Dean Smith was right in saying that last night’s performance was not dissimilar to those we put in during the nine-game unbeaten run.
But that’s part of the problem.
The performances during said run were okay for a few parts of a few games, but were generally accepted as being uninspiring, tepid, and disjointed.
It was also widely accepted that for the season to progress as we wanted, it would need to be a case of performance levels catching up with results.
They haven’t. The opposite is true.
Performance levels have remained the same and are now being matched by results. The get-out-of-jail-free cards, in the form of flashes of individual match-winning quality, have been used up.
And now we’re in a proper muddle.
During the run of good results, we played sides who are now, 21st, 14th,12th,15th, 24th, 11th, 20th, 19th, and 9th, and we haven’t beaten a side who are currently in the top ten.
It doesn’t take forensic analysis of the data to identify the direction of travel.
But it’s worse than that. It’s joyless. Dispiriting. Soulless.
The faces around Carrow Road are glum. No one expects to be entertained. We turn up in hope but with no expectations. And sure enough…
This is just not working.
The football is stodgynessabounds (one for the kids). It doesn’t flow. It’s tippy-tappy in the extreme. And, more importantly, it rarely produces an end result.
As you may know if you’ve read this column before, I’m far more tolerant of the sideways and backward passing than many of my River End brethren because I enjoy possession-based football, but there has to be a purpose to the patience and tippy-tappying.
When the slow, laboured, passing-by-numbers produces the grand sum of zero then it becomes pointless.
The idea is that by shifting it patiently, occasionally switching play and injecting tempo, you shift the opposition’s banks of three, four, or five sufficiently to eventually work a gap or an opening.
But soooo laborious and slow was last night’s passing, especially in the first half, Luton were able to defend it easily. Very easily. No overloads down either flank, no centre-backs being pulled out of position, no City runners getting in behind.
Nothing. One shot on target in 47 minutes.
Yet the second half managed to be even worse.
The loss of Josh Sargent due to injury took away City’s only genuine goal threat, with the service to Teemu Pukki so lacking in quality, the Finn joined the rest of us in looking fed up, dispirited, and accepting of defeat.
The personnel changes didn’t work either, nor did the tweaks in formation, and only the energy and desire of Onel Hernandez injected anything different into the game.
The sending-off of Kenny McLean may or may not have been harsh – although elbowing a defender in the head in full view of the referee is never going to end well – but it didn’t impact the outcome.
If anything, things marginally improved when down to ten as the game lost structure and players were reduced to trying things ‘off the cuff’ – the only way we were ever going to create a chance.
But by then we were a goal down and the massed ranks of Luton defenders had swelled in number.
Carlton Morris took his chance well and the couple of stepovers that left Grant Hanley for dead following the initial error from Ben Gibson, were a lesson in how to create a yard of space in a crowded penalty area.
It felt inevitable that either he or Cameron Jerome would score, but when he did, I doubt there was a person inside Carrow Road who genuinely believed we were going to get back in that game.
Even when presented with eight minutes of injury time, they didn’t have it in them to create a chance worthy of the name. If Luton were expecting the Alamo in a final, frantic throw of the dice, they’d have been pleasantly surprised that it never came.
Apathy and resignation in the crowd is one thing, but you don’t expect to see those same traits in the players in injury time when they should have been throwing the kitchen sink at the Hatters in search of a late leveller.
Something feels wrong.
While I’ve never been especially keen on jack-in-the-box managers, like Nathan Jones, who trawl on the edge and beyond of the technical area and who kick every ball, it does give off a certain energy to their players. It’s no coincidence that his Luton team plays with vigour and enthusiasm.
Dean Smith, meanwhile, generally stands arms folded and calm, even in the face of a rotten, lack-lustre performance, only breaking from character when challenging the officials.
While not intended as a direct criticism – there is no right demeanour for a coach – when things are going horribly wrong, as they are now, I’m not sure calmness and thoughtfulness give off the right vibe when this group is underperforming so badly.
The days of flying teacups and hairdryers have probably gone but the lack of edge and apparent jeopardy in that dressing room must have contributed to a malaise for which there is no obvious solution.
As things stand, it’s hard to fathom what Smith and Shakespeare’s plan is in terms of creating goalscoring chances. I refuse to believe there isn’t one, but whatever it is, it isn’t clear and is certainly not working.
This group of players may not be of a 2020-21 quality, and on paper is not as good as Burnley or Watford in my view, but certainly has enough quality to produce more than it is at the moment.
