I’m not here to rubbish the pessimists about Norwich City’s prospects.
How could I be? The facts are stark: six played, six lost. Yes, we had the toughest starting fixtures imaginable – but we’ve also been beaten, convincingly, at home by Watford.
Whatever the strengths of our squad, they haven’t thus far played with a style or conviction that would give a rational person confidence about our survival.
We haven’t, as they say, got our act together.
A lot of City fans, therefore, seem to be nodding in sage agreement with Mark Lawrenson’s assessment that “They [City] have got absolutely no chance of staying up”.
Given the stats, this is no time for a Boris Johnson-style bluster that all’s well.
Perhaps, though, I may tentatively question the dismissal, after six games, of any possibility that we’ll finish outside the bottom three.
It’s a tough gig to be positive, of course, when even our editor Gary – by nature a model of balance and perspective – says “It’s hard to recall a time when City have been in the top flight and things have felt quite so grim”.
As Glenn Hoddle might say: I get it, I really do.
That said, I wonder if we should maybe consider two questions with as cool a head as we can muster. If the answers are no, then we’re in big trouble and the pessimists can hardly be questioned. But if there’s reasonable doubt…
- Is our squad stronger than two years ago?
- Is there reason to believe it may perform better in the months ahead than it has so far?
Even the pessimists acknowledge the depth we’ve added to the squad. We’ve lost the small stature but big presence of Emi, of course; more on that later.
In addition to making permanent the signings of Gibson and Giannoulis, though, we’ve added Gunn, Gilmour, Rashica, Tzolis, Lees-Melou, Williams, Sargent, Kabak and Normann – all genuine options for our starting XI.
The sheer number of signings presents a challenge, though – as does the fact that some key ones could only be secured late in the window, after the start of the season.
That challenge was illustrated by the Watford game. Six of our starters were signings from the just-closed window – including three making their first starts, two of whom Farke had only had with his group for a week.
There may be managers who could make that XI look like a well-oiled unit, but I think they’re few and far between. Other clubs – including Watford and Brentford – haven’t had to deal with that scale of change, exacerbated by a stop-start pre-season.
It’s an important and fair criticism – voiced eloquently by Gary and others – that our play in the first six games has lacked the kind of clear identity we’re used to. I wonder, though, whether fans are right to assume that the loss is long-term.
It surely has something to do with the influx of new players – and the one we’ve lost. I’m not au fait with the detail of Buendia’s leaving. What I do know is (i) we didn’t want to lose him, but (ii) we weren’t going to stand in the way of a player who was committed to taking an opportunity of a big career step, as he clearly was.
It’s no exaggeration to say our play last year was built around Emi. No other player’s departure could be said to disrupt our identity, but no one could dispute that his did. With no direct replacement open to us, we’re trying to find the best way to re-shape ourselves and recreate the fluency of last season.
We have options, far more than previously. But Farke must have cursed the Covid disruption to our pre-season, as well as the unavoidable lateness of key signings and the lack of non-Prem games for experimentation. His ideas have had to adjust, then jump straight from the training ground into high-pressure games. Not his preferred way.
The bad start has ratcheted up the pressure, of course. If I’m to suggest that Farke may get the group to gel and create an effective identity, I need to offer more than wishful thinking.
So I offer this thought: last time in the Prem, many in the game expressed the view that our football was good enough but our players weren’t. We largely kept the group that had won promotion, so the style was familiar and well-drilled but we didn’t have the savvy, physicality and quality to make it effective against top-flight opposition.
This time is different. We have more and better players, at the expense of continuity. We were always likely to look disjointed in early games. The question’s whether Daniel Farke can galvanise a team and bring fluency to it – and whether he can do it in time.
In the four years he’s been at Norwich, we’ve got to know Farke and his capabilities. He’s made mistakes, but he’s got more than one team to gel from modest ingredients. He’s a cool head, a good learner and a smart coach. That’s why we ran away with the Championship last year, and why we rejoiced at his contract extension in the summer.
