In the aftermath of Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Wolves last night, Mikel Arteta was asked the reason for his team’s outstanding start to the season. His reply was obvious, yet telling.
”The unity… from the top of the club through to every single member of the team and the staff”.
Something that, right now, we can only dream of.
Okay, so we’re a very different animal to Arsenal, and they themselves have had more than their fair share of in-house turmoil, but Arteta’s description of a vibrant, bouncing Emirates, which is fully behind a club that’s at ease with itself, is a million miles away from the current version of Norwich City.
Conversations I had on Friday and pre-match painted a rotten picture. Of a club that’s hunkered down, that’s pulled the coaches in close and which regards the outside world as the enemy.
“You are either with us, or against us” is the new “ignore the noise”. An organisation that’s more Dominic Raab than community-friendly.
Only if things are going well on the pitch can such situations be either ignored or temporarily swept under the carpet. Wins are the great footballing healer but when armed with (on paper) one of the stronger squads in the division and you’re on a run of two in ten, then it’s all laid bare.
This appears neither a club nor a team comfortable in its own skin. The only glimmer we have at the moment is Team Attanasio, which appears keen and willing to increase its involvement going forward.
But in the here and now, the Dean Smith project continues to stumble along in its own inconsistent and uninspiring way. Teams continue to find us easy to play against and any steps forward are quickly negated with dropped points and defeats, invariably from winning positions.
That yesterday’s game was lost from not only a winning position but one that contained City’s best footballing spell of the season somehow makes it worse. As does the fact we can all vividly recall the few really good spells of football we’ve watched since the start of the campaign.
With a squad that’s proven itself capable of playing some good stuff, that these spells occur infrequently and it all falls apart so readily should ring alarm bells with the club’s executive committee and the board.
It won’t. But it should.
And that this group is unable to consistently produce the levels of which they’re capable has to be a failure of management and coaching. Has to be.
And then there’s the other question…
Has Smith created a team that’s, at the very minimum, equal to the sum of its parts?
We all know the answer… even those who remain supporters of Dean Smith.
Let’s not take anything from Boro though. They were good yesterday. In a very short space of time, Michael Carrick has rid them of any lingering vestiges of Wilder-ball, and they looked bright, breezy, full of energy, and very well organised.
Even in that 20-minute spell when they were under the pump, they refused to buckle or lose their shape and always looked dangerous on the break. But for most of the game, they didn’t have to rely on playing on the break.
For long spells, Boro enjoyed controlled possession and based on a solid game plan, used the full width of the pitch and tested City’s fullbacks. For most of the first half, both Sam McCallum and Max Aarons held firm but in the second the cracks started to appear.
But at halftime, most of us were reasonably satisfied. While Boro had had some promising spells, especially early on, it had been a performance of promise that contained some equally promising individual performances – most notably from Aaron Ramsey.
It felt like a game we could and probably should win.
But when it goes wrong under Smith, it *really* goes wrong. They don’t just drop off one or two beats, they disappear off the edge of a cliff. Heroes to zeroes in the space of a halftime team talk.
And those who have played the game will recognise all too well how hard it is to raise your level when it’s plummeted so far. Usually, something out of the ordinary has to happen to reignite you or the coach makes personnel changes that alter the dynamic of the match.
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow became just plain slow. No desire, limited movement, no tempo, as if the turf in the centre of the pitch has been swapped for quicksand – but only for our players. Boro continued to fizz and zip and play with total abandon.
When McGree lashed in that brilliant equaliser, the only surprising thing was quite how much time and space he was afforded.
From there, seldom did it look and feel as if City would go on to win the game although, in truth, it did look as if we’d ridden out the Boro storm and claimed a point.
But when so many dangerous crosses are whipped across the face of your goal, there’s an inevitability about one eventually finding the back of the net.
And from there, we huffed and puffed, missed a couple of presentable chances, but mainly relied on hoofing it long to the head of either Jordan Hugill or Grant Hanley in the hope of a fortuitous knock- down.
If he were to depart stage left during the World Cup break (he won’t), that would be my enduring memory of Smudger-ball. Hoofing it long and hoping.
As ever, Dean Smith’s post-match analysis was spot on. “Inconsistent” … “dropped off” … “lethargic” … “we stop after losing the ball” … “contributed to our own downfall”.
All of this is right and would be considered perceptive were they not the words of the head coach whose job it is to stop all those things from happening.
My big take from that is that spotting problems are one thing; finding a way to rectify them is completely different. And that the same problems have occurred since the start of the season, some since last November, suggests to me that he doesn’t know how.
If I were Stuart Webber, that would bother me.
But, there’s not even the slightest hint that Smith and Shakespeare’s positions are in any jeopardy.
With those coaches pulled in so tight, those, like me, who question the status quo are deemed nothing more than makers of trouble. And so they carry on – those in the inner sanctum versus the world.
