It’s guest blog time again, and today it’s the turn of Jack Goddard. Jack graduated with a degree in Sports Journalism from the University of Brighton last year and since then has been travelling Australia. He’s been a season ticket holder at Carrow Road for 15 years.
Take it away Jack…
I’ve got some advice for you if you want to get Norwich City and their never-ending struggles out of your head for a couple of months: get as far away from Carrow Road as you possibly can.
Having just returned from travelling Australia I can confirm that reducing the disappointment of a whole Saturday afternoon’s football to a quick, resigned check of Twitter on a Sunday morning is definitely good for the soul.
As a result, I’m quite chirpy about the Canaries, and will remain so until at least tomorrow evening – even in spite of a three-hour ride back from Heathrow listening to my dad tell me that Mario Vrancic absolutely cannot help Harrison Reed anchor the midfield and that Marco Stiepermann, try as he might, simply isn’t a left-back.
All I have to go on, since the last time I saw Norwich play (against Ipswich in a Perth sports bar), are the cold, hard stats.
And in fairness, they don’t read well.
In the seven league games since Derby Day we’ve drawn two, lost five and, of course, won none, scoring five goals and conceding 12 in the process. We’re 11 points off the play-offs, trailing Ipswich by eight points, and, just in case anyone was still harbouring hopes of a top-two finish, 19 points behind second-placed Cardiff.
It’s not ideal. But allow me to offer some fresh perspective from someone who has not encountered the Carra while the mood has soured.
While on the subject of stats, the book The Numbers Game, by Chris Anderson and David Sally, says teams win (or lose) any individual match due to one of two reasons: skill, or luck. It reads:
The role of chance in producing goals is considerable. In fact it’s about 50/50. Half of the goals you see, half of the results you experience, are down not to skill and ability but to random chance and luck.
And when you break down the seven-game streak Norwich are currently on you could, feasibly, put four of those results down to varying levels of misfortune. Against Derby, Josh Murphy was denied a penalty to take the lead, while a penalty was wrongfully awarded against City on Friday night (and, had Nelson Oliveira taken his chance just before half-time, we would have been two goals up before then anyway.) Forest weren’t any more deserving of a win than Norwich a fortnight ago and, had Murphy taken a shot at a wide-open goal against Preston then that game may also have panned out differently.
This isn’t to say there aren’t huge problems. Yes, a defence that is back to leaking goals at a rate of almost two a game, a midfield devoid of creativity and a two-man strike force that has combined for no goals in City’s last nine games isn’t ideal. But equally, there are still several straws to cling onto.
We have been unlucky to not take three points from at least one of the last seven games, we haven’t been heavily beaten by anyone since Millwall, and we have already seen what this squad is capable of this season.
So allow me to make the case for another turn-around in fortune this year (the argument is three-fold):
- Finally, finally, Alex Pritchard is back. Of course, he still isn’t fully match-fit, but if Daniel Farke is insistent on cramming as many attacking midfielders into his starting line-up as possible, there cannot be a more technically-gifted triumvirate of players in the Championship than Pritchard on the right, Hoolahan on the left and Maddison down the middle. I think we’d all prefer a system slightly more direct than that but as long as Pritchard (is it too much of a stretch to suggest he’s the best player in the division?) is part of it, goals will follow.
- January is coming. And for the first time in several transfer windows, I’m not sure there’s one player (apart from Pritchard) the fans would be afraid of losing. Even if Maddison left it wouldn’t be a disaster – his nationality and the three and a half years remaining on his contract would surely demand a monster transfer fee. But if Timm Klose and Oliveira and maybe even Steven Naismith(!) were to leave it would free up a lot of money that, invested wisely, could see an upturn in fortunes. Cardiff, Bristol City and Sheffield United are proving this season that all you need for success in the Championship is still just a well-organised, hard-working squad.
- Bit of a controversial one, this. But I still fully believe in Farke. Yes, we have to be more direct and he has to offer his back four more protection in midfield, and he needs to re-organise the now familiarly hapless defence. But this guy is seriously intelligent and unused to failure. In an excellent interview with the Guardian back in October, Farke explained how he guided Lippstadt in Germany from the fifth tier to the third over the course of six years. The club were even able to get a stadium built with one of the stipulations being that Farke had to stay – to guarantee stability and sustained success. Then, of course, he instantly got the Borussia Dortmund second team promoted. Just because he hasn’t delivered immediate success doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Unless we are in imminent danger of relegation I remain excited at what Herr Farke can do (and no-one actually expected us to get promoted this year anyway, remember?)
And with that, I shall remain determinedly positive! Until at least tomorrow night when, with my feet having already fallen off due to the cold, I will sit through a desperately turgid 0-0 draw/1-0 loss/1-1 draw if we’re lucky…
When’s the next flight back to Australia?