That we’re all slightly chirpier this morning having witnessed an improved City performance says a lot about the level of the current bar.
But we are. And it was.
It’s hellishly thin gruel though if our spirits are lifted by what was ultimately another error-strewn defeat against some very mediocre relegation rivals.
But, there’s no denying it was a showing that produced the spirit and appetite that’s been missing since the restart, and in his ‘Paddy’s Pointers’ piece in the EDP, Paddy Davitt tells of a Lloris/Son type exchange between Timm Klose and Onel Hernandez that the Sky cameras missed; the first obvious example of the hackles rising since March.
Too little too late of course but, even though our fate is all-but sealed, there is at the very least professional pride at stake and, more pertinently, a need to ensure the season doesn’t peter out without even the merest hint of resistance.
And, to be fair, using the July 2020 barometer, last night’s performance passes as resistance. So fair play.
Whether it was because of the quality of the opposition or due to the back-to-basics line-up, there was a more familiar ebb and flow to City’s attacking play last night, albeit there was also familiarity in the way the defending was more kamikaze than cohesive.
The debate around why we’ve been unable to find a combination of back four and defensive midfielders fit for Premier League purpose will continue and, as ever, we’ll conclude it’s as much to do with how the team defends as a unit as it is the individuals in that unit.
But, and it’s a biggie, three of last night’s back four are our bright young things – all three in the sights of the rich and powerful – and yet have all played major roles in a defensive unit that’s been at the fore of our Premier League nightmare.
Make no mistake, each one is a gem, and ultimately will raise sums of money for this football club that will keep it afloat, but there’s plenty of learning left to be done.
All outstanding. All unpolished.
That Timm Klose was last night’s standout figure in a back-four that creaked tells its own little story.
Another season, however unlikely that appears, under the auspices of Farke and the joys of Colney would harm none of them.
But, whatever occurs in the world of football agents over the next couple of months, surgery is needed to make our defending better. A refresh, somewhere along, the line is required because – as ever – both goals last night were avoidable. Both soft, of an ilk not normally seen in the Premier League.
And in both instances, it was the inability to physically match a Watford side that was collectively bigger, stronger, and more athletic that cost us.
Watching Jamal Lewis being swatted aside by Craig Dawson to give the centre-back the run on a helpless Alex Tettey was soul-destroying enough but to then see Kenny McLean being so easily brushed off the ball by Ismaïla Sarr was enough to make the stomach churn.
Neither were glaring, obvious errors but equally, both showed an all-too-familiar lack of Premier League nous in those split-seconds. Small details that if ignored collectively come at a massive cost.
Much of the post-match hubbub has been around the contributions of Mario Vrancic and Marco Stiepermann, both of whom have enjoyed enhanced reputations of late as a result of not playing.
On the night, both showed understandable signs of rustiness while also doing enough to remind us of those heady days of the spring of 2019. Both offer something a little different and more fluidity than the more recent incumbents of their respective positions, but I’m not of the school that believes this season would have turned out differently if they’d both been given more game time.
Both have had their fair share of horror shows – Stiepi in the first couple of months of the season as the bright start dissipated and Vrancic, most notably, in the nightmare of Old Trafford – and were guilty of not grasping opportunities afforded to them, but their recalls were not before time.
I’m glad both delivered last night, at least enough to hopefully earn a start against West Ham.
But, ultimately, it was another defeat and still the records of the wrong kind keep on tumbling. We proved last night that we still have the ability to be pleasing on the eye, while also being unable to defend to the standard required to pick up Premier League points.
I’ll leave the final line to my dad, who, after telling me how much he enjoyed last night’s improved offering concluded with “… but let’s be honest, not one player in that squad (maybe other than Tim Krul) would get in the starting XI of any other Premier League team“.
He’s right, isn’t he?
Great read as always Gary and very wise words from you dad! This season has been a real stinker and after the result sank in last night I was left pondering who has really delivered this season, who has exceeded expectation and who has fallen short. In the case of the former, I think both Tim Krul and Alex Tettey have had good seasons albeit within the context of our impending relegating. Both have brought a level of experience, leadership and know-how which without this season would have been even tougher. Todd Cantwell has for me exceeded expectations adding more consistency to his swagger. As for the rest I’d have to say they fall into the inconsistent or really poor bracket.