Because of Farke’s capability, time together will make a significant difference to the performance of our team. The other thing that will bolster belief and confidence, of course, is the first win. However it feels right now, that win will come; let’s just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
A friend encouraged me to write a (relatively) positive piece here about City, in part because “you’ll give them a learned quote”. Well, not this time. Instead, I’ll turn to Mathias Normann this week:
“I believe in the boss’s project. I need to get used to the intensity and tempo of the Premier League; I’m getting there. We have quality players – I’m only looking forward to what’s coming because 100% we will turn this around together.”
I think he believes it. I think it’s possible.
With 96 points to play for, let’s not lose the faith just yet.
martin penney says
We needed an article like that 🙂
I always look on the dark side of things but I’m equally happy to be put back in my box.
Having said that though it’s a big ask from here for all concerned and I do wonder about the significance of the Neeyul appointment today.
Alex B says
An excellent read on a day I screwed up big time with my car.
To many pundits are quick to jump on a sinking ship but this early in the season dies seem ridiculous.
Like cities luck and my screw up things can only get better
Stewart Lewis says
Thanks – and good luck!
Roger Cole says
But is ‘a change gonna come’? I am thinking DF needs to keep players back from International release – by hook or by crook – and work on them together. I would let our GB players trot off, but not the mayor and not any of the European contingent. This is payback time for the disrupted pre-season and the late August joiners. We need to enforce for once loyalty to who pays their wages. Oh and Tzoulis to practice penalties just in case 😉
Stewart Lewis says
“Is change gonna come?” – the big question.
I’m not certain the answer’s yes – but it seems to me too early to decide it’s no.
Because im neutral follower and does not have emotions or hopes about case Norwich, so I have no problem to answer.
1. I dont believe that Norwich plays next season in premier league. Its impossible to compare squad 2 years a go to this, because major factor is opponents and how they are now. I can see that fans way too much think players transfer prices and base their opinion on that. Players are usually as good as they have been in last season, that is their form which of course can change. So far your new players have played in their level, so if your club goes and pays 100 million for player which will surely struggle in premier league its club investment mistake. Player does not get any better depending how much some club is willing to pay. Typical fan phrase on that is “there must be a reason to pay so much for that player”. No its not, just like in life you do bad buys and good buys. 1 thing is easy to see, Norwich wanted to buy only young players. Reason to that, its more risk free and most likely Norwich will get at least something back if they sell them away because of their young age.
2. Of course. You have 0 points and even 1 point would mean better performing. Every time I speak about premier league with someone and when it goes to Norwich, people have very harsh opinions about it. Its seen as automatic 3 points machine in opposite way. There has been no emotions in those opinions, they just based on everything what they have seen. Im not that harsh at all, as long as there is many other clubs in premier league who are not able to win games there is hope. Okay, if Norwich loose next 5 games, but still has obvious chance to avoid relegation it tells very sad things about premier league quality differences between teams. You cant anymore change your players. Its very difficult to get enough good results when you lack quality comparing to your opponents, no matter what master makes tactics. Players are trying their maximum best, this is not case where players are not interested and lacks fighting spirit at least yet.
This is surely highest level premier league ever, covid has forced many clubs outside premier league to sell their best players and premier league has obviously benefit on it. Managers are also better and better, impossible to say where Farke is ranked on that.
Stewart Lewis says
Thoughtful comments, thanks.
Andy Grey Rider says
I agree and have said it before. The Premier League has moved on considerably since we were last there.
The answers are no and no.
We are weaker than before because of where the new signings have come from and some are only loannees so, you have to question their loyalty and commitment. Their parent clubs are not going to want them to get injured so, this is why they’re acting like snowflakes in tackles. I would like to see the loannees rested and just play the contracted players only.
We are going down, no danger and as the worst Premier League team ever, in every respect.
If Adams replaces Farke then, we may have a shout but Burnley must be his last chance to turn it around. It has to be three points nothing less.
