Day 3. Article 4.
In an attempt to keep the mood positive, the guest blogs keep on coming.
Today it’s the turn of Adam Durrant – a UEFA B license coach and City fan – who takes a look at the current squad and comes to the conclusion that the overhaul may not need to be as drastic as we all believe.
All yours, Adam.
Given the poor season we’ve all just endured, the defence seems as good a place as any to start.
With Sam Byram gone (a significant amount of work for the physios going with him) and Max Aarons expected to be sold, the number of defenders available is something of a concern, especially after conceding 54 goals this season.
Assuming that Aarons and Andrew Omobamidele both depart for pastures new to provide some funds for the rebuild, we have Bali Mumba as the only right-back, Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson as centre backs and Sam McCallum and Dimi Giannoulis as left-backs.
Throw in Lungi Sorensen’s ability to cover basically any of those positions and we have a starting back four with two players for cover. Hanley and Gibson, who is entering the final year of his current deal, are 31 and 30 respectively, so realistically they are unlikely to be saleable.
This does however mean we have two experienced professionals to mentor the promising crop of academy centre backs coming through. Jon Tomkinson, Jaden Warner and Brad Hills have all been around the senior squad this season and it looks likely that at least one of them will be a regular next season depending on how things go over the off-season.
If we bring in another option at right back to cover any potential issues with Mumba not stepping up and we have a potentially young core to the defence, not dissimilar to the Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey, Christoph Zimmermann, Aarons back-four of 2018-19.
Mumba is still only 21 and McCallum, who I thought looked better than Giannoulis before picking up his injury early in the season, is 22 and so with a consistent run of games a youthful defence that can stay together in the long run can be built.
Assuming the coaching is at the required level, the need for recruitment in this area is actually quite small. Webber can’t make a mess of recruitment if we simply don’t need it.
Further up the pitch, we need a genuine holding midfielder – the one we have lacked since Olly Skipp went back to Tottenham – and a right-wing option, with some added squad depth at the top end of the pitch.
So, realistically, on that basis, we need two starters and a few squad players at most. I don’t think the squad is in need of as much of a major overhaul as many believe, just some slight tactical tweaks.
Under David Wagner, the midfield has looked completely unbalanced, as the fantastic @NCFC_Analysis1 has pointed out on numerous occasions recently.
A simple shift from 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 out of possession and a 3-4-3 in possession would allow Wagner to keep his CDM dropping into a back three to build in, but by still having two midfielders instead of a lone midfielder and a CAM that’s basically a second striker.
Fix that midfield and throw in Sargent’s ability to occupy a “false 10” in a similar way to Harry Kane (without the goal return obviously) and we could actually have a far more fluid build-up instead of forcing ourselves wide because of the singular midfield pivot.
Anyway, enough about how little change a relatively young squad needs and onto the more curious Carrow Road conundrum: the director debate.
Directionless or a driving force?
In truth, neither of these really fit. In Delia and Michael, the club have owners that are simply fans with deeper-than-average pockets; not billionaires who can throw money at everything.
Financially, that sets us apart from many, but money doesn’t guarantee success. But clever business doesn’t either.
For every Newcastle splashing cash, there has also been a QPR under Tony Fernandez. For every Brighton, there has been a Cardiff.
Going into the 2019-20 season, there probably wasn’t a huge amount more that could have been done. Ultimately it wasn’t enough but most of that squad probably were Premier League quality before COVID struck that season.
There were certainly games we went toe to toe with the best.
Recruitment has been less impressive since but there are still enough decent signings to argue that if Webber returns to his early strategy it will probably pay off again.
As for the Attanasio takeover, from what I gather his model with the Brewers is similar to what Norwich are trying to do, so more of the same but with slightly more money and, hopefully, a little less nepotism.
Part of the issue with how frustrated everyone is getting currently is that a lot of Norwich fans have become a little too accustomed to something riding on every season.
Between the 2004-05 relegation and the drop-down to League One in 2008-09, we had some mediocre Championship seasons. Realistically no “mid-table” Premier League club is ever safe. Everton, West Ham and Crystal Palace have all been in and around the relegation zone recently despite being deemed bigger clubs than Norwich.
Stoke City were a Premier League team for a long time under Tony Pulis and have fallen away since. Outside of the big six, most of the Premier League have been relegated at some point recently with the exception of a small few.
Until the City Stand can be expanded, we’re probably aiming in the right area when we say “top 26” because we don’t have the same pull in the transfer market as some of the other clubs.
The lack of other selling points is part of the reason Colney has been so heavily invested in under the Webber regime, because Norwich is still seen as “out of the way” by so many, and the stepping stone selling point only works on some players.
