This was supposed to be game one of an eight-game mini-league that was going to conclude in Wembley glory. At least it was for the dreamers.
But not going to happen is it.
Right now we look nothing more than an ordinary Championship side – one destined to be subsumed in that group of middling Championship teams who are nothing more than ‘in the mix’ for the playoff places of the future.
Nothing exceptional. Capable on their day when the wind is in the right direction but some way off, in terms of quality, the best teams in the division.
All of which was brought crashing home yesterday when we came second-best to a Sheffield United team who themselves, despite being seemingly destined for the Premier League, are wholly unexceptional.
Burnley came, conquered and looked the part. The Blades just conquered… and niggled, irritated, and moaned.
But, as ever, they had the last laugh. They always do. Not since Bus-Driver-Gate at Bramall Lane in August 2017 have we beaten them.
So defeat itself came as no great surprise. What did though was the fact that as the home side and one with supposed ambitions of making the playoffs, we end up having just a single shot on target.
One. And for that, we had to wait until the 92nd minute.
On a season of grim Carrow Road days, this one was right up there.
Another afternoon that wasn’t without effort and endeavour, but which was horribly shy on guile, invention, and energy.
The mitigation, I guess, comes in the form of players unavailable through injury but as one of those clubs still in receipt of parachute payments, our squad depth is supposed to be able to withstand the loss of a Kieran Dowell, an Onel Hernandez and a Marcelino Nunez.
If it can’t, then I’d suggest it’s not been a particularly well-constructed squad.
The problems are plentiful, we’ve lost 14 games, and yet we’re still on the fringes of the playoff places, which says a lot about the ridiculousness of this season’s Championship.
But this group has given us no reason to believe. When faced with top-six opposition they invariably come second.
No zip, no freshness, and no spark.
Tactically too, they come second-best too often and it was no surprise that over the course of the piece yesterday they ended up being outbattled in midfield by a team that has battling as its raison d’etre.
Playing three centre-forwards in a front three with Marquinhos being asked to also join in was always going to ask a lot of Kenny McLean and Gabriel Sara. Ultimately it was asking too much.
Whether Josh Sargent is playing as a 10 or as one of Pukki’s wingmen, in neither role is he as effective as he is when asked to play down the middle. Similarly, asking Adam Idah to play the Hernandez role is never going to end as well as asking him to play centrally – where he’s at home.
And the person tasked with playing down the middle, one of the Championship’s great strikers, is only effective in that role if he is given at least a half-decent supply of goalscoring opportunities. But he isn’t being and wasn’t yesterday.
So you end up with an inefficient use of all three players, all of which is then exacerbated by an inability to retain possession – a major flaw in a team that is by design possession based.
The head coach sounds frustrated, the players look frustrated and the fans are definitely frustrated… not to mention disillusioned and exasperated.
I’ll no doubt be reminded in the comments below that this is merely the lot of your average football fan and that Norwich supporters are now merely experiencing a trough that will be counteracted in the near future by a peak, and maybe, but that general feeling of unease refuses to subside.
The general apathy and lack of hope and excitement are the very antitheses of why we are football fans in the first place. Hope and excitement are our lifeblood.
So, forgive me for the downbeat tone of this piece, but it feels as if our club is at a crossroads both on and off the pitch.
The summer refresh so badly needed within the squad is also required in the boardroom. The staleness witnessed yesterday on the grass is matched by a lack of drive and ideas in the corridors of power.
The end of the season and a summer reset on an industrial-sized scale can’t come soon enough.
Spot on with a total refresh Gary.
Twenty five years of Delia and we are now a struggling championship side with a financial hole estimated to be £50 million, a far worse position than she inherited.
The big hope is Attanasio but having looked further at what he’s done at the Brewers then should and it’s still a should, he come on board I’m not sure the American version of self funding will sort our current problems.
How can we refresh things to the degree required when we have such a huge debt to facilitate?
Watching yesterdays game it was apparent that our talent scout has struck again by loaning a winger who doesn’t seem to possess the abilities required to play on the wing.
I’m starting to doubt my own sanity in renewing my season ticket to watch rubbish in the cold on a Saturday afternoon.
