.I’m writing with the memory of the Swansea capitulation firmly in mind, so I’m attempting to find the eye of this storm of rage, and focus on how we progress through to the other side, where we can see a football team worthy of the name once more.
I want to look forward, but divining the future takes a certain degree of reflection. So first of all I’m going to look at what we know for certain from the recent past.
- Our football club works best with a clearly defined, transparent plan. When Stuart Webber arrived, he made the direction of the club crystal clear to everyone, and staff, players and fans all bought in. If there is still a plan, we aren’t aware of it, because Webber won’t talk to us anymore.
- One of the key pillars of the original plan was that the team would have a footballing style that was instantly recognisable as the Norwich City style and which we would not change. This was abandoned when we were promoted a second time, and Emi Buendia’s creative inside forward role was replaced with wingers who could cut in (at least that was the plan). There has been zero success from this method of playing and the players bought to replace him are of considerably less useful to us now than Onel Hernandez – a player deemed only just good enough to be in the squad when we were last promoted.
- Daniel Farke was with us for four and a bit seasons. He was only able to get us playing the beloved Farkeball when Emi Buendia was in the team. Before then, even with James Maddison, we were mostly poor, and since Emi left, under either Farke, Smith or Wagner, we have been woeful in terms of creating chances and scoring goals. This has led to ever-descending confidence levels among the entire team.
- Webber brought Buendia and Teemu Pukki to the club, two era-defining players, and added key players like Tim Krul and Ollie Skipp at vital moments to help achieve promotion.
- Since the last promotion season, with the possible exception of Gabriel Sara, every signing has been a major disappointment and is now worth less than they were bought for.
- Despite spending more money than ever before in the club’s history, neither Buendia nor Skipp, the two key players from the last promotion season, have been adequately replaced, and we have increasingly struggled to score goals or pass through the thirds, with playing the ball out from the back into midfield being particularly traumatic.
So what has to happen?
How do we fix this fractious, fragile mess of a club? David Wagner has told us that change will happen and plans are being made behind the scenes. But do we trust them to be carried out successfully? And are Webber or Wagner the right people to lead this change? For me, the following needs to happen as a matter of urgency:
- Webber needs to drop his ego and end his media silence. This club MUST have a plan again, and it has to have everyone together and with transparent, shared goals. We can’t move forward with the club saying nothing and expecting us to trust them not to continue making vital mistakes. If Webber can’t have an open dialogue, he HAS to go. This situation is no longer tenable.
- Wagner must create and implement a consistent playing style over the summer. It doesn’t have to be Farkeball, but it has to be one that doesn’t rest on the ability of one player, and one that our squad is able to carry out.
- We have to make sure that we have at least a first choice and a backup in each position for the newly designed system. When we had Ollie Skipp his backup was Alex Tettey, and that was the last time we had two true defensive midfielders in the squad. This year we got one in Isaac Hayden and the failure to have a backup for an injury-prone loanee led us to have to try and shoehorn more attack-minded midfielders like Sara, Nunez, McLean and Gibbs into a position they have not done well in, exacerbating the defensive errors and nervousness. The last time the squad was balanced and had at least two players in every position was the last promotion season.
- We have to get some mentally tough characters. Players who will fight for every 50/50 ball and not hold back. We are far too nice to play against and we don’t do the physical side well. We need leaders by example, not just players who think it shows leadership to come off the field and accept responsibility in interviews for another defeat. Win the scraps and you’ll have the ball to create.
- We have to buy a striker that can score goals in the Championship. We hate doing this, but it matters and we can’t take the cheap option this time. Pukki was lightning in a bottle, and he can’t be replaced by Abu Kamara through sheer willpower alone. Adam Idah is light years away from being the answer to anything beyond the 2029 quiz question “Can you remember the name of that Irish lad who there was all that hype about and he ended up having a terrible first touch and only scoring a goal every 20 games?”. Josh Sargent has his good points but is he clinical enough to score the 20-30 goals a season you need? To take that technically difficult chance in a tight game? I think he’s good enough to be the backup to THAT guy. But he’s not THAT guy. And we might need to sell Sarge to be able to afford THAT guy.
- We need a number 10 that can create. Kieran Dowell is good intermittently but he can’t handle that role all by himself. As part of a three behind Pukki with Buendia and the good version of Todd Cantwell, he was cracking, but he needs others to share the burden of creativity with and to play off. He is not the lead guy and never will be. We need more.
- We have to stop shoehorning players in that don’t fit the system because we think they are good footballers and will adapt, or buying players just because they might make us a profit because it’s killing us. This summer we threw the majority of our transfer budget into buying Nunez and Sara, two players who are not defensively solid enough to play as a number 6, but not tactically aware enough to play as a number 10. Both need to be playing as a number 8 alongside a true number 6. This is when we already have McLean and Gibbs who also need to play with that same security blanket. That’s crazy recruitment. It’s like buying extra right shoes when you only have one left shoe in the first place.
- Likewise,, the year before we threw our budget on players like Rashica, Sargent and Tzolis, all of whom were investments that were unlikely to hit the ground running while they adapted to a new country, league and lifestyle, and we were led to believe we were investing in them for the future. Well, the future is here, and let me tell you, it’s overrated.
We desperately need to make these changes or next season will be a further regression, and laughable as it might have seemed a year or two ago, we could easily slump into League One at the current rate of travel.
I find it difficult at the moment to see a future where Webber reconsiders his stance enough to make some of these changes possible unfortunately, and he may have to be the first casualty of the revolution if he can’t improve his relationship with the supporters or his record with recent transfers.
Wagner, whilst his record is currently worse than even his predecessor, does at least seem to want to be here and has yet to entirely alienate the fanbase. I wouldn’t be unduly upset if he departed because he has added very little since his arrival, but I also think he’d be a little harshly done by not getting the opportunity to implement his own game plan over a pre-season with players that fit it, and not those he inherited.
We need to get the changes right in the summer, and not just those in the dressing room. Staff, players, and fans have to be together, or else, what’s the point?
Well said,nothing else to add really,only that Webber should definitely go.
Dan Harper says
Completely agree 100% but I have also come to the realisation that the people at the top don’t have what it takes to make this much needed changes. Dean Smith was a knee jerk appointment an ex Prem manager a half hearted show of intent from Webber and as for Wagner he should never have been put in charge again it was another lazy appointment from Webber as he had worked with him previously and didn’t need to do much to entice him to the club. First things first get rid of Webber and go from there.
I thought it was Kieran Scott who was responsible for bringing Buendia and Pukki to the club when he was head of recruitment. Since he left for Middlesbrough our recruitment has become a £50 million flop.
In defence of Webber and our recruitment they are severely handicapped by the inability of our owners to fund a championship side.
It is plain to see the club is now sinking fast under our current owners. Yesterdays performance was possibly the worst I’ve seen from a city side in nearly sixty years of watching them.
You can analyse what has gone wrong on the field, management, public relations and recruitment but until Delia realises the time has come to handover to new owners who can adequately fund the club for a much needed overhaul all else is a complete waste of time and just kicks the can down the road.
Anybody with the clubs best interest at heart should have spelt this out to her a long while ago.
Henry Nurne says
Harsh but fair. To compete in the top 26 of English football these days requires enormous sums of money. If you don’t have enormous sums of money, you need to be either extremely lucky, or have every other aspect of the club spot on. Delia and Michael have their hearts in the right place, but the lack of professionalism at the club is obvious for all to see. Okay, maybe we won’t be able to compete for the Prem for a while, but at least let’s be able to enjoy some decent football every now and then. Please!
Dorset Canary says
In my opinion there is no defence of Webber. He should go.
Cracking read on a Sunday morning and lots that I agree with but there’s one thing that I would take issue with.