The class of 2018-19 was infinitely greater than the sum of its constituent parts. The class of 2022-23 is the opposite. And that so many players are performing below their optimum level is also on the coaching staff.
Since Smith’s arrival, it’s hard to find an example of a player who has improved under his coaching, aside perhaps from Sargent – but is that improvement down to him now playing against Championship and not Premier League defenders?
Either way, there are several whose progression has either stopped or gone in reverse.
Quite where we go from here I’m not sure, but with trips to Sheffield United and Burnley to come and the possibility of two more defeats, let’s hope Stuart Webber is not too distracted by the ongoing interview process at Stamford Bridge.
When the only excitement at Carrow Road comes in the form of a mediocre light show and a few pyrotechnics, then you know something is wrong.
And it really is.
Mark Gathergood says
Gary the light and pyrotechnics matched the teams performance, meek and shambolic.
Up till last night I only wanted one Smith out of the club. This was the turning point for me having defended him due to injuries etc but not anymore.
After game I waited outside the directors entrance to ask questions. MWJ didn’t respond and had to wait till about 11 to ask the cook. The question asked were polite and without malice neither did it include any abusive and foul language.
Asked what they thought of the rudderless, leaderless and clueless way we have become a shambolic club. It is also fair to our identity has been lost. The response I received was that we are 5th in the league. How can they be happy with that?
The board have always been slow in pulling the trigger so I would be very surprised if anything happens this side of Easter. Action needs to be taken immediately if not sooner.
As I have stated previously, the faults lie a lot deeper than the management team.
Gary Gowers says
Thanks, Mark – I concur.
James F says
Ultimately they won’t be the ones making the decision, so you’re questioning the wrong people. Webber will be the one with the gun and the one who decides when to pull the trigger.
Mark Gathergood says
In principle you are correct. However he is ultimately employed by them eg the club owners.
Who is not to say, that at this time, his mind may be on the possibility of considering alternative employment? Should he not have his mind on the job they may wish to remind him of it.
There has been a coup at Carrow Road successfully accomplished when Mrs Ward (aka Mrs Webber) was appointed to the Board last year. This was and is a huge conflict of interest. The present NCFC annual report actually has an introductory summary from Zoe Webber on pages 4-7 (as well as an article from Stuart Webber – pp20-21 – and a further Board report signed off by Zoe – p43 – but not one iota from Delia) which includes this statement:-
‘… we are delighted that our Sporting Director Stuart Webber agreed a new contract. Stuart … is central to driving our transfer strategy and our financial stability.” (NCFC Annual Report p5).
This comment is written as though there is no connection between Zoe and Stuart. It’s just an appointment made between the club (represented by Zoe Webber) and an employee (Stuart Webber). When will MFW focus on this particular significant conflict of interest?
If you’re getting paid £45k a week (allegedly) to just turn up you might not care too much about the result.
We need another reset as we are in the same position as 2017. Parachute payments spent; transfer budget spent and a bloated squad of average players who are better than they show but are not motivated.
Get what we can for Tzolis and Rashica; allow all the expired contracts next summer to move on; promote some under 23s. Russell Martin as manager – at least he cares. Unless our new “investor” (who hasn’t actually invested anything yet) disagrees, that is the immediate future.
bernie Owen says
Yes it wasn’t too bad when we weren’t playing well but picking up results. The problem is we are still not playing well and now are not picking up positive results. In the last 3 games our attack keeps on trying to go through the middle with short ticky tacky passing and against the massed ranks of championship defenders we dont get through. Width is the answer but by letting all the wide men , bar Hernandez , go out on loan, we rely on overlapping full backs for width, and that leaves us very vulnerable to the counterattack without a serious defensive midfielder.
Mystic kev says
Summed up well Gary and we are the mugs paying hundreds a year to watch this drivel can’t think of atime I’ve been more dissalosionedwith my club. Never thought I would say it but McLean was heading for mom before sending off just shows had bad things have got .and no chance of winning appeal D’s .Nunez lost ball every time he had it hardly any shots on goal .trying to play arsenal style football on edge of penalty area no end product .do the basics right for god’s sake and stop pretending to be something they ain’t .major shake up needed defence esp and hungry manager please .now lost 5 as much as farke lost in whole season said s few weeks ago when we fluked some of the results that I don’t think it was goin to be much better hoped I was wrong but doesn’t look like it !
Must admit that I find myself looking at my watch while watching City hoping the ninety minutes is up.
The entertainment and atmosphere at Carrow Road are coming perilously close to pre Lambert days.
