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.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing I know but if it was me I maybe would of played this young akin famewo alongside ben godfrey until either Zimmerman or hanley get fit again . Also a shake up in formation and personnel perhaps he’s not got a lot to lose atm in my opinion .
Robin Sainty says
I think Farke track record in trusting youth answers that. If he felt the lad was ready he’d play him. Agree that it might be time to experiment although what I really want to see is Amadou in midfield.
martin penney says
I too would love to see Ibrahim Amadou in a deep midfield role and hopefully it won’t be too long now until we all do.
How, provided due diligence is adopted, can looking for new owners gamble with our future?
The current owners admit we have twice in recent times come within a whisker of going into administration. Is this really a secure course when costs are continually rising?
Having proven on four occasions they can not afford to establish the club in the premier league how can they hope to compete in the championship against a backdrop of new and extremely wealthy owners moving into this league.
I think the biggest risk to the club is retaining our current owners.
Phil B says
Great read and things put nicely in perspective.I must admit i had a little rant on here post match Saturday brought on by another lack lusture defeat and too many ales ! We have got to realise we have a come a long way in a short time and look in very good shape with the academy and the webber/farke combination which we couldn’t say in previous years.Patience is the key and let’s get some key players fit and see where it takes us.Keep the faith and I’ll cut down on the ale on match days : ) OTBC.
Alex B says
An enjoyable read
2 things I would lije to see happen
1) Tettey offered another 1 year with the option of a second
2) Not to put to much pressure on Zimmermann and Hanley being our saviours once they are fit.
Both CB will need time to get match fit and avoid the minor injuries that can occur when returning from a long lay off.
City have had a brutal run of injuries and yes some may gave been avoidable but as in yesterdays game at Everton accidents happen and hopefully Gomes will fully recover asap.
City are reaping what was sown a real lack of investment in the team due to previous errors, but just maybe overspending on loans is an error as well if the players don’t get game time.
David Bowers says
“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”
Actually, Webber is frequently honest only after the fact and dishonest before. For example, prior to Maddison being sold he repeatedly said there was no-need to sell. These from multiple interviews:
“At some point, James may well outgrow this club – whether that is in the Premier League or not – but when he does it will be to a good place and we will be well rewarded. But it will be when we decide.”
“It is good we don’t have a gun to our heads. At the same time if there is an opportunity to be creative we have to look at it,””
“We have an open mind, we are awake, but it is nice not to have the pressure of having to sell a Maddison or Oliveira or Pritchard.”
Which clearly does match with the reality you talk about “City’s continued existence hinged upon the sale of James Maddison”
Of course we then sold Maddison and Pritchard and more.
Then afterwards he and Stone talked about how they wouldn’t be sat there (at the interview) if they hadn’t sold them (and to paraphrase) “the club would be unrecognizable” – Sorry, I can’t find the quote but that was about it.
So personally I don’t believe a word Webber says publicly. That sounds like a slight, it’s not, he says what gets him the most leverage at the time (i.e. not admitting they needed to sell is the right thing to do to drive up prices). He’s smart. But I won’t parrot his words either.
Robin Sainty says
As a general rule of negotiation you don’t show a weak hand. Think that probably covers it.
Dave Bowers says
Agreed. But why then do people report what Webber says as gospel, when it most obviously isn’t.
I won’t dig out the old thread, but I was clearly called all sorts of things when I (correctly) said we needed to sell Maddison and Pritchard.
You too are say Webber has been nothing but honest.
Make your mind up.
Stewart Lewis says
Webber and others clarified that selling Maddison and Pritchard was necessary if we wanted to bring in new players (in fact, we brought in 15). Only that desire made the sale of both players necessary.
This is tiresome old ground. You were wrong then, and wrong now.
John Holland says
This was posted before the Accounts. Dave has since retweeted something from 2 years ago predicting a need to sell players as the income falls. Given the limitations that working on forecasts with just high level figures available it was impressively accurate. There are legal and commercial restrictions on exactly how open a senior manager of a PLC can be so I am not going to knock Webber for saying what he did at the time. At the last AGM we were warned to expect a £20m loss which thanks to promotion clauses etc rose to £38m, this would have been funded by player sales and would cover the purchase of players like Buendia. The accounts imply that promotion has averted a disaster so hats off to the football and commercial management for doing the business and the Board for appointing them. However, I am concerned about the ongoing viability of the club and how reliant we are on PL money. What would the costs have been last season if we stripped away the expensive PL hangover contracts and the promotion bonus paid to players and management? That is the level of expenditure we have to cover, does our current income meet that and what will fill the gap?
Don’t see your point. Stuart is painfully honest about City to fans but it’s naive to expect him to advertise how desperate we were to sell. That would have led to a cut price deal. You seem to be confusing honesty with stupidity. By the way, Pritchard forced his sale because he thought he was too good for the Championships
I also have faith in them robin and id love to be a fly on the wall to hear what they’re doing to address our misfortune ….just wonder whether a lewis or godfrey will be sold/sacrificed to allow more transfers in January ….was last January a successful window I cant remember must be my age lol .
