liverpool and their spending of the Sterling money, but the gist of Comolli’s message was that for the second consecutive summer, Brendan Rodgers is playing a high-risk game by making so many changes. Effectively, he’s dismantling the core of the squad that was assembled at such cost last summer and replacing it with another this time round.
Instead “subtle adjustments” would be Comolli’s preferred way forward for the Reds, with Chelsea and Arsenal offering – in his view – a better model of how it should be done.
Of course it would be wrong to lump City in with the elite (and Liverpool) – and two new faces is probably a little too subtle when you’re gearing up to tackle the Premier League – but I like the fact Neil and co are looking to enhance what we already have rather than rip it up and start again.
I also like the fact Alex is continuing to take no prisoners.
A friendly it may have been but he appeared a disgruntled figure on the touchline for much of yesterday’s first-half. “Too much respect” was his no-nonsense conclusion as to why City were second best in the opening forty-five and the half-time message sounds like it was an unequivocal one.
In the second period, City upped the intensity, upped the tempo, showed their opponents little respect, afforded them little time to settle on the ball and were generally excellent; all courtesy of the ‘wee word’ or words that were passed from manager to players at half-time.
And that bodes well.
Among several decent performances, two that stood out were from players who were not part of the Class of 2015.
Harry Toffolo continues to do all that has been asked of him and more, and has played himself well and truly into his manager’s thoughts, regardless of whether that bloke whose name I’m fed up of typing eventually arrives from Hull.
And then of course there’s Youssouf Mulumbu, whose stock continues to rise with every passing game. West Brom fans remain incredulous that he was allowed to depart the Hawthorns with so little resistance and the evidence so far suggests they have every reason to question the decision making of Tony Pullis.
We thought we were getting an alternative to Alex Tettey, one with high-energy and who could protect the back-four. What we appear to have is an all-rounder with an eye for goal and who can pick a pass.
Early days though and, yes, I’m probably getting a little carried away again.
But, with West Ham rocking up in the old place on Tuesday night, the squad looks in decent fettle and appears physically prepared for what lies ahead. And don’t just take my word for it.
Upon arriving back in Blighty, Gary O’Neil tweeted: ’32 years old and quite possibly the fittest I’ve ever been! Good season ahead!’
Bring it on.
The one thing that stood out for was how fit the players are. It clearly showed in the game too. Both of our goals came in the last 15 minutes. I can see us scoring a lot of late goals this season, which is why I think we’ll do so well. Looking at what AN did at Hamilton is a good indication into what direction we’re heading, on a larger scale of course.
Russell S. says
Good result and two well taken goals. Plenty to iron out still of course but that’s what preseason is for after all. A few PL teams struggled against lower league sides yesterday, so to beat a top German one is a bonus.
Grabban’s previous missed chance immediately drew out the poisoned online barbs from those who seem to know better than the boss (mainly Ricky vW devotees).
I think the British-like weather conditions helped unlike the previous game. Maybe we can hire that lederhosen-clad oompah band for Carrow Road?
Winding up Watford fans – my pleasure – seriously.
Stewart Lewis says
Several impressive and interesting things about yesterday, it seems to me.
One of them is AN’s sparse use of substitutes this time. West Ham’s involvement in the Europa League means they’ll be sending a second-string group to Carrow Road on Tuesday. So, with due respect to Brentford, the Augsburg game represented a major ‘dress rehearsal’ for 8 August.
With Jerome’s foot injury being allowed to heal, AN started AND FINISHED with Grabban. Twitter cries for the introduction of RvW and/or Hooper went unanswered. This suggests to me that the main striker options in AN’s mind are perhaps Jerome, Grabban and a new signing.
Full of admiration for Toffolo who – despite sounding like a sweet I’d have craved as a kid – has been determined to make his mark. Hitchin isn’t (either literally or figuratively) in the same league as Palace or Sunderland – but Augsburg is a good measure.
Specifically for Russ, I’m planning to pop along to Vicarage Road for my next ‘roving reporter’ snap in the City shirt.
Gary Gowers says
Russ – The thought of said ‘lederhosen-clad oompah band’ providing the pre-match entertainment fills me with joy!
Stew – The City shirt amidst the MCC members has already earned you a place in the MFW Hall of Fame. To wear it amidst a swarm of skittish hornets strikes me as suicidal given how much prodding Russ has directed at the nest.