The number of spare seats at yesterdays game suggests to me I’m not the only one in doubt.
You can’t be blamed for being downbeat in summation of that garbage Gary. Although some idiot will probably try.
On the way home from the “game” I listened to the phone in and one such fool attempted to dump the blame on 25,000 unhappy home supporters for not singing and clapping like performing seals, which according to Einstein would have transformed our gutless bunch into peak 1970 Brazil.
The last resort of the happy clappers on the radio, online and in forums is to measure and criticise the “performance” of the support. Anything to deflect the total failure of the football club from top to bottom.
Wagner’s initial burst is the only thing resembling excitement we’ve enjoyed in nearly 2 whole years and that lasted a month. Since then we’ve reverted to type.
At 2pm I looked at the line-up and couldn’t for the life of me work out what the hell shape it would take. Picking 3 centre-forwards in the hope of scoring goals is the domain of 9-year-old boys. Idah will never make a wide player and should never be utilised as one. He barely makes a decent centre-forward.
Tzolis is a winger and if you wish to operate with width is the logical option. If not then for god’s sake utilise Gibbs, who would offer stability in midfield areas while, shock horror, passing accurately to his teammates.
Sheffield’s use of Manchester City prospects on loan is another area from which we could learn a lesson. Following last season’s red nose day in the transfer window during which we managed to borrow a whole load of odds and sods, among them, the late unlamented Gilmour, the king of the mountains has surpassed himself again by hiring an expensive sicknote to sit around and watch all season and another “wonderkid” who if he had stepped out of our youth team we would be earmarking for a third division loan as he’s blatantly unready or maybe not good enough.
The balance of the squad is skewed, anyone can see that. The reason is, as ever, the need to develop players for future sale to the total detriment of building a balanced squad for the here and now. The need for a hairy-arsed 27-year-old midfield battler from the depths of the third tier to roll his sleeves up and shale some life into the shrinking violets while kicking the likes of Baldock, Sharp, Ndiaye and McBurnie into the stands has been overlooked due to the fact that such players don’t command a profit when the time to leave arrives. Oh for some steel and fight.
So we limp on towards Easter with the only question left to answer being how much of a stinking heap we end up in and whether the obvious and necessary seismic change at the club will happen in time to avert further crap seasons to come.
Brilliant,100% agree… best comment on here by a country mile
martin penney says
I’ll cheerfully make myself the second Martin to say: spot on; cracking comment.
What the club needs are changes from top to bottom obviously, but will it happen?
I doubt it.
Definitely what is needed is a new sporting director. Webber’s been here too long now and on the pitch, we are worse than before he arrived. No players to sell on for massive profit, no youngsters to make the big step up either.
The only way we will see him leave though is if he walks himself out the door. I can never see the board giving him the boot!
John Holland says
As I was watching the last few minutes of the match I realised that I and many had no faith in the team getting a late equaliser. I can’t remember a season where we have so frequently failed to score at home in the second tier. I can’t see a way out of this downward spiral. The higher quality players will leave in Summer, I’m not sure whether the young players are ready for a Championship season or who is likely to be within our budget. What will the atmosphere be like for the final 3 home games? How many fans will head to Blackburn on Friday?
Sure it was a comfort in defeat to many yesterday to remember Stuart Webber’s most recent interview, in which he told us that “We are now building a swimming pool, which will be world class, and that opens in October.”
What, after all, is being a football fan about, if it is not about having world class swimming pools at the training ground?
Like almost every championship round im able to see only highlights. This time there were about 9 minute highlights and it looked that the Norwich attacking idea is now just crossing the ball and hoping. ShefU hit also twice woodwork. Now that Burnley and ShefU seems to be next season in the premier league, I do hope that the third promoted club would be some which have not been at the highest level in a long time.
Keith B says
Whatever optimism the fans have left, and whatever he says publicly, Wagner knows that he is almost certainly planning for the Championship next season. He probably hopes that we will make the play-offs because that gives him at least two more meaningful games to look at his squad.
