It’s guest blog time again, and this week it’s the turn of Anna Say who takes a look at the changing demeanour and tone of Daniel Farke…
We know that the Daniel Farke we see is not necessarily the same guy that our players see in the dressing room but, for now, I want to examine how he has come across in the press, the approach he has taken and how that has changed this season compared to his first two.
This season Farke’s approach when talking to the media has noticeably differed. He has softened, he has protected his team, and he has backed his players even after the worst of performances. Has this good-intentioned change in approach actually had a negative impact on the team? Opinions will differ on this, but I for one think it has.
Over the course of the season, City fans have been told on numerous occasions that their team is ‘inexperienced’, that the team are ‘underdogs’ and that they are ‘favourites to go down’. When researching this I found these phrases to have been mentioned in no less than 14 separate pre-match press conferences, with the numbers likely to be a lot higher if all other interviews are considered.
This started in the very first presser of the season and appears defeatist because it’s an attitude that gives players an easy out. It’s almost an expectation to fail, when instead of saying we might fail because of this, Farke should have been saying we will succeed in spite of it.
If we look at his post-match press conferences, in particular the ones after the team has lost, we see that they too have changed. Instead of pointing out mistakes and expressing frustration with the team, Farke regularly defends them regardless of the performance.
Taking the 5-1 home defeat by Villa for example, it was disgraceful all-round but the first thing Farke says in his post-match interview is “I can’t blame the lads too much”, going on to then name all the things that went against them on that day, with the major one being injuries.
There was no anger, no fire and no passion, just an almost second-nature defensive stance from him. This begs the question, how can a team be expected to improve when their coach still defends them even after the worst of performances?
Compare this to any loss over the two previous seasons and the differences become quite clear. Even early in the 2018/19 season when losing to West Brom and Leeds, when it looked like we were once again going nowhere, Farke would not make excuses. He would be honest.
If we lost a game due to bad defending, he would talk of not being ruthless enough in front of goal when we had chances we just couldn’t convert, and he would tell us if the team didn’t perform to the best of their ability.
He did not, however, talk of City being inexperienced and being the underdogs when he had every reason to. At that time, we still had players who were getting used to English football, we had young players who had been brought into the squad and players who were getting used to playing again after being out for long periods. He didn’t use that excuse last season because it didn’t matter – all that mattered was their quality.
So why now? Why use it time and time again this season? Why use it as a reason for your players to fail when it never mattered before?
Let’s now look at how Farke previously dealt with player’s attitudes, in particular players who were not pulling their weight and not working as part of the team.
The first player who comes to mind is obviously Nelson Oliveira, a man whose attitude was questionable from the very first game in the 2017/18 season, right through to his very last. Farke, early on in his first season when asked about Oliveira…
“We can’t just lie back and work at 80 per cent. We have to be hungry and greedy to improve and when I don’t have the feeling there is a player willing to work in a disciplined way to improve his situation and that of the team, I will do without them.”
Olivera had a generally poor attitude and a poor discipline, something Farke was not about to let him get away with. He dropped him and all of the fans knew why, so it became a choice that was very difficult to disagree with.
However, Olivera was not the only one to be dropped because of his work discipline and attitude. In that same season, Josh Murphy faced being dropped in the week prior to City playing away at Middlesbrough.
“Josh Murphy wasn’t professional enough with his preparation for Middlesbrough. We decided to do without him. If a player isn’t there with his will 100 per cent, I will do without him, however good he is”
We know now, after recent interviews with the player himself, that at the time Murphy was not in a good headspace and was struggling with a lot, though this should not deflect from the point that Farke did not think he was being professional enough and therefore had no problem in dropping him.
This was explained to the fans and once again there were little to no complaints. Farke gave these two players nowhere to hide, he set a precedent and limited their very purpose as footballers, which is getting game time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we didn’t hear of any other disciplinary issues thereafter.
Returning to this season, there is a clear difference in approach. It would be difficult for even the most positive of fans to believe this team has had an outstanding attitude, and that they have given 100 percent every step of the way. Some of the performances this season have been so lacklustre, they have been hard to watch, but Farke has regularly made a point of saying how together the team is, how fantastic their attitude is and how they are all trying so hard.
He has, on so many occasions, refused to say that his team has not been good enough and that they have not tried hard enough, even when it has appeared obvious to anyone watching. This makes you wonder who he was trying to convince, the fans, or himself.
When it comes to individual players this season, we have seen several left out of the team without much of an explanation, one example being Emi Buendia, early on in the campaign. At that point he was one of our best players, certainly our most creative, so dropping him without an explanation left fans understandably angry.
Farke, in the past, seemed to have no problem with telling us why a player has been dropped, or if the team has not been working to his standard, only for him to ‘close up’ in the Premier League and drop the transparency that had been so prevalent between the club and fans for the two previous seasons.
On several occasions this season, Daniel has commented that he will not speak about individual players and the only logical reason for this is he wants to protect them. Which is, as I first stated, a very natural reaction.
But, unfortunately, by doing that he has closed the team off and shielded them from the fans, leaving supporters with nothing to do but speculate, in doing so fracturing the unity that was so important in getting us up to the Premier League in the first place.
Now looking forward. We face a season back in the Championship and it is important not to suffer the relegation hangover. If we are going to do that, then the protecting and defending of his players must stop. Now is the time for some tough love.
The Burnley post-match interview was a particularly good start, where we saw a fired-up, angry Farke who appeared done with making excuses.
That is the way that he must stay if he is going to stand any chance of whipping this team back into shape. I believe in Daniel Farke and I believe that he has the capabilities of being a world class manager, but if that is going to happen then we can never again see the Farke we saw this season.
Farke has shown, in that regard, weakness and let his players become weak. He let them believe they were not good enough to be in the Premier League and shielded them to the point where they lost all passion and desire.It is time to leave that behind.
No more excuses, it’s time to bring back the team that we saw last season. The team that had passion, fire, and belief.
The team that kept winning against all odds. The team that became champions.