It’s a privilege to write for this site. But it has to be admitted: a previewer’s lot is not always a happy one.
City’s trip to Swansea on Wednesday is a case in point. How do you try to make sense of these two teams, and say anything sensible about how the game might turn out?
A Swansea fan might be feeling confident. While we were being humbled at Plymouth in our last league away game, Swansea were comfortably winning their last home one – a 3-0 cruise against Sheffield Wednesday.
They followed it up at the weekend with an even more impressive 3-0 win, this time at Millwall.
And yet. Their results earlier in September were a home loss to Bristol City, a draw at QPR and a 2-0 defeat at local rivals Cardiff. The Cardiff defeat, in particular, drew heavy criticism of manager Michael Duff.
It’s odd to say those last few words and to think of Swansea being managed by anyone other than our Russ. When he moved on to Southampton in the summer – where we wish him well, of course, as long as it’s not at our expense – the Swans turned to Michael Duff who’d had successful spells at Cheltenham and Barnsley.
Swansea also had significant summer change in the playing squad. They sold Michael Obafemi and Morgan Whittaker (the latter to Plymouth, as we painfully know), and surely had a blow to lose striker Joel Piroe to Leeds at the end of the window.
Against that, they spent substantial sums on Jerry Yates from Blackpool and Josh Tymon from Stoke. And they have a handful of loanees from the Premier League, including Jamal Lowe from Bournemouth (linked with us during the window, of course) and the highly-rated Charlie Patino from Arsenal.
Perhaps their new squad and coaching staff are beginning to gel. Perhaps.
What of Norwich? At least partly, we’re getting back on track. The performances against Fulham and Birmingham have gone some way to restoring faith, enabling us to see Plymouth as an aberration.
That said, a shock like Plymouth takes a while to recover from, for players and fans alike. Our first half against Birmingham was determined, but without the verve and flair that marked us earlier in the season.
Hopefully, we’ll take heart from the second half when, as the admirable Connor Southwell said in his Pink Un piece: “Goals from Gabby Sara and Jon Rowe were expertly crafted and reaffirmed the quality that’s present in the playing squad.”
Stepping back and trying to take stock of the first two months of the season, we are a different and more impressive proposition than last season. The fans have been great, but the team has given them reason to be.
Managers are renowned for putting a gloss on things, but David Wagner’s own summary seems pretty fair:
“We have quite a good picture in our head, but there’s space to improve. With the knowledge the players have, and their hunger to improve and do something special this season, I have hope and confidence. The first steps are done”
Meanwhile, the past couple of weeks have raised questions about our best starting XI. Przemyslaw Placheta has already forced his way into the team; Adam Forshaw must be close, while Danny Batth must have been in consideration for Birmingham.
At the other end of the experience scale, Jaden Warner and Tony Springett are clearly in the manager’s thinking.
I’m guessing we’ll start an unchanged team from Saturday, fitness permitting. Proud players like Shane Duffy and Ben Gibson won’t have liked their performances at Plymouth and will be determined to put further distance between that day and the present. Another clean sheet would be very welcome.
Like David Wagner, I’m prepared to keep faith with Adam Idah – over the past few games he hasn’t let anyone down. Hwang Ui-Jo will benefit from more game time, but it may be from the subs’ bench for now.
With two quick away fixtures before the (ugh) international break, some rotation may be an attractive option for at least one of those games. Adam Forshaw – who may prove a more astute signing than most of us appreciated at the time – could allow Gabby Sara to take up a more attacking role, perhaps giving Christian Fassnacht a breather.
So, how will Wednesday’s game pan out?
Much as I’d prefer them to forget it, MFW readers may remember my last preview, when I confidently predicted our unbeaten run would continue at Rotherham.
No more of that game of soldiers, then. But I’ll tentatively repeat a point someone made: David Wagner’s promotion team at Huddersfield had the odd horror day like ours at Plymouth, but always bounced back with a solid run.