Colney is almost unrecognisable now compared to how it looked a decade ago and there’s still more work being done.
The new hydrotherapy building will hopefully also be up and running soon with the aim of shortening rehab times for injured players when possible.
Injuries have killed our seasons a worrying amount in recent years, and I’m not just talking about the Matt Jarvis/Byram types that have lived in the physio room. If the club can get players up to full fitness faster, it might just be the small difference between missing a key player for 3-4 games instead of 6-8. And that could make a bigger difference than people think.
Hanley and Gibson’s injuries at Blackburn seemed to kill the season entirely, Hanley’s injury is obviously long term but could Gibson have been back for West Brom? Would it have made a difference?
Who knows, but in future, it could be a difference maker.
Let’s hope so anyway.
Dave Cole says
I love your optimism, but Hanley won’t be fit for the start of the season, Lungi isn’t an answer and if Big Andy is gone it’s a massive leap to think the kids could fill a gap. Tomkinson hasn’t had a kick on loan, and Hills is untested. We also need a midfield rebuild with more beef and athleticism, because the current crop haven’t got a defensive bone amongst them – we’re too easy to put on the back foot. It’s clear out time.
Adam Durrant says
Lungi at fullback is an option, he also looked good in the CDM role at Blackburn, but one good Skipp type CDM means that Sara Gibbs or Nunez can push further forward and not need to defend. Yeah the young defence is untested, but so were Lewis and Aarons when they broke into the first team, pre-season gives Wagner a chance to test them, Gibson can be the mentor and the youngsters can be the legs
I’m somewhere between these views – you’ve made a good case for the overhaul not needing to be as drastic as some have suggested, but we pretty clearly require more depth for the start of the season, including in central defence.
Surprised how little discussion there’s been of Kenny McLean. Before his injury, he was a key and positive part of Wagner’s set-up – not to mention his qualities of leadership and giving encouragement those around him. He was my POTS.
Thanks again for a very good piece.
I think having fit, hungry, young players making exciting debuts at full back is one thing, but at centre half you need at least one strong, commanding and experienced player available, which means you probably need at least two fit ones on your books for the start of the season because of injury or suspensions. Mumba is an exciting prospect but apparently needs to learn defensively. Giannoulis could be let go for me because no doubt he is on big wages and he is too often beaten or out of position… Adam Drury he ain’t!! McCallum needs time, but the jury is out because I thought both McLean and Sorensen looked as good, if not better defensively in his position. The idea of Gibson mentoring anyone is a bit of a stretch because he needs to concentrate hard on cutting the errors out of his own game. I think it is pretty borderline as to whether he is good enough to challenge for a place in a top 6 side and that is what we need to aim for. We need at least 1 decent and physical CDM to play the Skipp/Tettey role. Preferably one that is captain material whilst Hanley is out. I think a fit McLean, or Sorensen could then partner or cover for that person if needed.
If Tzolis has a good pre season and builds confidence and partnerships on the pitch I think he will be an asset. To be honest, cutting through the sentiment, I would have let Hernandez go ( but willing to be proved wrong) . Placheta can go. I am assuming Rashica will be gone. I would send Kamara out on loan til Christmas to get experience and consider getting in a Premier League loanee forward who would be challenging for a starting place up front, maybe wide. I would also consider a loanee for a creative midfield role. We need cover for Sara. I have not given up on Nunez if he gets good coaching and a run of games. So, my preferences ( and I am assuming we will have signed Ashley Barnes) spend money on getting the best CDM and centre half that our funds can afford, if there is cash left, buy another decent centre half (I am assuming Andy O will have gone) . Thereafter, if Aarons has gone we need some cover there. Barnes would not have been my first choice for a forward, but we now seem a bit over stacked with people wanting to play centre forward. Maybe an exciting loanee for winger/forward, although I thought Rowe showed enough before his injury to suggest he could be a very exciting prospect. We also have Springett returning. GK is well covered with Krul and Barden to back up Gunny. Obviously it also depends on whether we keep Sara. I am assuming in this we will sell Rashica, Andy O and Aarons and get money from the sale of Maddison. I think that is a fairly positive outlook, but a whole lot depends on whether Wagner lives up the the example of Farke and coaches the younger players to improve. If he does a good job we could have a very exciting season with Rowe, Nunez, Tzolis, Gibbs, Sorensen all more experienced and up for the fight.
Tomkinson 7plus games and possibly a promotion medal.
Not a lot of game time but a start with Evans saying he was worth bringing in to help the push.
martin penney says
*Injuries have killed our seasons a worrying amount in recent years, and I’m not just talking about the Matt Jarvis/Byram types that have lived in the physio room. If the club can get players up to full fitness faster, it might just be the small difference between missing a key player for 3-4 games instead of 6-8. And that could make a bigger difference than people think.*
That’s a very good point and one I completely agree with.
