As disappointing as it was – and it really was – last night offered, unfortunately, a snapshot of where we are right now as a football club.
As a team, we’re about as average to middling as you can get, and as a club, we’re poor (in a financial sense), which is starting to become painfully obvious as this squad struggles to cope with a spate of injuries to key players.
To start with the team itself, I can understand why David Wagner felt the need to mix things up a bit given the relentless Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday nature of this time of the season, and with Hwang Ui-jo’s bright little cameo on Saturday hopefully boosting his confidence I could see the logic in giving him a start. But it didn’t work.
None of the changes worked and neither, later in the game, did any of the substitutions – the upshot of having a squad with a few good players but which also includes too many that are no more than okay.
But that’s precisely where we are and what we are. This is where you find yourself when, over the course of a summer transfer window, you sell players for a total of around £30 million but spend only £3 million on fees to bring players in.
In fairness, most of us were happy with our summer business at the time, particularly the way those who came in bolstered both the mentality and physicality of the squad, but ten games in – the barometer by which we’re supposed to evaluate the rest of the season – those additions are all looking fairly unexceptional. Some, let’s be honest, are looking not-very-good.
And that affliction of giving away soft, sloppy, and stupid goals – the one we hoped would disappear with the addition of Shane Duffy and Jack Stacey. Well, that’s gone nowhere. Last night confirmed it’s very much still with us.
The first goal was a shocker all of its own. A horribly over-hit pass my Duffy. The ensuing panic to right the wrong. Missed tackles galore. And we were 1-0 down… after three minutes… when the last thing we could afford to do was concede an early one.
This is the same Swansea who didn’t get a win in their first seven games and who, despite winning their last two, were still wobbling. But that early goal settled them nicely and it almost went without saying that the goal was scored by Jamal Lowe – one of the strikers we were linked with on deadline day when we ended up with Hwang.
The response from City was decent and, as is the case with most average Championship sides, when it clicks we’re still capable of playing some nice football. A fine diving finish by Gabriel Sara was a fitting end to a flowing move that we would once have described as prime Farkeball.
And from there City regained a modicum of control, particularly for the opening half hour of the second half, when they created enough good situations to have gone on and won the game.
But, as is the wont of a side and squad that lacks quality, all too often the final ball was imprecise and the opportunity wasted. The only time they almost got it right was when Przemysław Płacheta – on for the ineffective Tony Springett – rifled an awkward-looking left-footed cross at the head of Adam Idah when it was crying out for a clipped cross from his right boot.
Idah has taken plenty of stick for heading over the bar but anyone who has been on the receiving end of a cross that threatens to take your head off your shoulders will know how difficult they are to control.
At Championship level, however, I agree you do expect those to hit the back of the net.
As it transpired, that was the closest City came to getting their noses ahead. The Swans were the ones to finish strongly and that super-fitness that so excited us in the early weeks of the season oddly seems to have disappeared.
And, let’s be honest again, from around the 80th minute onward, there was only going to be one winner. As the Swans grew in belief, the Canaries retreated and crosses aplenty were launched into Angus Gunn’s six-yard box.
After a couple of close calls – including Duffy clearing one off the line – it felt inevitable that one would eventually drop. And sure enough…
It was another of those where there appeared to be plenty of opportunities to clear the ball but there will not have been a single Norwich supporter out there who was surprised to see that ball ricochet into the roof of the net. Not one.
And, worse still, the response was tepid. No Alamo. No fire in the belly. Nowt. Instead, what appeared an acceptance that it wasn’t going to be our day… again.
So… four defeats in our last six league games during which time we’ve slipped out of the top six. While we are on the same number of points as fifth-placed West Brom, we’re only two points clear of 14th-placed Millwall.
On our current trajectory, mid-table nothingness beckons which, in fairness, feels about right for this group.
As mentioned at the start of the piece, without our two main strikers, this team screams “average” and the squad is wafer-thin. All too often, for David Wagner to either mix it up to keep his players fresh or to use players off the bench means to dilute the quality. And that’s not going to get you into the playoffs.
I applaude those who are grown up enough to brush off this run of form as understandable given the players we are without, but we’re not alone in suffering injuries to key players, and if we’re putting everything on hold until Josh Sargent returns, that’s a long old wait. By then a top six place could well be out of reach.
So we return to that place. The one in which we’re in a bit of a muddle. And with Cov (a) to come on Saturday, things ain’t about to get any easier.
Brace yourselves. This could get a bit bumpy.