In terms of the youngsters it will be fascinating to see how the summer evolves in terms of their futures. All at times have looked great and at others a bit out of their depth. But it is also really important to put this season into context for these undoubtedly talented young players. For Lewis and Buendia, this is effectively only their third season playing regular first team football; for Aarons and Cantwell its season two and for Godfrey, well he was on the fringes of the Norwich team with little Championship level experience before the beginning of 2019. All have come a long way in the last two season along a massive learning curve. I hope for all them, despite the inevitable interest, that they opt to consolidate by staying at Norwich next season. Recent history shows that jumping ship isn’t always the best move – for every James Maddison, there are numerous talents that don’t make the step up for various reasons and end up back in the Championship plying their trade, the Murphy twins being the obvious examples. Jack Grealish had the right idea by staying at Aston Villa when they were relegated and is far better player for it.
It was also great to see Vrancic and Stiepermann get games last night but again, what the summer has in store for them will be interesting. Both could be key players at Championship level but given they didn’t set the Premier League alight will they be given that chance (or will they want that chance)….
Inside Right says
Defeat is so ingrained at Norwich City, it barely registers any reaction for many these days. How sad.
This season has been a complete waste, for everybody concerned with the club. That cannot be left unchecked. Unless fans want more of the same – some do – things must change and that means at the top.
Last seasons efforts were totally in vain and the only ‘positive’ is that some players have risen in value. This will mean that our hapless and superfluous majority shareholders – akin to the local corner shop owners financing ICI – will continue to run “their club” in a community spirit inline with a rural summer fete. Let’s say Stowmarket for geographical purposes.
Football is a business and a results business. There has been results, but all too many in a negative direction. Somebody has to carry the can for that.
Some say Farke, some say Webber, some say both.
Certainly they have to be questioned, especially in the formers case Post Lockdown. However, Farke has been given a lousy hand of 7 High and I cannot imagine many managers at any club tolerating his budget for this season.
What has Farke gained from this season? Did he see what was coming? A more ruthless man would have walked pre season with his stock high. Instead, he is seen as withering.
Norwich City have reaped what they have sown and got exactly what they deserved. Other than the more ambitious fans, nobody deserves any sympathy.
If it is a rotten at the top, in time it will be rotten at the bottom. It’s time for the Stowmarket Two to sell up and ride out of town.
A good summary of last nights game
I think the Ref had a stinker for city in that any touch of a Watford player got booked and they really played up to it.
Compared to the city side they were monsters all barr one over 6ft but hitting the ground to earn a free kick or break up play at the first opportunity and Lewis/Tettey booking both for their first fouls was a LOL moment and yet all the fouls Hughes did took till second half to get him booked.
Well Martins not so Favourite Zone marking was a let down again and Dawson time he scored should have been booked for pushing, but Watford’s Manager is known for his physical teams and direct style and it wins him games.
Welbeck’s goal how was he left so unmarked and then the commentator saying great skill, what skill an overhead kick is luck at best and yes they look good but with his injuries he could have got carried off, and would he have tried it if a defender had been close I doubt it.
Rebuilding for next season looks to be steam rolling ahead with a new winger for €15m rumoured from Romania not sure on this one seems expensive, then LOL Wilder says he is offering £10m for Cantwell what’s get on and now city telling interested parties £50m for Godfrey good luck for that one.
Yes silly season will continue
Onwards and upwards
Keep safe and well
Suspect the Romania winger was on list A, ie for another go at EPL. We have actually moved onto list B for the Championship. The noises here are more likely and much more in SW’s comfort zone. Bring on the refresh!
martin penney says
But it wasn’t me it was Gary – I’m on tomorrow 🙂
Alex B says
Yeah a typo error realised after posting hoped Gary might have caught it lol
Jim Davies says
Agree with you all the way, Alex. I can’t understand why a referee should be such a “homer” when there’s no crowd to antagonise, but he certainly seemed to have his yellow tinted spectacles on. Unfortunately, we were playing in red.