And there’s also that thing about getting out there as soon as possible and getting defeat out of the system, which in the Championship is usually only ever a couple of days away. Well, let’s try 28.
What a mess.
Unfortunately it’s plain to everybody apart from those that count both Smiths need to depart as quickly as possible for the sake of the club.
Deano seems out of his depth as evidenced by team performances and Delia by the £50 million black hole in our accounts.
The clubs continued row with the local press combined with their complete indifference to fans by blinding them with their new lighting system which they pathetically tried to pass on as tv demands provides overwhelming evidence of a fast failing dynasty.
If this goes on much longer I can see our American investors deciding there may be better alternatives in the EFL.
Gary, he’s had a year now. Please tell me what exactly has improved….at least under Farke we were fit (or appeared to be).
For comparison, once again I give you Brentford….’nuff said.
O T B C
Gary Gowers says
I’ll tell you, John …. nowt.
Of course they’re not in any jeopardy Gary. That would be tantamount to Webberlution man admitting his snap decision to employ the hapless pair was a mistake.
I sensed yesterday, at least during the first half that the crowd was with the team, willing it to succeed and put us in a half decent position pre world Cup break. However, the total lack of effort, desire and competence, allied ro the tactical ineptitude of Smith during the second half combined to turn the crowd, yet again, into a snarling unhappy mob.
Let there be no doubt, the dissatisfaction stems from a whole plethora of wrongs and ailments whi h afflict the club. The putrid premier league relegation, the horrendous win record of dumb and dumber, the turgid football, the childish practise behaviour of the clubs hierarchy towards the local media, the comments of that bean counter nobody, the wretched and totally exposed self funding cobblers, the massive black hole in the clubs finances and yes, the decision to summarily sack farke 10 minutes after an win at brentford. An away win at brentford is beyond the wildest dreams of this tool.
The 4 week break will just allow the discontent to rumble on. As ever, apart from the ghastly farke sacking, the pathetic custodians will preside over more dither and delay and webber will hide, either behind his wife or up a mountain.
1 home win in 6 is a record we achieved frequently in the top flight. We were told by the usual know all that the second d division would be a much happier hunting ground. Wrong.
As I see it the only light in an increasingly long tunnel is the vague hope that Attanasio can sort out this crap show from top to bottom and bring the circus to a close
I wouldn’t bank on the American sorting it out his interview looked like something out of Delia’s receipt book on self funding.
Do you really thing they would have let investment into the club if it was going to threaten their cosy little world.
They say there was 4 offers on the table from investors and M-A matched their aims that means he’s a happy clapper and won’t rock the boat.
I’m reserving judgment on Attanasio until I see evidence of what exactly he is going to do.
He could hardly contribute less than delia Smith.
martin penney says
You’ve managed to highlight three key points I’ve made in my piece which will appear tomorrow morning – written before I read your comment here I hasten to add!
Have a look if you get the chance.
I shall read it avidly as usual when I get the chance
Perfectly put, a mess, just what this club was like 15 months ago, losing but I still felt close to the players and the club in general. Now those Yellow and Green ribbons that tie us together, have been cut and shredded. and not by me.
It has come from the high floors of the club, those who are outright bloody stubborn and more concerning is they cannot be wrong, we just pay the money so shut up. The local media who I might add are fans as much as anyone of us are, cut out of the scene all together. What’s next banned from the ground ?
We look to the USA for some form of help etc, but I cannot see that coming in an interview (weak at that) Mark Attanasio said we had ” There’s a great infrastructure here, with everything you need. ” And ” we’re interested in getting much more involved. It depends what Michael and Delia want. It depends what we want. ”
Reading between the lines, it all depends on the Stowmarket duo, how far Mark Attanasio and team will be allowed to go. I understand that is down to shares, something they have been stock=piling for years. Despite voices against. They remain happy to give an egotistical sporting director and his wife too many shots to call.
There will be nothing better at grass level, until the top changes then, and only then can a different ethos filter through.
Delia said way back under Worthington, how little Norwich was at the top table. that view is still there at the top of the club. We could easily fall to L1 , still they will carry on, a few heads will roll but never the ones that matter, the ones whose ideas are still holding the club back
Mess isn’t strong enough, does it paint the full picture of Disarray & Confusion
Tim Ball says
It certainly is a mess, Gary.
The whole thing feels a lot like when Robert Chase lost the plot, well the supposed money for Dean Windass anyway.
I have often said there is no similarity between the way Chase or Delia run the club and for the most part I stand by that, but even us who have supported Dean Smith can see he is not improving this team one jot. That is where Chase and Delia are alike, ostriches with their heads in the sand.
Gary O’Neill once of this parish is doing a very good job at Bournemouth in tight financial circumstances and it looks highly unlikely that he will get the job there fulltime, he is a great option in my book. I know he was really respected by his fellow professional’s during his time here.