For example, the fact that Pukki has been dropped or substituted a couple of times suggests that he’s not expecting to have his services next season, and thus needs to find out what others can do. He’s given Tszolis a chance, and he hasn’t really taken it. If Placheta manages to get fit before the end of the season don’t be surprised if he features.
He must also be very frustrated that having got so much more out of Dowell and Hernandez, both got injured just as they were hitting their best form in their time at the club.
If Wagner does get really lucky and wins at Wembley, he’ll take it of course, but I don’t think he’ll be too upset if he doesn’t.
Great read and some excellent comments. How much longer and how many different ways can we all continue saying the same things over and over ?
I cannot muster the words, thank goodness for those of you who can
Excellent column Gary, and, as always, some brilliant comments.
How far we have fallen in such a short time. I can remember that at this time last year I was wondering if I’d done the right thing in deciding not to renw my season tickets.
Whilst I feel vindicated, it still hurts to see the totally amateurish efforts of our bunch of well remunerated individuals stumble from one display of pretty total inadequacy to another.
Just look where Luton are, and what they are doing on a fraction of our budget! Millwall are another, and just think what 1p5wich coukld do to this shower next season….but that’s OK, we’ve got a soccerbot, and are soon to have a state of the art swimming facility. That’s wonderful, a football club with superb facilities for a plethora of sports….they just cannot play football!
And I read somewhere that already 20,000+ supporters have renewed their tickets for next season…
Please, please get the rot out from the top of our club so that we can begin to at the very least compete because at the moment we’re not even doing that.
O T B C
Tim Ball says
Excellent piece Gary.
As much as I like Keiran Dowell and Onel Hernandez the fact we miss them so much makes our recruitment over two summers look even worse.
Square holes, pegs and all that. David Wagner has been a breathe of fresh air when he first came in, but why play Idah and Sarge as wingers when Marquinious ans Tzolis are available?
Both may prove to be Billy Gilmour clones but surely it’s time to pick a “team” not individuals.
Adam Idah has, as many have said on here, a lot to prove but judging him as a winger is unfair. Likewise Sarge, who since Christmas has gone back to the player of a Christmas past.
How Sorenson doesn’t get an extended run out as holding midfielder I just don’t know.
Again he may not prove up to it, but he hasn’t had a chance.
Holding midfielder has been a problem all season, it’s Kenny or bloody Casper the friendly ghost 👻 which roughly translates into no one.
No successful team works without a defensive midfielder throughout history.
The trouble is the last two we have signed were injured when we signed them, in Hayden and Normann.
I think next season we must change this stupidity.
I saw somewhere where Stuart Webber said we wouldn’t have got these players at the time if they weren’t injured 😱
That means he is in for Bobby Charlton next season ?
We need a well balanced, fit, raring to go squad next season, not extras from Casualty.
Good words Tim,
I quite agree regarding Sorensen, he’s never failed us in any position he’s been deployed – I even wonder what he’d create if he was put on the pitch as an inside forward.
I only saw the 8:21 mins highlights, but it was enough to see that the mixture was weak.
I fully agree with those asking for a close-season restructuring – build a solid Championship squad then take it from there, the club will continue to exist even if we’re shy of the play-offs for a couple of seasons..
Although I don’t think it is any particular players fault, recruitment is no longer our strong point and that is where the reboot must start.
I agree with you here Tim. We wouldn’t have got these players if they had been fit seems like a stupid thing to say.
What a thoroughly downbeat and depressing article, and sadly comments to match.
I’d love to come on here and be able to offer an alternative view but as Canarylad said he can’t muster the words and neither can I. I’ve renewed my ST yet again because it’s what I do but in all honesty I wouldn’t bother if it wasn’t for the pre match get together with friends in the hotel, the football is dire and has offered almost no joy in the past 18 months. What a huge mistake it was to abandon Farkeball, a decision I truly believe that was forced on Daniel against his better judgement by the sporting director.
I’m backing Wagner to turn this round after a summer clearout, like many others I’d be more than happy to see that clearout include Webber and some board members although I’m not holding out too much hope of that happening.
Come on Delia, do the right thing – let’s be having you!