Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke has passionately reiterated the importance of positivity as the Canaries head into their crucial match against Watford, claiming that 100% of supporters must remain upbeat to earn Premier League establishment.
The German denied that the game was ‘must-win’ for his side, but called on supporters to “make Carrow Road a fortress” today after a difficult start to the season for City.
“The key is to stay positive after one or two [bad] results,” Farke said. “Our supporters have had to learn to suffer on Premier League level a little bit in the last two or three decades and so we’re used to it. But the key will be that we also stay positive and don’t lose trust in the process and don’t lose trust in ourselves.”
The former Borussia Dortmund II coach then defended some of the players who have come in for criticism after Norwich’s pointless opening four games, saying:
“After a defeat, I hear some criticism of some of our players. For example, in the first games my centre-backs, Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley, were criticised a bit because we conceded a few goals and it’s more like, ‘yeah, not good enough for Premier League level’.
“I think it’s important that we stay positive and respectful. What these lads have done for this club is unbelievable. Ben Gibson: if I’m honest I’ve worked quite long in this business but I’ve never worked with a centre-back who is better in his build-up play. He’s outstanding with his left foot. In the dressing room, he acts like a captain even if he’s not involved.
“Grant Hanley was a massive rock last season. He was outstanding. He’s so important for us.”
German midfielder Lukas Rupp, who many were shocked to see in the starting lineup as City went down 1-0 to Arsenal last weekend, was defended most vehemently, Farke claiming that the man affectionately coined ‘LR7’ does a lot of unnoticed work for his team.
“Lukas Rupp is sometimes not a fan favourite, I know this,” Farke continued. “Sometimes there are some raised eyebrows when he’s in the starting lineup but, believe me, if you asked the players, he would be for more or less every player the first name on the team sheet.
“No other (out)field player is experienced like Lukas on this level. No other player covers ground like Lukas on this level. No other player wins possession back for us like Lukas on this level.
“When you watch the game against Arsenal back, in terms of his defensive behaviour, how many situations he repaired and how often he won the ball back, this was Oliver Skipp levels.
“He is perhaps not playing football that’s sexy like Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s LR7, not CR7. He’s not Emi Buendia with his magic touch, who gets the supporters up from their seat. He’s an unsung hero, but we need these types of players, and we also need support for them.”
First-choice striker Teemu Pukki has also come in for criticism after a slow start to the season. At 31 and with £9million competition signed this summer in Josh Sargent some had questioned how effective the Finn can be in the Premier League this season. There’s no question for Farke.
“When I think about Teemu Pukki, 29, 11, 26, these are the numbers of goals he’s scored in the last three seasons. There’s no doubt, he’s one of the best strikers that this club has ever seen,” he said.
“This player stuck with us after relegation when he had other opportunities because his blood is yellow. I’m struggling to accept the comments that are like, ‘he’s poor, he’s too old, he needs to be dropped’.
“We have to make sure that for these players, who have delivered so much for us as a club, it’s important to stay positive and back them and show them respect. OK, on Premier League level it’s more difficult to shine than on Championship level.”
The boss does, however, sympathise with their fans and has been in their shoes. The 45-year-old told the media: “It’s not a complaint because I know that 95% of our supporters are positive and can judge it in this way, but if we want to establish this club on Premier League level, 95 is not enough. We need 100%.
“I was a supporter as well when I was younger and I was always moaning about the players once we lost the game and also pretty quick in judging ‘this player is crap’ and ‘this is not good enough’. I totally can understand the soul of supporters.
“Everything is OK but if we really want to swim against the tide then we have to be special and not like the behaviour of Daniel Farke at 20-years-old when he was emotional, moaning about players. I think this club was lacking a little bit this positivity in recent years on Premier League level and started to feel sorry for themselves and doubt themselves too early.”
Farke will have Gibson, Hanley, Rupp and Pukki available to him for the Hornets’ visit this afternoon, but will be without Christoph Zimmermann, who suffered a small ankle injury in the recent international break, and Przemyslaw Placheta, who’s yet to appear in a matchday squad this season.
Dimitris Giannoulis is back in contention to start after missing the trip to the Emirates, as is USA international Sargent. New signings Ozan Kabak and Mathias Normann could make their debuts this weekend after both completed their first full week of City training.