The problem however, is not just Dean Smith but Delia Smith as well. I doubt we can afford to dispense with Deano and Shaky and therefore we are lumbered with the mundane.
The whole club is gradually receding into a self funding torpor.
Unless our American minor share holders make a move to takeover it’s difficult to see things improving.
How can people say the club is well run when we have a debt of £26 million and our assets depreciating with every game.
This in spades.
The whole squad is made up of small twopenny ball players with similar attributes and style, all vying for the same spot in the team.
While the team is crying out for a tough tackling no nonsense organiser, possibly recruited form the third tier at low cost, City have assembled a squad with the sole aim of future profits to propagate self bloody funding.
Maddisons and buendias raise farm more in sell on value than blockers and stoppers, who usually depreciate.
The whole shooting match is well past its sell by date and a total change of direction is needed. The stench of decay rivals the big stink emanating from Whitlingham these days.
Typical 0-0 game where 1 goal somehow happened. Dean Smith seems to be in a little panic, comments were not realistic. Pukki usually does not score in situation he mentioned, no one does. He sometimes managed to score, but not usually in situation where he must first beat a couple of defenders and then shoot in a wide position just inside the penalty box. Sargent got injured during the game, he cant be sure at all that he is able to play on the weekend. To avoid possible longer injury its not wise to try to push him to play so soon. Another thing is that he hopes very much to be selected for the world cup squad. Norwich forced Pukki to play when he was injured before euro22 tournament and that should not happen to any player so its realistic worry.
Jim Davies says
1×2, I think your Teemu tinted glasses are distorting your vision. Pukki had the most presentable chance of the game in the second half, but didn’t even get it on target, let alone trouble the goalkeeper. Our only shots on target came from Sargent (in the first half, Gary, did you miss it?) and Sara in the second. Not good enough, but the service to the front players was unimaginative.
Jim, that chance Teemu basically made himself. People always like to forget that if someone must beat defenders behtsfore getting to any shooting position, those scoring chances would have never happened without that someones individual effort. Based on highlights your best scoring chance came to Sargent, it was not a good scoring chance but it came from an area where scoring is more possible than in wide areas. You are of course right that Teemu should shoot more often on target, still scoring in those situations needs to take risk, because angle is far from perfect. Norwich main problems have been other players than strikers, other players lack of quality.
This is true. Pukki latched on to a Gibson like error from the luton defender and chopped inside the covering man. Having done the hard part he fluffed his lines.
The most worrying thing for me, as I understand it (and I would welcome confirmation I have understood this correctly please) is that we took out a loan (slightly shy of 50 mill) to sign last summers misfits, (under the title future transfer receivables) and we have to pay that back next year. This means we were relying (not just hoping) on making profits on some players such as Tzolis etc?
Is this why Rashica etc were loaned out on the cheap as we couldn’t afford to sell them for current worth?
So we have until a date I forget next year to get promoted (and hand that cash over to Mr/Mrs/They Banker person) or sell whoever we can to repay it?
I’m not an accountant, but that’s how I read it.
Am I right?
Sorry for not commenting on the game, I went to the UEA to watch the Sugababes, who lined up with a lively front three, even allowing the ginger one time through the middle. Wish Deano had been there to note.
I’m increasingly convinced the ennui leeching out of the ever emptying stands is down to this: There is no good end to the season.
Promotion will be a humiliating disaster, again.
And not promotion will – although not a disaster – will be abject failure (considering the playing and financial advantages we have over the rest of the Championship).
There is nothing to look forward to and consequently nothing to get excited about.
The legacy of two utter humiliatingly awful and pathetic PL seasons will hang over the club until long after this regime is gone. They’ve killed us as a competitive club. And that’s very sad.
Sargent’s form is a stroke of luck for Smith when Pukki was injured. It’s no coincidence that everyone else is so below par. Smith is a poor coach trying to play to a system that never works. I would imagine he’s not too popular with referees either and that won’t do us any good, you can’t change a decision by moaning after the event.
We’ll end up blaming everybody including the kit man for this poor run of form,but even before the 3 defeats the points were coming from gifts handball etc. Smith is primarily responsible and I can’t see things changing while he’s still here.
Those at the top don’t give a monkeys Axx for anything in reality.
Smith and Jones get to watch the games home and away free with travel included and the new cousins will next be seen at an AGM or when city have to celebrate something and could already be regretting getting involved with the club.
Anyone can confess their undying love for the club but it’s the actions they take to improve said club 26years of wasted chances from the duo, Webber has lost only his touch but credibility in the transfer market so if Chelsea comes calling please jumpship ASAP.