For me, it does have to be Farkeball or at least a derivative of it. Lumping it forward is a style of play that some teams adopt and I’m not watching that week after week, what we saw yesterday from Swansea was Farkeball at its best and I have to say it was lovely to watch on an otherwise grim day.
The Club is now effectively bust, and that doesn‘t just impact on the main squad, economies will have to be made across all levels. Get it wrong and we‘re Div 1 bound, a sad legacy for the Smith‘s to eventually leave behind, Tom will be getting a poison chalice afore long.
I’ve had it with the mens’ team.Far more hope and joy available from the womens’ team.Now my grandaughter is interested,it’s the Nest for me next season.
I do hope NCFC starts on the long voyage to parity by making the necessary investment into womens’ football.
It’s the one area of the club that is progressing and could progress further.
Otherwise,I’d describe the club as “stuck”.
Webber needs to go. I have to say I wouldn’t be sorry to see Wagner go also. Whilst this situation is not his fault, I’ve seen little in his management so far to suggest he’s going to take us on to great things and think his selections have been questionable.
Delia and MWJ need to step aside also asap.
But Jim. with them at the helm we have a Soccerbot, a veg patch, and soon a swimming pool. Are they not enough??
O T B C
There is only one answer , Smith ,Jones and the webbers must go ! Delia is too old and doesnt have the money to invest. She must put the club up for sale . The webbers must go as they are now toxic !
Yesterdays performance was like nothing I have seen before at carrow rd, shambolic , headless chickens etc etc .
Another great article and spot on.
As JohnF has said Kieron Scott was responsible for the signings of Pukki, Emi and others. He was never adequately replaced and it’s shown as the trajectory of Norwich and Middlesbrough since are polar opposites.
Wagner while not everyone’s cup of tea does need a chance to implement his style of play whatever that might be with the right set of players and not this current squad.
You could sack him now but any new manager left with this squad would struggle to get a tune. As you’ve pointed out the squad is imbalanced and so mentally weak it doesn’t take much for their heads to go down.
That falls on Webber for his poor recruitment. As you say once he sacked Farke his ‘vision and plan’ for us just fell apart. There was no plan or list of replacements like we were led to believe so that the clubs playing style and players wouldn’t need overhauling. Dean Smith was just meh but along with everything else that’s happened like falling out with local media etc Webber took sacking him personally and it just increased his me against the NCFC world stance.
Delia got rid of Jez Moxley for much less but she appears to be unwilling or unable to do anything this time.
The club needs a reset from top to bottom. Get the fans engaged again, get the club to front up to mistakes and not hide behind snide club media interviews where veiled digs can be made unchallenged.
The future will be bright for NCFC again it’s just not clear when.
Sometimes Dave, the digs aren’t velied.
An excellent article and I hope the start of a summer of such material bringing heat to bear on those at the club who have let us all down.
Congratulations Andy on an excellent article which outlined much of how o feel in farmers measured and eloquent a way.
You have managed to cover each salient point, the mostobvious one being that the blame for this mess cannot be laid at one door. It’s almost as of a half decent cook has baked a cake for us to slice into portions of guilt, like a pie chart.
While I dislike webber and his MO I do concede that he is working within ridiculous parameters, constrained by budgetary necessity and in his mind is being creative and “thinking out of the box”. He feels forced to look for next Buendia to fill the financial hole that self funding causes. Rather than signing players that will help the team in the short to mid term who may not have a resale value.
As for David Wagner, perhaps we were initially blindsided by the early goal drenched away wins and the almost unchartered territory of 3 consecutive wins at Csrrow Road. His recent form over the last half dozen matches, largely against weaker sides would see us firmly in the relegation mire if extrapolated over the whole season.
The continuing use of sorensen as a centre half and lack of well thought out substitutes is an ongoing concern. Most of all however, is his defence of thw aforementioned Webber. Surely nailing your flag to Webbers mast when he is under massive scrutiny for his actions and performance is a failure to read the room? Ora Dean Smith “sack me” plea?