Stewart Lewis says
Gary – thanks for your concern for my welfare. Discretion – or in this case cowardice – may be the better part of valour and I’ll sneak round on a non-match day.
Stewart – with regards to the strikers, I think it’s more of a case that RVW and Hooper played the game against Maccabi Haifa. This time it was Grabban’s turn. I didn’t think about it during the game but it makes sense.
As always a great post Gary. Harry Toffolo has really impressed so far showing how much he benefitted from his time out on loan last season. He seems a grounded level-headed chap who is willing to learn. The obvious question is how best to push him to the next step. I’m sure if we were in the Championship we’d be going with an Olsson and Toffolo combo fighting it out for the LB slot. The Premier League is a different matter though but, would bringing in a new left back hamper his development? Or would he be just too much of a risk to rely on in the PL?
Major Gubbins says
I thought the 3rd kit played a blinder – bright, easy on the eye and seemed to be a good fit.
Hope it gets another chance to show its stripes in the PL.
Stewart Lewis says
Daniel (6) – Good point. Not for the first time, I may be putting together 2 + 2 and making 7.
Colin Mason says
The togetherness of the group is evident and I reckon the players absolutely love AN and his coaches. They are going in to the season hitting the ground running AN will only bring in a player if he is certain but he’s not troubled. Other prem managers won’t know what to make of AN they may under estimate him at their peril! Gary O’Neil tweet very telling may be some more late goals and points as we enjoyed under PL i.
Premier League Pedant says
I don’t think anyone in football should heed the words of Mr. Comolli. His recruitment record is an embarrassment. The gist of his worries about Liverpool was that overseas players can take time to bed in. Liverpool have made 7 signings, not surprising considering last season. Just one came from abroad.
Chelsea and Arsenal only need “subtle adjustments” because they had successful seasons, doing things like winning trophies, making top four. What did Liverpool do?
I’m looking forward to Aug 8, but I’ll be grateful when we hit Sept 2 as well. I find all this transfer talk so tedious. No offence like.
With have in fact acquired nine new faces so far this summer not ten to put record straight. This has been outweighed with eleven players leaving the club (four were loans). So your assertions that we are overloaded with players are ill informed as usual.The existing squad was aware that there would be significant comings and goings over the summer so nothing to worry about with regards our team spirit. The same has happened over the last three summers and we haven’t done too badly have we.
Our ambitious owner has said he wants quality competition for every place in the squad. So far we have signed nine players, all with International Experience coupled with Europa and Champions league football. The club has done outstanding business acquiring these players for 17 million so far. He has indicated that he would like to sign more British players but the transfer fees are ridiculous, backed up with yourselves paying at least 7 million for a player that nobody else is interested in and only has one year left on his contract. It will be interesting seeing how our players bed in but pre-season has gone well so far. A lot of our business has been done early which every manager will tell you is beneficial.
If I look at yourselves and your transfer business so far has been nothing short of a complete shambles. Even “King Alex” has said how frustrated he has been with no new players arriving. Bet that public airing of his feelings pleased your board. No doubt you will now do the usual panic buys as the season is around the corner. Mulumbu was not even offered a contract from WB or chased by other premier league clubs even though on a free and Dorrans is a championship player. To think you will have paid at least 11 Million pounds on Brady & Dorrans is laughable. This must surely bring back memories of another great signing in wolfswinkie or whatever his name is!
Stewart Lewis says
Mick (12) – being ill-informed clearly isn’t restricted to East Anglia. Without getting into the pros and cons of Watford’s approach, just a couple of points for you about Norwich:
1. Alex Neil wasn’t complaining about Norwich. He made a point of saying the delays in signings weren’t at our end; he was expressing the same frustration no doubt felt by our Chief Exec. That logjam is starting to clear now.
2. West Brom fans are generally incredulous that Mulumbu wasn’t offered a new contract. It’s Norwich’s gain, as anyone who watched Saturday’s game against Augsburg will be well aware.
3. Dorrans looks to most of us – as he did to his former teammates – very much a Premier League player. Like Mulumbu (and unlike one or two of Watford’s signings, by the sound of things) he was extremely keen to join us.
Time will tell whether Brady, a quality 23-year-old with a lot of experience and pedigree, is worth the money. He’s a perfect fit for our needs and was clearly high on Alex Neil’s wish-list – that’s good enough for most of us.