DS&SS are treading water till a better offer comes along but on this 12 months showing I can’t see that coming anytime soon just look at Dyche they are dinosaurs in the modern realms of football.
Are the players as bad as they look I don’t believe so I just think they have no belief in the methods or system being used and someone asked do we have a plan B when we don’t have a plan A in the first place.
Smith said he spends hours watching videos of the teams we are next to play more like he sleeps through them what happened to the sending a coach to analyse their game before they play us.
Time any decisions are made the season could be lost
Jim Davies says
I couldn’t get to the game last night, having succumbed at last to Covid after two and a half years, so had to resort to Sky’s red button. Match coverage is not the greatest on there, though at least I did get the right match commentary, unlike some who apparently got the Huddersfield v Preston commentary with the Norwich pictures.
I’d been watching for over 15 minutes before I discovered Sinani was on the pitch, and Ramsey hardly had a mention. I was hoping two of them would have been subbed at halftime, but no such luck. There was a dire lack of creativity, despite Sara’s attempted flicks and dummies, and Nunez, who I hoped would improve things was not the answer to my prayers. How many times did he give the ball away?
A word of thanks to Carlton Morris for his dignified actions after scoring. He could have rubbed our noses in it, having let him go, but he was very restrained.
I’ve watched the red card incident several times, and I can’t see either a punch or an elbow thrown. It just appears to me that Maclean was trying to push off a guy who was pulling him back by the shoulders. If the referee had a clear enough view to see whatever it was the Mayor did, he should also have been able to see the pull back, in which case, the correct decisions would have been a) penalty, for the initial foul, and then b) red card for Maclean, if he thought his reaction was too violent.
Another game I didn’t bother to stream or listen fully too. In fact I forecast a 2-1 defeat in a guess league I am in. score wrong but the difference right. Like City I won’t get any points for that.
I tweeted in praise of Luton who I thought we well drilled, up for the points more than us and deserved it. Full credit to Morris for a well-taken goal, and muted celebration. (sky highlights . could not call it that)
I keep say we are worse off now than we were last season and this is against lesser teams, I cannot see an improvement in players or style in this last 11 months. People say that Farke had a bad first season, true but fans could see what he was trying to achieve, we bought into it.
Anyone who can see what is being built now , can they please explain to me for gawds sake !
Had enough of this.. Do we have another Rodent or Whoton .. ?
That is two Smith’s who need to leave
Cyprus canary says
It was such a mish mash of a selection with too many similar players and our top scorer played out of position again. I can’t see any planning at all.
Spot on Gary. It gives no pleasure to any of us who have been saying from the start of the season that performances needed to change, to say we told you so but the fact is ‘we told you so’.
Anyone who dared to challenge what they were witnessing with their own eyes was either told by the likes of Rob Butler or Simon Lappin in a very condescending way that results were all that mattered and if you wanted entertainment then you should go to the cinema. That’s not my view and I didn’t want to hear that nonsense on the way home from the match. Of course I could have switched off but I’m interested in other fans views, which is more than can be said for the aforementioned Rob Butler who demonstrated yet again last night that he’s only interested in what he thinks. I thought it was called Canary Call but when a caller tried to articulate his thoughts about the difference between the Farke and Smith regime’s he was immediately hushed up and told that he’s gone now so we all need to move on.
If you couple that with other articles written by the likes of Chris Sutton et al telling us to back our team whatever and Mick Dennis on social media referring to people who don’t share his views as miserableists then is it any wonder that fans are pushing back and a tad fractious.
With the exception of Mick Dennis, those others share one thing in that they don’t actually pay to watch this stuff week after week whereas we the fans do so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a level of entertainment and a brand of football that’s pleasing to the eye.
What was the point of these people trying to tell us how we should feel because we were second in the league at the time, were they in denial or just not seeing the big picture that was staring us in the face.
You’ve used the word joyless this season on a number of occasions Gary and it sums things up perfectly, as often happens people being deprived of joy will seek other comfort elsewhere and I believe that in many cases (mine include) we’re hanging onto nostalgia.
I’m not apologising for that, I hate what I’m watching and I rue the day that the axe fell on Daniel Farke and can’t wait until we find another character of a similar ilk, sadly Dean Smith is not that man. I’m not expecting to roll over teams every week, all I’m asking is to go to Carrow Road with a degree of anticipation that things will get better and we won’t be subjected to the same old same old.