I have supported Norwich for 43 years and am disgusted by the cook coining it in.
In the next transfer window we need quality, proven Premier League stock that can bully the midfield, defence and attack. Brandon Williams and that Scottish kid are wasted places. No wonder they were sent to Norwich because we are a pushover and Farke is a Yes-man to the bigger clubs. We need to develop our own academy players and not rely on loannees.
We have had too many slackers on loan over the years and the team has always suffered. Should’ve been Crouch not Huckleberry, we got that one wrong.
When Gunny got injured we relied on a hopeless kid in Marshall. That cost us our place in the Premier League.
Don’t let history repeat itself and end Farke whilst we have a chance.
Business is a ruthless trade and we cannot gamble on niceties any longer. He has to go very soon.
OTBC – Obviously Transferred Buendia Caused
Let’s hope we’ve forgotten about our bad start by the end of the season and all is well 😉
Bruce C says
5 games into Farke’s first Championship winning season I remember someone phoning Canary Call and calling for DF to be sacked and replaced by Mick McCarthy (true story)
We may well not get a fairy tale ending this season but I’m sticking with the team in charge for two main reasons:
1. I’ve had such highs watching NCFC play over the past few seasons that I’m not ready to forget that.
2. What’s the practical alternative? short of a billionaire with a penchant for mustard and North Sea breezes pitching up at the Carra we are always going to be financially well behind every club in the Prem and most clubs in the Championship, and more than ever that is what defines success in the modern game.
Interesting stuff Stewart!
It is much too early in the season for anyone, including Lawro, to be saying Norwich are dead and buried. The flaming cheek ot it!
If a few pundits were telling us that Man City, Man Utd, or Liverpool were about to be crowned champions after six games other pundits would be telling them to watch their alcohol and drugs intake.
I’d bet a Million pre-decimal £££s there are several twists and turns to come yet in this Prem season – just don’t expect a payout if I’m wrong though.
If I had one wish right now, I’d give our squad an additional mission statement – go out on that pitch every matchday, and stick a spoke in the wheels of every other team in the Premiership – and at the final whistle, grin, hold your heads up, and love it all!
John Holland says
I have seen a pundit or two say that Chelsea are nailed on for the title and they are not even top! However, I can’t disagree with teams being written off after 6 straight defeats. Teams like West Ham, Portsmouth and Bolton have all reached 10 matches with a handful of points and gone on to be relegated. The question has to be will we gain 8 points from the next 4 matches? We’ll know whether it is possible by the evening of 16th October. If we play 8 matches without a point then we would need midtable form just to reach 40 points
John Asher says
Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!! So fed up with all the doom mongers and nay sayers. Give everyone a break. We had a non-existent pre-season, with many late arrivals, and a set of opening fixtures that were always going to be …… challenging.
So we’ll said: In Farke We Trust!! 💛💚💛💚
Loosely woven is the fabric of our happiness. Don’t tug too often!
John Holland says
The fact that we had a non-existent pre-season is interesting. The pandemic was still ongoing in many parts of the country and to a greater degree than in Norwich but very few clubs had disruption to our level. The late arrival of players is another problem where you have to question whether we did enough to avoid it. The opening 2 fixtures were tough but from then on Brighton were able to beat both Watford and Leicester
I don’t like the sound of getting 40 points out of 96. 10 wins and 10 draws?
David Bowers says
I’d be feeling a lot better if we were losing 3-2 or 2-1. However, the complete lack of goals is unnerving. Pukki will probably get 10-15 goals this season, but as things stand I’m struggling to see who else will contribute. Perhaps Cantwell returning to the fold could offer a few.
I’m convinced the club are operating a third-time lucky scenario where they have to go down and come up again to finally reach the summit.
Mind you it would be really nice to wipe the smile off Lawrenson’s smug face and stay up.