I can’t judge the veracity of this, but Hull certainly claimed that another team was willing to pay a lot for him….Watford.
Cosmo P. says
Mick(12) – It’s way too early to say if Watford or Norwich have done the best business over the summer. For a start, there’s still 5 weeks to go before the transfer window ends!
Watford’s wholesale changes were inevitable as a new manager came in, and were necessary as your side generally performed so poorly against the better teams last season and had much less PL experience than Norwich.
“..International Experience coupled with Europa and Champions league football,” – sounds impressive (although I’m sure QPR fans would have made the same argument) but is no guarantee they can handle the rigours of the PL – look at de Maria and Falcao for example.
Looking at who your club has brought in, only Behrami maybe would add anything to our squad. The rest are a big gamble as is the manager who has been out of the competitive loop for a few years. It’s a pity you sold your promising U-21 keeper who was left with little option after the Lithuanian was brought in on a free transfer – how many other clubs were chasing him?!
Gary Gowers says
Hi Mick (12) – Thanks for popping your head around the door. As Stewart points out, it does seem a little early to play the ‘we’re great, you’re crap’ card, if only because there are almost five weeks left in the transfer window.
“…you will now do the usual panic buys as the season is around the corner”
Not sure that’s strictly true. Last time round we acquired Cameron Jerome in the final throes of the window, and that worked out OK. Am sure both clubs can offer up examples of ‘panic buys’ that have flopped and equally similar numbers who have succeeded.
His name is ‘Wolfswinkel’ and he’s back in the fray – and, I may be alone, but I have an inkling that December 5 will be his day to shine 😉
Thanks again for popping by.
el dingo says
@13 Stewart Lewis: Fantastic response. Are you sure you’re not a lawyer? I’m just sorry my old mucker Russ (not the MFW one) no longer works at the Fat Cat. A Watford fan you could really enjoy banter with. Cheers bud wherever you are – tho I think I’ve got a fairly good idea!
How am I ill informed when it is all over the media. You can dress it up as you want but
AN was clearly frustrated. If you want to drag your heels about players then that is your clubs prerogative. He knows the more time you have pre-season is essential for integration etc. Other clubs and us seem to have no problem getting players in they want.
As I said the two players from WB were not wanted by them fact or anybody else and I think we will all agree that Tony Pulis is a canny manager. You think they are great I think they are poor. No wonder he wanted to join you as he had no other offers from the prem. At least with Mulumbu you have not wasted 4 million.
You do not mention anything about Brady’s fee. You are happy paying seven million for him then? We were interested in Brady when he was at Man Utd three years ago as a kid. From what I have seen he is very inconsistent.
Agree that the two different approaches will only be worth comparing at the end of the season. You cannot compare us with QPR as our owners know the European leagues inside out which is why they have had so much success buying players and selling them on. We are showing a lot more ambition than your board. If I was you I would be very worried considering these same players which you think are so good got you deservedly relegated two years ago! The only players I like in your squad are Whittaker and Johnson. Two good solid players.
Today we have beaten PSV to a young promising winger who has just broken into the Dutch National Squad, however he would not get in your squad would he!
As you will be one of our main rivals in the scramble for points I’m personally delighted at your lack of ambition and spending money on poor players in my eyes.
As for Bond, our U21 keeper had only one year left on contract and would not sign a new contract as he wanted guaranteed first team football. There was no way he was going to be in front of Gomes. The decision which was fair to the lad was to let him move on and get a fee. What would Norwich have done then Cosmo, get rid of Ruddy? I think not. The Lithuanian was bought in as cover for Gomes. He is the countries national keeper and played Champions league last year for Steaua Bucharest. They offered him a new contract and he had the chance to go to Werder Bremen as well but chose us.
Always a pleasure.
Not sure about your wolfwinkie as I thought you were trying to off load him but no takers so far?
It would be sods law that he scored against us!
Stewart Lewis says
Mick (17) – Thanks for the reply.
I was actually trying to help you by pointing out facts (e.g. what Alex Neil actually said) that could save you some embarrassment. Sorry you’re reluctant to take up the opportunity.
Other clubs have certainly signed players more readily than Norwich. If you’re prepared, like Bournemouth, to cough up the first asking price of £8m for Tyrone Mings, then you’ll certainly have no problem being parted from your money.
Robbie Brady is a much better player than that.