Robin Sainty says
They won’t Jim, unless a player forces it. We have funds to buy in January without having to sell.
We all keeping longing for one at least of our central defenders to get back in to the reckoning, but in all honesty will it make any difference ? whether it is Zimmo, Timm or Grant . Their combined efforts last season were n’t exactly water tight. Now we are up at a higher level , We let in a lot down a league what makes anyone think they will be any better in this league. That should have been enough to warrant the extra body.
I wasn’t a lone voice calling for a defender, no hindsight or anything, simply because what we have are not quite good enough.
We got through some games last season, by out scoring and never throwing in the towel. the problems of the defense have not been sorted, now this is finding its way through the team. so the goals dry up and the confidence drains.
Recruitment was very poor, DrMic hardly a world beater, Roberts where the hell is he ? Amadou, looks like he may be worth it. Hiese and Byram also could slip into the same grade. Looking at those 5. does that speak premier League ?
I did expect a littl better than this, thinking it would be near December before all cottoned on to us, by then we would have given ourselves a fair fighting chance. . The task ahead is massive, and will be tests that coaching team and players have not faced before, But us fans have been through several times before
John Holland says
I would say that a returning Central Defender would enable Amadou to play where we want him to play and would strengthen the team
john d f says
Good read, absolutely spot on.
My comments are:-
1) It’s only six games since the Man City game arguably one of our best results in the premier league ever and the natives are already getting restless.
2) At least wait until we have our best 11 players on the pitch playing in their natural positions before we judge the likelihood of us remaining in the league.
3) I remember going to Sunderland for the 2nd game of the fateful 2015/16 season and getting the easiest 3 points of our season. However, they managed to turned it around to finish in 17th place. Not a good comparison given where Sunderland are now but the point is it’s still too early to right our season off.
Alex B says
Just read a story on newsnow it states that city had everything agreed with Sheff Wed to sign Jordan Rhodes and he had agree terms on a contract then they pulled the plug on the deal anymore info as it says city want to complete the deal in January
Please do not continue to perpetuate the virtue signallers myth that City fans are unreasonable idiots. There have been no serious calls for Farke or Webber out. The odd troll on Facebook maybe but you know full well they are not serious. Nor are people calling for Delia out in the manner suggested. There has been legitimate debate about whether her continued stance on ownership of the club is holding us back (as it becomes clear again that we will always struggle to compete at the top level) but that is understandable when our coach comes out and says we cannot afford £10m for a signing and will always be favourites for 20th place.
It’s like the false narrative spread last season (including by the “honest” Webber who has done a good job but frankly will say anything if it makes him look better/wiser) that fans were en masse calling for Farke to be sacked in the previous season. Didn’t happen. Yes some grumbles as you get at every club but it has been used to make out that the fans are stupid and know nothing do why should anyone listen to them.
The injuries have been unfair abd have hit us hard but we couldn’t defend properly last season either so they are not the only reason we are struggling and confidence has been undermined.
John Holland says
I entirely agree, it sometimes appears that there are attempts to divide fans. The majority of Farke out comments appear to be from people who are either trolling because they know it will stir up fans or are being sarcastic because they don’t believe it. Farke is very popular among fans and there is no serious call for him to quit so picking up on the trolling/sarcasm as a serious fan movement is puzzling, either a case of taking people too seriously or using it as a show of superiority. We need to see where we are this time next year and what our next steps are
gordon jablonski says
Great read Robin…I think my only disagreement with you is with regard to Buendia…his problem is that he is giving the ball away in really bad areas. From memory three of the goals in the last two games were a result of blind passes and “doing too much”. His problem is in his temperamental head, not in his feet. That said, the potential is there for all to see and I wish him every success as he gets it more together.
With regard to the plan for the future, I would suggest one of the biggest issues was getting promoted. The Board and Management were obviously working on a three-year plan and got promoted in two…and simply were not totally ready for it. The players needed another year to gel and gain experience and also a couple may have moved on and replacements found. What they appear to be doing right now is a holding pattern that has been devastated by injury. If we are relegated we will sell a couple of players and rebuild with some of the youngsters we already have (Famewo, Idah, Adshead, Power, Bushiri and a couple I have forgotten off the top of my head). If we stay up we may retain most of the current squad and then have those same young players coming through the ranks while a couple of purchases that we can now afford come in to add experience. In either case, the development of the squad and maintenance of the financial position remains the same.
Finally to those that ask if one central defender returning will make a difference, let me say this. Zimmerman in his role will add confidence to the younger back three and take the pressure off Godfrey…Amadou/Tettey in front of them will break up more of the attacking threat and make it harder for them to push through so easily and the best DM combination we have seen for two years was Tettey/Trybull. Immediately the difference will be apparent.
Heads up and pray for the best while planning for the worst. IMHO that is EXACTLY what Webber, Farke and the Board are doing. It is a hell of a gamble but if it comes off they may well change the way Championship teams approach the Premier league. For me it is a brave vision…