As has been said by many people, there’s a huge disconnect between the club and the fan base at the moment so it’s time for Stuart Webber and the board to either step up to repair it or move on. Maybe when things are going well his default setting of ‘ignore the noise’ can work but at the moment my advice to him would be to listen a bit more before it’s too late.
Rob Buttler could teach Covid how to get up peoples noses very quickly.
Though if Covid tried to add anything he’d call it a ‘top man’ and hang up.
He is really is an embarrassment to our lovely county
top post Bob think you have nailed it my friend
Tim Ball says
I have to agree with all of that Gary.
I have a very good mate who hasn’t been happy with Dean Smith’s appointment from the start.
It is a bit of “not being Daniel Farke” I have said to Trev, give him time, or look how good his Brentford side were? or its early days, or give him time to blend his team together Trev.
I have a nasty feeling that I may have got this all wrong. And this won’t be the last time😂
It may not be the awful fayre on offer on the pitch or even the last three results that do for Dean Smith it will be the increasing empty seats at Carrow Road. Now I know, thanks to this site, that we have spent ALL of our incoming parachute payments for the next two seasons then SW and Delia will be looking at our attendances with a lot more scrutiny.
This time around the championship is like a madhouse. Blackburn are top after losing 7 games, the same as third bottom Middlesborough. Anyone really can beat anyone.
And though I remain convinced a lot of this goes beyond Dean Smith’s fault, recruitment, injuries etc he must take some responsibility for these performances.
I think this team isn’t as good as 2018/19 or 20/21 but it really should not be losing 3 games in a row to teams outside the top 2 or 3. And the League is far weaker than those in years.
As you say Gary who has improved under Dean ? As you say Sarge. And that is it. Now is the time for judgement on his tenure.
Perhaps the time is up for the Smith’s, Bruce’s, Warnock’s and Hughes of the football world. Even Mourhinho seems a light of former days.
And now thanks to “the money men” for next season without an injection of cash from somewhere I think the fans can stop worrying about returning to the Premier League.
Not to much damage done after tonight’s results.
Burnley drew away at Birmingham
Sheff U lost away at Coventry
Watford lost at Millwall
Only QPR won at Cardiff and they could be in turmoil as Wolves are after their Manager
Tim Ball says
The results in this league this season are bonkers Alex. Either of our last two Championship winning teams would be 6 points clear by now.
I spoke to someone in the know last night, well knows a darn sight more than me who is wholly independent of the club.
He felt it wasn’t Smith per se that is the problem, perhaps lacking the charisma needed but a really nice guy trying his hardest without a lot of help from above.
Which is true, SW or Delia hardly utter a word in public, no shove Dean out to do it for the whole of the last year !!!
The problem he felt was elsewhere within the club. Even some players need to look at themselves and ask, “am I doing enough?” and especially the recruitment team. Finances play apart as we are effectively broke as regards team spending.
There are 9 players out of contract next July, in these circumstances all will likely go. EPL or bust.
We all say on here, as do the media “show some ambition Norwich” unfortunately we have. Just not on the right players.
The next two years of parachute payments have basically gone, all tied up in a £60 million + loan.
It is a worrying time, Alex.
Pathetic. Not the performance, although that wasn’t great, but the Gather Gods on here. What’s your recipe, let’s be having you?
Hi Mike, I’m not looking to get in any sort of heated debate with you but I presume you’re referring to me as one of the Gather Gods (had to Google that by the way and I’m still confused). I think the whole point of the responses to Gary’s piece is just a way of sharing our personal thoughts, after all it’s what this forum is all about and as they say it’s good to talk and a problem shared etc etc.
Personally I don’t hold a Pro licence but presumably Stuart Webber, Dean Smith and Craig Shakespeare do so I was rather hoping that they were the ones to come up with the recipe on the field of play, after all they get well rewarded for that task. If they’re not up to the job then it’s time to move on.
The disconnect to which I referred to in my original response is maybe a matter that Delia and Michael could address, they’re majority shareholders after all.
It’s frankly ridiculous that we appear to have a situation where there’s minimal dialogue between the local press and the club and consequently us as fans are similarly subjected to the silent treatment from Stuart Webber. The only contact we seem to have are these rather contrived in house interviews with Alice Piper.
Perhaps it’s time for some metaphorical ‘banging of heads’ from our owners to heal the rift, it’s really important in a one club county to have everyone rowing in the same direction so it’s time to put ego’s aside if that’s what’s causing the problem and start acting like grown ups. As an avid Pinkun reader I’ve always held the view that Paddy Davitt, Connor Southwell et al have always shown a balanced approach to their reporting.