I know Webber claims he wouldn’t have been able to get certain players if they hadn’t been injured or returning from injury but Isaac Hayden turned out to be a waste of time and money [not his fault] and even Gaby Sara arrived carrying an injury and it noticeably took him ages to get up to speed.
Thanks for yet another good read in the *reasons to be cheerful* mini-series.
Jon Tomkinson loaned to Stevenage played 7plus times in a promotion team and got good reviews from Evans their nanager might qualify for a medal so yeah a positive for a squad place best season.
QPR have extremely rich frontman as owner as you say but the also have Lakshmi Niwas Mittal who’s wealth is £16.5Billion, and like our owns doesn’t add funds to help pay the clubs debts.
Sorry I deviated in some little way, but it’s suggested by yourself and others that our possible incoming Yanks will continue along the same path that our current owners have found unsuccessful.
Will he be pragmatic in his thinking that the club needs immediate investment to take the first steps to the best level ie team building and ground improvement.
He’s had nearly a year to assess what needs doing and his management team will have been into every little nook to see what is and what isn’t working and wouldn’t have invested time and money if he didn’t think he could turn this around quickly.
Will it be a 5year plan to establish us I the premiership or a shorter period of ly time and the right people in place will achieve his aims.
Since Farke departure any plan to continue with a set style/system have been ditched, was Smith’s recruitment Webber’s big hope to stay in the premiership if it was he might as well have plumped for Big Sam at least you know what you’re getting.
Wagner, Hughs and Webber sounds more like the 3 Stooges.
Wagner a PR man to go round the city blowing bubbles and getting the supporters to backoff.
Hughs not a fans favorite as a player has shown little achievement as a loans manager so give him a first team coaches job, then has a go at unhappy supporters.
Webber the conundrum a good salesman and an amateur mountain climber, Sold all the crown jewels and said city needs more of the same, yet all the recruitment team that found these Gems have all left and no ready name recruits have been found.
Our 3 stooges are like the London Thames Barrier stopping a flood of criticism going to the Stowmarket Two with tha added layer of protect Mrs Webber who is her Husband’s boss so he’s protected.
I’m not advocating to sack the manager we’ve been there and done that but a time frame needs to be planned for improvements no matter what system he decides to use.
We need openness but under Webber in the last year that’s gone down the drain faster than the Titanic sinking, everyone from top to bottom needs to hold their gands up and admit what’s gone wrong, supporters need to take a deep breath and allow changes to happen.
Norwich City FC is there for the supporters who pay money to enjoy not get blamed for things they can’t effect and owners need to know 26years of mediocrity is enough and you’re passed your sell by date.
Good read and comments
The players that will leave are those that we get offers for. We can’t really afford to refuse any half decent offer. So Sara, Sargent etc. could go, Aarons could stay so someone could get him on a free, he’s a very talented player but I think we’d be better off with the money. So many times he’s been up with the strikers and the opposition have knocked it long down our right. Attackers have had to cover for him and he’s produced little going forward. Mumba is too much like that, Byram would have been ideal if he had stayed fit, but he never flinched a challenge which couldn’t have helped. Two full backs playing as attacking wing backs and two inexperienced centre backs made us easy pickings. Gibson can bring his experience, I remember we were about to sign a Brazilian centre back but it fell through. The Brazil connection could be useful and it’s something that Webber has to be complimented on.
I never really understood the reasoning on the Brazilian CB.
Turned down to not enough points to qualify for a work permit that I understand but not signing him at all and then lending him out till he got the required points seem strange.
Another point is like many premiership clubs they sign to sell put them in the shop window in Europe and make a profit, yet we sent him back home where another club from Europe will snag him on the cheap and make a profit onhim
Adam Durrant says
That’s why we need the formational tweak, an experienced CDM dropping between the CBs gives us a solid 3 that allows the full-backs to push higher, especially if the 4 in front only go forward in pairs to leave a 3-2 rest defence
I can see an argument for the midfield having the personnel (albeit not correctly implemented so far). But up front and defense don’t look fit for purpose.
We’re putting a lot of responsibility on Sargent to bang in 20-30 goals, they’re not coming from Idah or Barnes.
In the defense Hanley and Gibson held together a poor bunch, and those two weren’t much better. Hanley’s broken, Aaron’s off, and the others worry me.
With your take on the squad we will be closer to league one than a top six club im afraid.Definately needed is a full back who can actually defend, two cb’s who have championship experience,two powerful midfielders who can tackle and a strong fast attacker,(not Barnes)then we might be getting somewhere