Whilst I understand all the “excuses” for our poor start, albeit I’m a bit sceptical as to how it has affected us so much more than others, I don’t believe SW and DF have helped themselves either.
I am concerned that SW has actually bought too many players, it appears to be a bit of a scatter gun approach, and that DF is struggling to blend them in with the talent we currently have.
Equally, DF is at fault for thinking that now is the time to change the system. Consequently, we have lost our identity. At least time we had a plan when were getting beaten, now we are just getting beaten. I simply cannot see why we have moved away from 4231, a system that has worked well for us and, I still believe would have kept us up last time, had it not been for the pandemic.
As Stewart correctly says, this is far from over, but DF desperately needs to find his preferred system and the best players to play it. We are not adrift, but that first win, or even point, must come quickly. He still has my support but others may not be as forgiving.
Mike Corbs says
Good article. Pessimism is not a problem per se. I was very pessimistic after the Swansea defeat last season. Football fans are only as good as their teams last result in the main. As long as the fans stay positive during the 90 minutes, and back our team then we’re doing our job. We can all moan and critique in the pub after as we of course know more than Farke and Webber about football. What I won’t sanction is people denigrating the club who don’t have the club’s interests in their hearts, and who put their own agendas before our City Club. This season has given us the opportunity to put their noses out of joint, motivation enough.
John Holland says
I think the players are motivated, I wouldn’t fault them for effort. Sometimes effort is not enough
Douglas Millar says
The relentless and ignorant criticism of City in parts of the media is unnerving. But this article puts a great deal into perspective. Farke has done so well in twice winning promotion from the Championship and deserves time to get his new squad to gel.
Let’s hope the prayed for first win comes soon.
Kevin O'Connor says
Thank you very much for putting so eloquently what I’m feeling.
Farke will get this squad to work and we will have some excitement from this season. In fact, if we get our first win against Burnley just watch the pessimism evaporate for a few days.
While I will continue to avoid being critical I ‘d still like some explanation of why Jacobsen has not been used to fill the gap left by Skippy.
I take it you mean our Danish midfielder Jacob Sorensen, Kevin,
I think lots of us want an answer to that question, he didn’t even get a run out in our Carabao Cup loss to Liverpool, maybe he’s on the ‘naughty step’? He’s not listed as injured.
Of course, none of us see him in training, but whenever Sorensen plays for us, he acquits himself pretty well and works hard, and at times he’s been a ‘go-to’ man for us.
I’d like to see him replace Kenny McLean this weekend at Burnley, think the Scandinavian element in midfield would be interesting.
Inside Right says
I feel that Norwich City are cattle going to an abattoir. Whatever is said in print, the reality is staring them in the face. Farke and Webber have seriously underestimated what needs to be done to stay in the EPL, but how much does the club want to be there?
You build on the momentum of your promotion season – that is a must – but that has been thrown in the bin for arguably too many new players installed in a system that has yet to be decided. Surely buying less, but better quality players would have been the answer on the basis of how we got promoted?
There is nothing to be optimistic about as so much is wrong.
I think this will be the last season we will be in the EPL for quite some time, but here’s hoping otherwise.
John Holland says
Question number 1, is the team better than 2 years ago? In my opinion the answer is no. We have lost 2 very high quality players in Godfrey and Buendia. We have solved the issue of not having enough options or cover in key positions so that is good but we have lost the X Factor. If you look at the squad and the bench you would see players who will be able to play in a PL team, the difference is that at Norwich they would actually have to hold the team together, we don’t have the quality to do that. I’m not sure whether we will play much better later in the season, maybe we will be more organised and aware of each other’s styles but we have 32 matches left. I can’t see us getting anything from the 6 matches against the big 4. That leaves 26 matches to gain the 36 points that I think we will need. So 9 victories, 9 draws and 8 defeats. Is this squad good enough to do that? I do wonder whether some of the rearrangement behind the scenes is preparing for a drop and maybe one without a bounce back. Is the yo-yo spell coming to an end?