I’ve fallen behind.
That statement could apply to many facets of life – particularly those involving technology – but in this case I’m thinking of the writers on this site.
Through the summer my fellow columnists have produced incisive analysis of tactics, formations and the Championship contenders, while I’ve been wallowing in Cambridge nostalgia and re-quoting Stuart Webber from three months ago.
Actually, no apologies for the latter. The gist of reaction to the interview he gave us in April was “Sounds good, but will he deliver?” So it’s maybe time for an interim review.
Stuart told us he was about to preside over some major change at Norwich City. Specifically, he promised to:
- Hire a dynamic Head Coach, with a clear approach and philosophy that could become the new Norwich way throughout the club;
- Reduce the wage bill and age profile of the squad;
- Give our talented young players a chance to shine;
- Bring in hungry, quality players within our budget, exploring a range of avenues including the Continent and loans;
- Communicate more openly and honestly with fans.
It’s clearly still a work in progress, as Stuart said it would be – but some fairly big ticks there, I’d say.
Not all the details will have gone to plan. I ‘m sure there are players Stuart and Daniel would have rather lost than Jonny Howson and Jacob Murphy. But those cases brought into play another principle Stuart shared with us: that nothing less than 100% commitment to Norwich City would do.
That’s also a reason I’m confident that Nelson Oliveira’s ‘celebration’ at Fulham will be quickly dealt with. I doubt Daniel Farke will let it pass without gently reminding Nelson who picks the team – but neither will he want to suppress the passion that lay behind it.
Stuart Webber also warned us that the new way wouldn’t work every week. At least, though, he promised we’d be told – and be able to see – what the team was trying to do.
That philosophy is crystal-clear (to the chagrin of the chap who sits behind me at Carrow Road and isn’t keen, it’s probably fair to say, on passing at the back). The movement and vision when we’re in possession is distinctly Continental, while the re-grouping when we lose the ball is taking impressive shape.
Stuart’s parting words to us three months ago were that we’d no longer see a Norwich team giving up. The performance at Fulham was perhaps what he had in mind. My previous away game was Sheffield Wednesday: an anaemic show devoid of ideas and spirit. What a contrast to Saturday, where City’s minds and bodies were ready to battle to the end.
Another ten minutes and I reckon we’d have won the game.
Leaving all that, let me try to catch up a bit with some of my colleagues’ analytical prowess.
Let’s begin with three goal difference scenarios:
- Scored 85, conceded 69
- Scored 67, conceded 56
- Scored 83, conceded 58
The first I’m sure you recognize as City’s from last season, with plenty of goals in the ‘For’ column. Some commenters – including a notable one on this site – have expressed worry that with the departures of Jacob Murphy, Jonny Howson and Graham Dorrans we might struggle to repeat last season’s scoring.
The question is: does it matter? What’s the key to improving on last year’s final placing?
A big part of the answer may lie in the second scenario (67 For, 56 Against). That’s last season’s average for the teams who achieved what we expected but failed to, and would love to achieve this time – ie the teams who made the playoffs.
They didn’t score anything like as many as we did. And last season was pretty typical. In 2011-12 Reading scored only 69 – and won the league.
No, the key is the other side of the equation. You’re not going to succeed in this division if you concede 69 goals. In recent years only one team has conceded as many as 60 and still finished in the top 6 (Palace in 2012-13, with 62). Most have let in significantly less.
It must surely have gladdened the hearts of those who’ve followed City in recent seasons to see the presence and performance of Christoph Zimmermann and Marcel Franke at Craven Cottage.
By the way, the third scenario is also City’s – in 2010-11, when Paul Lambert took us straight through the Championship. We were big scorers then too, and actually let in more goals than any of the other top six – but crucially, 11 fewer than last year.
With Paul Lambert’s side in mind, there’s another factor that the bare stats don’t really convey. Last season we piled on the goals in games where they were surplus to requirement (5-0 vs Brentford, 5-1 vs Forest, 7-1 vs Reading). What we signally failed to do was squeeze the kind of 2-1 victories out of close games that were the hallmark of the Lambert era.
At the end of the game at Fulham, we looked energetic and determined – a real throwback to Paul Lambert’s time.
Can we keep up the similarity?