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.