Turning points. Moments in time that have significance as markers ahead of a sudden or dramatic turn of events.
It sums up the modern game that increasing numbers of Norwich fans are already beginning to think we’re approaching one of these after only three games.
If I was happy to paint a diverse range of people with a particular trait, splash around a broad brush, I would say that Canaries fans are a fickle old bunch.
We’re Olympic standard moaners, enjoy quietly seething, and seek out the chance to partake in passive-aggressive moaning – especially if allowed to do so on Radio Norfolk just after 5pm on a Saturday evening.
Now, we’re not all like that – wouldn’t the world be a dull old place if we were – but with a win, a draw and, after last weekend at Bournemouth, a loss on our Championship record I have heard the faint murmurings of discontent. The grumbles. Fingers are being pointed and a scapegoat has even been selected for sacrifice by social media.
The well of pre-season optimism that seemed to runneth over appears to have dried considerably in September.
Let’s not get too over dramatic, though. No one is saying saying that we’re living in the dark days of Robert Chase’s chairmanship or Glen Roeder’s managerial reign (makes sign of the cross), but I have a feeling that all’s not well in the state of Norfolk.
The icy draft through the open transfer window is giving a lot of people the chills. The hairs were up on the back of the neck when Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia were given the cold shoulder by Daniel Farke before the Bournemouth clash.
His post-match comments regarding the pair’s attitudes showed the relationship between him and the duo had frozen over. At the time of writing, there appears to be no chance of a thaw with Cantwell set to drive the wrong way up what used to be a one-way road for player transfers from Leeds to Norwich.
Buendia, on the other hand, is being courted by Fenerbahce – though I’m sure this is only being encouraged by his agent in order to flush out other bids.
This impasse resulted in City fielding what could only be described as a workmanlike side against Bournemouth, who, in all honesty, weren’t really that great. However, we made them look a very effective unit, especially in the first half, by huffing, puffing, and generally not achieving anything. We dominated possession but did precious little with it from an attacking perspective.
The Cherries, on the other hand, fashioned some decent chances and eventually took one through Danjuma. He capitalised on weak play from Kenny McLean on the half-way line and leaden-footed defending from Christoph Zimmerman to grab what turned out to be the winner.
While it’s pretty clear that, on current form, Kenny shouldn’t be in the team (for the first time since his City Hall antics of 2018 he looks a better Mayor than a midfielder), it is Lukas Rupp who is drawing the most ire from the social media mob. After his display on Sunday you have to ask why.
Rupp was industrious, steady, and looks a solid midfielder. His main crime is that he’s not Emi Buendia. If the German was there to do what 5ft 7in of football heaven has done at this level in the past, then, I admit, he failed miserably. The thing is, he wasn’t. He was tasked with being solid and dependable in the centre of the pitch.
Step overs, rabonas, hip-rupturing shimmies, and dribbles past five men don’t feature on his footballing radar.
He wasn’t helped by the formation Farke deployed. Every City fan could see before a ball had been kicked that this line-up, featuring a really rather dull looking five-man midfield, was ill-designed and was going to offer little creativity or attacking nous. I can imagine Teemu Pukki weeping in the dressing room as the team was announced.
With Oliver Skipp staying deep and with a misfiring McLean in the centre, Rupp just ended up looking like the unremarkable, steady Eddie that he is. From that perspective, he didn’t disappoint.
While Onel Hernandez improved upon his sorry showing against Preston, he is still not quite looking like the Argos of old. Yet, even though not 100%, he was probably our brightest spark offensively.
On the other wing, Placheta was ineffective – his pace negated by our pedestrian build-up and the role he had to play. He’s far from the finished article and patience will be key with him as he develops.
At the back, Max Aarons didn’t show any impact of being linked with an ever-growing list of European heavyweights that includes Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG, and AC Milan. Totally professional, totally focused.
While Tim Krul made two amazing saves in the first half to stop the home side racing into a commanding lead. Max aside, it’s fair to say the Dutchman is an international class keeper playing behind an unconvincing Championship defence.