The amateurish and unprofessional way the club is run comes from the very top. To be Frank, its a joke. Whether or not its the case, the overriding impression one gets from attending g a match day at carrow Road is one of going through the motions, and not just from the shambles that takes to the pitch in green and yellow.
We know delia Smith despises the premier league, we know she has no money to spend and no will to do so either, we know that in spite of the gushing soundbites from time to time that her and her cohorts and many senior employees hold the supporting contempt. So why on earth doesn’t she just go?
Does she believe she’s adding value? Does she get pleasure from putting her name to this shite? Is she clinging on in order to hand her dynasty over to nephew boy? Who knows what the motivation is?
All bar the zealots now agree that self funding must die. The hypocrisy of stiffing supporters for what are in truth so e of the most expensive tickets in the whole of english football while blowing smoke up their collective arses is phenomenal. How egalitarian.
Anyone with common sense can see unless things change in the summer they are going to get a whole lot worse. What remains of this season should be used to let those in power know that.
John Mitchell says
And what role or influence might Mark Attanasio have?
If only somebody would actually tell us.
Ted Provencher says
Totally accurate! I hope the folks at Carrow Road read your article. I had a flat in Norwich 2021-22 and fell in love with the city and team. I am back in the US now and watch every game. My first shock upon arriving in Norwich was how quickly football coaches get ‘sacked’. NCFC has had three managers since I started watching. What a tough gig. They are not on the field. I thought Farke was great. Was he a scapegoat for Webbers failures? I think it just bought Webber time to reflect and learn from his mistakes. Specifically that we needed to figure out a better way to find unpolished diamonds. The South American connection was a great move. Now we need to use the next season to do as this article says. No need to clean house with the roster. We have good players. Wagner and Norwich need this summer and another season in the Championship to build a monster that can survive in the EPL. We will get there with patience and follow through (and maybe a little more investor capital).. Sometimes you have to take one step back before taking two steps forward. Please stay ‘On the ball city!’
Dave Cole says
Until grandma wakes up and tells Zoe Ward to sack her husband, where’s the impetus for change?
I agree with everything you’ve said, but lord knows how we’re going to finance a rebuild with no signs of the Americans about to put someone forward with the cash required.
Mark Foulger says
Stop buying injured have
beens like “Arthur Daley” and invest in players that have real passion for playing and wearing the Norwich City shirt with pride……and NOT SELLING THEM ON my be a good way to start
Steve T says
A defining moment on Saturday, when virtually the whole of the ground was singing “We want Webber out” followed by “ Sack the board” you people at the top need to take a good look at yourselves this morning and ask, “Am I fit to be running this club”?
We the fans know the answers….
Do the right thing, go now, before you drag us down even further.
May Ford says
‘Sack Webber’ and appoint who, Neil Adams? Please. He was sacked as our manager! Who would want to take on the job of trying to manage a club where you had to constantly juggle little or no money, owners who actually still cling on to the belief that Norwich should stay as they were 20 years ago.? And supporters with really short memories and unrealistic expectations.. Does anyone remember Jez Moxy and how bad it was when Stuart Webber took over? Clearly not many do. No money yet from America? Whether the’ hate Webber ‘ brigade like it or not the rest of the football world seem to think Norwich is trying to be a modern, well run club. I wonder if that’s what attracted him? Anyway I think you’ll all get your wish & Webber will walk away at the end of this season, with his wife & David Wagner.
I hope you, Neil Adams and Delia will feel happy putting the clock back, trying to play attractive football on a freezing night in Exeter, on the brink of bankruptcy in League 1.
Henry Bracks says
The choice isn’t Webber or Neil Adams. The choice is clearly none of the above.. and none of the above them.. and below them for that matter. Then, and only then, can we start to believe again and hopefully start the slow rebuild.
D george says
I agree with all comments carry on like this and norwich city will be wond up Ln the long term sad times ahead
John Prest says
The most important change required – that of ownership isn’t mentioned unless I’ve missed it? Get that done and we can move forward again, with it L1 beckons