The trouble is while most of us fear or even loath the thought of a return to the Premier League due to our financial situation it is imperative that we make every effort to get there this season.
A lot of players will be off in the summer, so I think due to the fact we won’t have a penny to spend next season our best chance of going up this season.
The club’s childish stance on the local media was confirmed at the AGM and they were made to look ridiculous. If there was a good reason for doing this then fine, I would accept it but doing it because they reported something that anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Norwich City would and could have done is ridiculous.
What next from City’s own news feed, Tass, banning people from the ground “that give them a funny look” or being part of “The Anti-Growth Coalition”🤬
Any decision to pi** off the fans.
For Dean to say yesterday that there are still bad old habits carrying on from last season is very, very worrying because he is the man who has had months to sort this out.
I am hopeful that whoever our coach is on the resumption of the championship that the players are fitter, injury free and raring to go. And then with a hopefully more balanced team maybe we can at last find some improvement. Marked improvement.
Finally, I would love to see our running stats compared to Daniel Farke’s time here. What’s goin on at trainin Nuyul ? as it were. Farke with his double training sessions had those lads super fit. Has there been a drop off? On Saturday it certainly seemed so.
Tommy Thompson says
I actually cheered when Boro scored the winner and I hope we do lose more often only so hopefully things will get addressed well in the normal world but ncfc 😂 !
Good article.Whats needed are wholesale changes from top to bottom,younger board,younger coach and players,build a team around Andy o,Gibbs,Nunez,Sara etc,get rid of Krul,Pukki,Mclean,Hernandez etc.Gary o Neil is quite a good shout for citys coach as was Warne before he went to Derby,theyre the type of coaches we need,not another dinosaur!
Include Sinani, Rashica and Dowell in the etc. We have a bloated squad. Dowell in particular has never looked fit to me. I would keep Pukki if he wanted to stay, but not if he wanted to be off. Gunn and Barden would be good too. Sarge will likely want to go in January if he has a good world Cup and clubs come calling. Get Mumba back from his loan.
That’s a pertinent point you make regarding Sargent, Sue.
It seems to have slipped under the radar that he mentioned all the biggest clubs in the world will be watching the world Cup in his post match interview. He clearly sees this as a shop window.
A few thoughts
With the current squad and the quality of this division we should have several more points under a good coach
At the start of the season our bench was able to overpower the opposition to get out of jail however in the last ten matches we win the first 25 minutes but then run out of ideas, legs and get tactically out thought
That twenty minute spell in the first half was very good and the side looked balanced with width from the full backs and Sara looking like he was finding his feet
Sargent has improved massively his first touch is now excellent – the soccer bot works?
It was ridiculous that their winger took Giannoulis, McLean and Cantwell out of the game with one flick and created a 4 on 3 which they scored from
After his knock Hayden looked one paced and Ramsey looked like weight as did Cantwell as Boro brushed them aside to control the midfield
Hernandez should have scored at least one
Nunez should be starting
The signings for the last 3 seasons have been truly bloody awful
This is a community club it can’t be a police state where the media output is from state controlled sources
David C. says
That was a brilliant analysis Gary, it makes you wonder what Attanasio thinks about all of this, or maybe like the rest of us he’s treated as a mushroom. 9 points garnered from the last 30 is bottom of the table stuff and as you say “What a mess” I believe we are in a bigger mess now than in the Robert Chase saga.
David C. says
Another point I might add Gary is that I’ve been an anti Smith agitator from the outset, his was a knee jerk appointment by Webber, Smith hasn’t really achieved anything at all in football. As for Attanasio I’ve made comments before about his involvement with us ( the last time was a comment I made on Gary Fields post last Friday so I won’t repeat it again) other than to say “Same old-Same old.
Great article and so sad that we should have to be reading and writing with such negativity. I have never been interested enough to read accounts and find the whole idea sleep-inducing, so this is probably my own fault, but I am totally mystified how we had Premier League money, sold Buendia and still ended up £60 million in debt. I know there was covid, but surely we can’t have been so badly hit by it? In terms of disconnect, I will not forgive Webber for sacrificing Farke when it was clear the squad he had given him would not compete at PL level. For me there is no coming back from that as far as trusting Webber is concerned. I know people will say I should get over it and move on, but I can’t, not until Webber has gone. Finally, you know you are in trouble when Mr Positive- club legend-Jeremy Goss is voicing doubts on Radio Norfolk.
Great post Gary and a lot of good sensible replies , I cannot really add any more barring Smith has now had a year to sort something out clearly he hasn’t , again Saturdays performance bar the brilliant 20 minutes we had 70+ minutes of turgid football trouble isnt the first time and it’s now occurring regularly which means that’s down to management, what Webber is watching God knows obviously Delia is oblivious to anything going on , as she loves the Webbers but it’s her day out