The main issue at the back is Zimmerman. There’s a mistake or a sloppy piece of play in him every week – it’s very much like watching him during his first season with the club. You know he can tackle, head, and compete. However, you also know full well that he’s probably going to have a hand in City conceding a goal. And this was true against Bournemouth.
The big German just didn’t play Danjuma very well at all – Christoph was so easily turned and lost for the goal that he might well have not been there in the first place. This weekend against Derby has got to be the time for Ben Gibson to step in and make his debut.
Team selection against Wayne Rooney’s Rams is going to be a tough one for Farke – with Cantwell and Buendia seemingly excommunicated, and Ben Godfrey now the subject of a huge bid from Everton, where does he turn to get City up and running?
How does he get a misfiring machine to purr rather than be poor? Surely now Marco Steipermann is over the back injury and can take the No.10 shirt? Or will we see Josh Martin given his head and a chance to show his talent?
So many questions and we have to trust Daniel to come up with the answers – and he really needs to avoid getting any wrong. The team he picks and the formation he deploys is going to be crucial if the team is to avoid an ‘Along Came Norwich’ moment and let a seriously misfiring Derby take the points from Carrow Road.
A number of events are coming together to form a significant, perfect storm – very important players are on the verge leaving; the squad is becoming unbalanced; we look weak through the centre of defence and midfield; there’s a worrying lack of creativity; and we need goals.
At a ridiculously early point of the season we’re starting to fashion a crisis of our own making. These are crucial moments on and off the pitch. To avoid the fickle finger of fate poking us in the eye there’s going to be a need for some nimble footwork both on and off the pitch over the next few weeks.
Get things wrong now and the murmurs of discontent will become increasingly more audible, whether the stadium remains empty or not.
Andrew Delf says
Spot on Martin. The spine of steel needs to be deployed forthwith. Therefore Krul,Gibson, Skipp and Hugill need to be started, from then on its whatever formation Daniel seeks to administer. This season is not going to replicate the masterclass dished out during our previous championship tenure. So whilst having a strong squad it is looking increasingly likely to be shorn of its most creative players until our new heroes emerge. This seasons campaign needs to be of the solid error reduced type, eeking out low scoring wins and draws and not too many 4-3 last minute games. It won’t be as exciting but pragmatism must prevail. Finally I hope Mr Webber might spend a little of the incoming on a couple of real up to speed quality signings to “give the lads a hand.”
John Holland says
Losing the match to Bournemouth is not a problem. Lacking creativity was not a problem as it looked like we only needed one addition to the squad to be effective much like Buendia turned us round when he arrived. The concern really boils down to what prompted Farke’s comments especially the Roederesque comparison between Cantwell and Hanley (so Zimmerman will be in the number 10 role this week?). These comments were out of character and suggest bigger issues behind the scenes which have to be sorted out very quickly. Regarding Rupp, I think he was brought in as someone to support Buendia/Duda in an advanced role, he is a neat short passer. The key about Buendia is what he does when he does not have the ball as he runs into space looking for the return ball, Rupp is the perfect foil for that kind of player but without the creative player alongside him he is ineffective. McLean is a similar style of player in my mind
Colin B says
The article has clearly set out the issues facing the club. I am hopeful that some of the money we are likely to receive in the next week will be reinvested, whilst some will be needed to cover the lost income. I anticipate Webber already has targets lined up.
Whilst I think there will be no return to the squad for Drmic and Leitner, I would like to see Trybull brought back in from the development squad as I think he is still capable of doing a job in the Championship. I have never understood why he has fallen out of favour. Yes, he is short of Premier League standard but so were many of last season’s squad.
I hope Farke is pragmatic in using his best assets and adopts a new formation. Given we crossed so often against Bournemouth we need to get Hugill in the team alongside Pukki. We might not create chances with passing but crosses do create chances if you have the right men in the box. The passing Farkeball requires lots of players in the attacking third, which in the past has left us vulnerable. A crossing game does not need the team to commit so many men forward, if there are two quality forwards.
I agree that the next couple of weeks will be pivotal in our season.
I think people are missing the bigger picture.
Our owners gamble in spending £750,000 last year is now coming to fruition.