There were faults for both goals, but obviously VAR didn’t think it was worth commenting on Dawson’s man-handling of Lewis prior to scoring, and while there was certainly skill involved in the overhead kick, probably fewer than one in twenty attempts like that end up in the net. Mostly they go over the bar or past the post. Just our luck last night, especially as we’d just had three well struck attempts on their goal in the space of about thirty seconds.
I’m not going to repeat my previously stated views on zonal marking.
At least we showed some spirit, and at times, decent football last night. I’m hopeful that we don’t lose more than a couple before next season, and given that Webber has got the contract situation under control, if any do go we shouldn’t have to give them away. Bring on the Championship! At least, we probably won’t have to worry about Leeds and the Baggies, and Villa and Bournemouth, who I expect to join us, are likely to have FFP problems.
I do have to disagree with your father I’m afraid. We have a number of players who would easily enhance current Premier League teams. Imagine Max at Spurs, with some seasoned defenders alongside him. Or Lewis at Leicester. Emi would surely improve most teams while Todd walks into most of the bottom half teams.
Their main issue this season, to my mind, is all having very little experience and very little cover, so a break from the firing line has never happened.
I personally think Ben is the best of the lot and wouldn’t be at all surprised if a club from the Top 6 came in for him.
Last night was a definite improvement and I hope DF sticks with it. Feel so sad for Teemu. He’s obviously busting a gut but it’s just not happening at all. Maybe Saturday, fingers crossed.
David Bowers says
This season ends on a whimper. A failure for which no one at any real level of power will feel the cost. Only the fans will be expected to pay (the usual) price.
Good points Gary, I for one cannot wait for this gruesome spectacle to end and I’m in no great hurry to see it return either. I’m sickened by it.
That there was an improvement is indisputable. However, as you rightly point out, the previous bar has been set lower than a snakes belly.
The return of Vrancic was long overdue and I can see no valid reason why he hasn’t featured 15 or 20 times more than he has this season. His first action was to block tackle an opponent, get his head up and pass an incisive ball into the feet of a team mate 20 yards ahead of him. He kept his head up all night and glided about the pitch like a thoroughbred. Evan ekoku picked him as city’s best performer and I have him correct.
If, as you state Gary, Vrancic has paid the price for one poor performance, and that at the the home of Manchester United in a pathetic team display, then that is disastrous management from Farke. Quite a few others have played like drains with monotonous regularity without such censure. Farke definitely appears to have a problem with Vrancic,
The result hinged on three incidents, all of which should have gone in our favour. The first, Lewis attempted clearance and subsequent air shot, followed by foul and yellow card, which exposed us to the dreaded set piece and the chance to demonstrate just how absolutely crap we are at zonal marking. The second, Mcleans pansy puff challenge on the half way line, allowing himself to be wrestled to the ground leading to a cross into our box which was sliced into the air freakishly by Aarons. This shouldn’t have been a problem had somebody been doing his job properly and stationed himself within a yard of the centre forward in our penalty box. Given the freedom of Hertfordshire Welbeck channel end his inner Max Whitlock and managed to contort himself into a shooting positIon from which he shinned the ball into the net. Any defender in close proximity would have either made such a shot impossible by cramping welbecks style or rendered the goal inadmissible due to the dangerous height of his boot.
Desperate for an equaliser to at least end the agonising regular diet of defeats my heart leapt as Drmic of all people got a good flick on at the front post and the figure of idah came flying in at the back. To some, the impending goal mY have been of no consequence, however to me, it meant everything. I cannot explain quite how he missed the target from 12 inches but it was the final straw.
Watford were average at best, yet we still find a way to lose to them. Enough already.
I love watching Vrancic and his efforts last season will live long in my memory.
But having watched him a fair bit this season, I think there are very valid reasons for not playing him at this level – namely he can’t cover enough ground and to use the footballers expression ‘he’s blowing out of arse’ after 70 mins or so.
I accept however, that we looked a more cohesive unit last night and were genuinely unlucky to lose, but yet again our lack of game management or intelligence, call it what you will, let’s us down.
Any team knows, especially away from home that if you’ve just scored try and keep at tight for 15 / 20 minutes at the very least. But as soon we gave we away that free kick my heart sank.
I accept we have several young players and we’re trying to play to a system, but eradicating cheap goals has got to be a high priority.