And by the way, I’m told there was competition for both Dorrans and Mulumbu. We won over Dorrans in his loan spell last season, and preempted others to sign up Mulumbu. We’re very happy with those acquisitions, thanks.
I’m holding back from criticising Watford, as you can see. I wouldn’t wish to fall into the trap of mistaking wishful thinking for fact.
Cosmo P. says
Mick(17) – Steaua Bucharest didn’t get to the group stage of the CL – doesn’t really count. They were in the Europa League but then so were Wigan season before last. How much competition is there in Lithuania for the GK position?!
We clearly have a different definition of the word ‘ambition’. Leeds and Portsmouth had Watford’s kind of ambition.
Let battle commence on the 8th.
Gary Field says
@17 Mick – have to say it’s refreshing to actually see Watford are at least taking the Premier League seriously this time. Your two previous attempts were nothing short of embarrassing, with two 20th place finishes and just eleven wins.
Can’t be any worse this time, can it?
You offered 2 million to start with according to Bruce, now two months later you are willing to part with 7 million. No wonder Neill is pissed off. You made them pay over the odds for snodgraass now its what goes around comes around so I don’t think you are saving me from embarrassment as you put it? When he is interviewed he is not going to come out and blame the board outright is he! Still lets just agree that he is happy with transfer activity and move on to please you.
The competition for Dorrans and Mulumbu was from championship clubs so you are right.
Agree with you about Mings as Bournemouth have had their pants pulled down.
No answers for my facts then?
We are like Leeds and Portsmouth now Cosmo, what happened to QPR this afternoon. Please make your mind up, I know lets say that every club who has gone down and spent money are the same as Watford. Another ill informed comment as we are very financially stable.
Yes Gary we now have owners who are doing everything they can to give us a chance of staying up unlike our previous attempts.
Stewart Lewis says
Mick (21) – Just to stick with facts, our offer of £2m for Brady mirrored Hull’s ‘valuation’ of £15m. Fortunately we have a CEO who will persevere to get his man in a deal that’s right for the club. The final price is closer to our first proposal than to Hull’s.
An interesting contrast to the Sterling saga, where the two opening gambits of £20m (Man C) and £50m (Liverpool) ended with a price of £49m!
I agree – as I’m sure does Alex Neil – that it would’ve been preferable to get Brady earlier. But we also need other players, and in the absence of a super-rich or multi-club owner we need to get value for money.
Alex Neil is NOT pissed off, least of all with Norwich. You just look silly if you carry on with that. He knows what he wants, and knows that David McNally is working to get it for him.
The figure I have seen quoted by Bruce was 10 million so not sure where your 15 came from. Of course haggling is all part of the process to a point. My argument is I think 7 million is well over the top for a very average prem player with just a year left on contract which has taken you 10 weeks since your promotion to clinch the deal and Hull have certainly got the better side of it in my opinion.
Of course getting value for money is essential for the smaller budgets within the premier league which is why we are very happy with our business of quality now for every position for 17 million whilst yourselves have paid 11 million alone for Dorrans and Brady.
Not all of our signings will come off but our owners are normally very diligent in their selection process. Fans normally berate their owners because they do not sign players yet some posters on here like to slag us off because the board is giving the manager every chance. From seeing your local press and reading what your fans have been saying they do not share my delight at your transfer activity.
Stewart Lewis says
Mick – I’m trying to respond to you, but your argument seems to shift with each posting. Last time your barb was that we paid £7m after bidding £2m, before that it was the lack of interest from other clubs (denied by Hull), now you seem to understand the negotiating process but want to slate paying £7m for ‘a very average Prem player’.
As I say, Brady fits exactly our present needs. Time will tell whether the price makes sense.
I could retaliate with all kinds of innuendo about Watford and its dealings – but that’s your business. Perhaps we should lower the temperature a bit. Watford and Norwich each did well to get promotion last year; we both had some things going for us, but also some serious challenges. There are far worse clubs than ours in the new division we’re facing.
Gary Field says
Looks like WBA have just “overpaid” too, signing James Chester from Hull, who had one year left on his contract, for £8 million!
Perhaps Tony Pullis isn’t so canny afterall, given that their Premier League status was secured well before Norwich got promoted?
el dingo says
The fact that Pulis “rejected” Dorrans and Mulumbu makes me all the happier to have them both here.