We are mid table in the championship, their preferred league and selling our better players which will ensure we stay there.
People seem to have forgotten the clubs unwritten mission statement which is Delia and Michael to retain ownership wherever we may end up.
OTB little Norwich.
martin penney says
Like all the others above a very good comment on a very good article.
My question would be: is the concept of self-funding *unwritten* in terms of the Smith dynasty and all that entails?
To me I see it in tablets of stone. Pick out a few quotes from over the years, string them together and I can see it in very prominent bold lettering: hands off, NCFC is ours and if you don’t like it do the other thing. But meanwhile we’re happy to take your money. ST’s, merch, catering, donations to the [most admirable] CSF, all contributions are most welcome.
Such a mission [if not the statement of it as such] bites harder than usual during strange, unpalatable times such as these.
Auntie knows best. For auntie, anyway. Webber will get to the end of his tether at some point and that’s when the floodgates of doom and gloom will open big style.
Something tells me January will be the really pivotal month for NCFC.
The frustrating thing Martin is the longer they reign the more convinced they seem to be they are the only viable option.
martin penney says
For a self-declared socialist [and fair play to her for that in its way] I’ve always found Delia to be a dedicated conservative when it comes to NCFC and her “stewardship” thereof.
That’s probably why I’ve always striven to be apolitical myself. I despise all career politicians equally so nobody can accuse me of inconsistency.
Farke needs to rethink his formation I would prefer a 3-5-2 formation Hanley , Gibson, Bennett if we could get him got to be worth a punt with pukki and Hugill up top , let’s hope we can re-invest back into the squad wouldn’t mind a few of that million spent on Angus Gunn as Krul s ready made replacement next season or so , but seriously I don’t see Farke hear for much longer if we lose to Derby to much bad stuff going on and to be honest with a very poor win rate must bosses would have been sacked ages ago
It’s hard to argue with most of the points made.
While we must sympathise with the seemingly enforced nature of some of the impending sales, it would appear heads have been somewhat turned, it does fly in the face of Webbers proclamation at seasons end.
The sale,of Lewis, Godfrey, Buendia, cantwell and probably Aarons will rip the heart out of the squad and bring in huge transfer funds. The problems will start if the money is banked and no attempt is made to fill the gaps in quality with players who will be battle ready and of a certain pedigree. These will come at a cost.
The number of incoming signings, although welcome, will be more than financially covered by the Lewis sale. It’s worth remembering too that soto, McCollum, Sitti and sinani have already departed again on loan. Remove Mumba and Dennis from the equation as development squad signings and it’s clear the squad is being depleted in size and quality.
If the club is even half serious about “coming back stronger” action needs to be taken. If not, we all know where we stand.
It would be worth the hierarchy at the club noting that following a season of chronic underfunding resulting in humiliation, the appetite for mid table or worse precipitated by ferocious asset stripping is non existent.
John Caithness says
As you imply we all have different opinions and for an amateur you set out your very misguided case very well. Just as well that you are not in a place of influence at NCFC.
martin penney says
How do you know precisely who is an amateur and who isn’t?
Given the backgrounds, experience and knowledge of many of our MFW writers you’d be surprised to discover that several of us have many years of professional experience within sports [and specifically football] journalism. I can think of half a dozen of us without breaking sweat.
I’ll do a kindly version of Roeder on you by pondering: what is your personal experience of professional sports journalism?
I’d be really interested if you’ve got the time to tell.
What has being professional (ie being paid) or amateur (not being paid) have to do with anything.
Anyone with half a brain can write about football having watched the game and certainly any fan can comment about their team.
Football is not rocket science requiring some sort if degree level insight, like some like to pretend, it’s just football.
And before I get asked I have, in my time, freelance for both the major media outlets in Norfolk,
Martin Betts says
Many thanks, John! I value your response as a fellow amateur. OTBC.
Inside Right says
This will be the last season with Farke and Webber, whatever happens. Then the problems will really start!!!
The sale of young players to keep Delia’s vision of living in a footballing parallel universe is not sustainable, so it is much more likely we will be joining our neighbours in League One, rather than any hope of returning to the Premiership.