A very accurate summary of last night’s game.
We will always struggle against more physical teams and as Martin and many others have repeatedly said – zonal marking is costing us too many avoidable goals, but I’m not ‘holding my breath’ on DF being willing to change it any time soon.
Yes, the ‘silly season’ will be on us in the VERY near future and if Wilder thinks he can buy Cantwell for a miserly £10M, he’d better get his abacus down off the shelf again. Double it and he might be newer the mark.
Yes, I think most of us fans feel that ALL of our youff would benefit greatly from another season with DF and his coaching staff, but knowing unscrupulous agents, they’ll be furiously calculating what luxury item/property they can buy with their percentage of any deal they can persuade their player(s) to sign.
Cyprus canary says
It is strange isn’t it that we all want Aarons, Godfrey and Lewis to stay yet they have been a key part of a defensive lineup that has shipped well over a hundred goals in two seasons. If they are as good as we say then the defensive frailties have to be laid at the manager’s door. When Watford appointed Pearson they were miles adrift at the bottom and I predicted that they would survive and unless we changed our “philosophy “ to suit the occasion we would struggle. Sadly I was right. Teams that survive in these circumstances are those who are sufficiently ruthless in their decision making and as we have shown before we are not.
Maybe the Webber plan will come to fruition and we will return all the stronger but the championship is hard to get out of as Derby, Leeds et al will testify. OTBC.
It has been a season (at least since the opening five or six games were completed) of vast disappointment. Not because we have been relegated but because we have been constantly fed with the mantra – “We are the underdogs in every Premier League game” and that was repeated again last night. This has almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy and if meant to be a clever use of reverse psychology I don’t see that it has worked, other than to lower expectations to ‘finishing above 20th would be an achievement.’
Yes, injuries at centre back have hurt us badly (though we could have assumed pre-season, that because of our Championship concessions, that was going to be an area of weakness that needed strengthening).
Tactically we have been incredibly naive, especially with our insistence on playing five-a-side keep ball in and around our own area. This was repeated last night when Klose opted to play a short pass from just inside our penalty area to Lewis, who hemmed in by the touch line and with an opponent bearing down on him gave up the ball and conceded a free kick from which Watford scored. (We have consistently looked vulnerable at free kicks in and around the final third, particularly from wide positions and corners have produced similar palpitations.)
Lewis, who is a good young (?) player, had a very difficult night against the strong running Saar but why was he not encouraged to be less attack-minded (!!!) once the strength and pace of his opponent was seen to be an issue. We would still have been able to utilise the robust nature of Hernandez in that left sided position without leaving our defensive left flank so exposed.
Our failings as a team are not simply down to ‘the players are not good enough.’ Yes, we have been weakened by injuries but collectively and individually what has been done on the training ground, as well as during the match, to attempt to rectify weaknesses?
Don Harold says
The only hope I have left for this season is that it’s not Wetsham that relegates us. This season has been pretty rotten, but we don’t deserve to be relegated by that mob with the most unfounded superiority complex in the league. And don’t get me started about us buying them a stadium…
It’s the first time we have played our best team in months. And as soon as Farke intervenes by replacing Tettey for his favourite McLean we let a goal in. McLean immediately failed to bring down or deal with the Watford winger. This was the one occasion that Farke didn’t actually have to do anything and should have let things be. I think that we would not have been on such deep trouble if he had played this lot when they were available – it was their mess to sort out – but he did not trust them.
Good summary Gary.
Once again our inability to physically compete with a much “bigger” team provided the usual outcome.
Having taken the lead, Klose plays a hospital pass in a poor position to Lewis, who fouls his man and we all know how poor we deal with corners and similar set pieces. And as for the “Mayor’s” contribution just after coming on, he gave a good display of having the backbone and fortitude of an old and soggy blancmange. Even so, the deflected cross could have gone anywhere, but what a finish from Welbeck (where is Simon Hooper when you really need him??).
How refreshing to hear from a pundit (Efan Ekoku) that he actually “gets” the NCFC philosophy.
One can only hope that somehow we manage to ship fewer easy goals next season – otherwise it may be more difficult to escape the Championshipn than many of our armchair pundits think.
O T B C