You were expecting Martin, weren’t you… sorry you’ve got me instead. A poor substitute, I agree.
But to cut a quite long story short, our Martin is having IT problems; so much so he’s been unable to deliver us his usual, thought-provoking, and entertaining Monday piece.
I’ve missed it too.
I can’t pretend this is going to be anything like as entertaining or insightful, but what I can offer is one or two thoughts that didn’t make it into yesterday’s piece and ended up on the cutting room floor, starting with the atmosphere in Carrow Road on Saturday, which was infinitely better than I expected it to be.
Given what had gone before – I’m talking the massacre in Devon as opposed to the narrow defeat by the Thames – then Carrow Road had every right to be twitchy and nervy as it awaited the response, but I didn’t sense that very much at all.
Instead, against the backdrop of the thumping City Elite drum, the air was thick with expectation, as if the majority were confident that a positive response would be forthcoming.
As it transpired, of course, the responsive was positive and from the opening few exchanges it became clear there was a desire to put right what went so horribly wrong in Plymouth. And even though for most of the first half it didn’t flow as it had done in those opening few games, the Carrow Road crowd, for the most part, stayed with them.
I say most part because my River End colleagues – still no doubt buoyed by that gargantuan Shane Duffy “hoof” against Stoke that’s still orbiting the Earth – did start to get *very* tetchy with the toing and froing between Ben Gibson, Duffy, and Angus.
While it’s abundantly clear that said “tippy-tappy crap” is here to stay, as it has been since the day Daniel Farke first set foot in the building in the summer of 2017, the River End faithful still refuses to accept it.
“GET RID OF IT”
“CLEAR THE BLOODY THING”
“STOP GOING BLOODY BACKWARDS”
And, of course, the classic…
“FOR GOD’S SAKE JUST BOOT IT!!”
Alas, Messrs Duffy, Gibson and Gunn refuse to listen; preferring instead to carry out the instructions of their head coach.
But please never change folks.
As it happens, I do have a modicum of sympathy for those around me who fume at their reluctance to ‘get it forward’ but only because those we ask to undertake the “tippy-tappy shit” are not especially adept at doing so and so have a habit of getting themselves differing degrees of muddle.
If it’s done well it creates space and releases midfielders – either wide or central – into space in which to launch attacks. That’s why they do it – the risk and reward of drawing opponents onto you to then exploit the space behind once you’ve (*cliché alert*) broken the lines.
The risk element, of course, comes with trying to pass the ball through or past opponents who, if they win it, will be within one or two passes of a shooting opportunity.
Where it also falls down a bit is when, like on Saturday, opponents refuse to play ball.
Instead of pressing high and offering the Duffy-Gunn-Gibson axis – who are sometimes joined by Kenny McLean in his deep-lying quarterback role – the chance to draw them on and pick a pass, Birmingham sat off in a mid-block and allowed them to have comfortable possession.
So, while the chance of losing possession due to being closed down was reduced, the passing options were restricted, which presented problems, in particular for Duffy who was visibly asking himself the “where the hell do I go now?” question on more than one occasion.
The River End were right in that it did make uncomfortable viewing at times but I’m not sure their suggested solution is actually the answer. Ironically, on the few occasions when Angus had no option but to launch it long, the moans went up because possession was conceded too readily 😀
Like I said… never change.
The key is obviously having defenders who are comfortable in possession and also adept at making incisive, accurate passes but in the Championship those defenders don’t grow on trees (or in training ground vegetable patches).
If you’re not producing them – and in fairness, we *are* producing some good young ball-playing centre-backs at the moment – then they cost money that is well and truly out of the reach of little old not-a-pot-to-pee-in Norwich City.
And, to be fair to Stuart Webber, the summer purchase of Shane Duffy was more about acquiring a physical presence and some mental fortitude rather than his ability to make a ten-yard pass through the eye of a needle.
So, for now, we have to just suck it up.
- They’re not going to hoof it.
- They will take their time and await an opening, and…
- If an opening is not forthcoming they will pass it either sideways or backward, and…
- However much we hate it, that’s not about to change.
Patience, my friends, is very much the watchword 😀
But, aside from some minor irritability from my brethren regarding all of the above, the crowd were excellent on Saturday and were far more forgiving of the disaster in Devon than I had expected.
Make no mistake… some of the good work of the early part of this season was undone by that 6-2 humbling and no one has forgotten how dire most of 2022-23 was, but we desperately want to believe that all of that horror is now behind us.
No one wants to go to Carrow Road and moan. We want to go there and be entertained by a team and a club that we are proud of.
Talking of which…
I’ve deliberately steered clear of what will likely unfold tonight, but by this time tomorrow, it looks highly likely that the era of Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones as majority shareholders will be over.
But we’ll see. They appear unwilling to relinquish too much control too soon.
Anyway… as Martin’s Monday deputy, it only feels right to conclude with some music, so let me leave you with this lesser-known track from Guns N’ Roses, written specifically by Axl Rose with the Regency Security Stand faithful in mind: