Unfortunately, our Martin is still incommunicado and so into the breach today steps Bernie Own with a pre-international break guest blog.
He looks at where we are, what’s gone wrong, and what it will take (if anything) for Mr Wagner’s tenure to last into 2024.
All yours, Bernie.
After the Coventry game we are roughly a quarter of the way through the season (okay, I know 4 x 11 is 44 and we play 46 games but I did say roughly).
So how are our Canaries doing?
I venture to say, not as well as most of us would like. To put our record of five wins, two draws, and four defeats into context, we won three and drew one of our first four. Since then we have taken seven points from a possible 21.
It’s worth repeating … seven points out of a possible 21.
It is what it is, nothing’s about to change it, but it’s certainly not what we expected from this team. So what’s going wrong? Why do we look like such an underperforming team?
Until Saturday our away form was falling away and it’s still not great. The 4-4 at Southampton was followed by a 4-0 win at Huddersfield. At that point, everything seemed okay in terms of picking up points from away games but then came Rotherham and Plymouth… later to be followed by Swansea.
But in terms of Rotherham and Plymouth… collectively, 135 minutes of no-show out of 180.
Is it the tippy-tappy football at the back that has already cost us 3-4 goals this season part of the problem? Or the problem?
The worst/best example of this was at Swansea where Angus Gunn had at least 10 touches of the ball in the first 150 seconds, and then the inevitable happened and we went 1-0 down.
Deep defending with all 10 outfield players behind the ball happens but is not ideal when all of them are within 25 yards of our own goal.
Where is the out-ball? Answer: There isn’t one.
The ball is guaranteed to come straight back to put more pressure on the defence and, guess what, mistakes will eventually happen and goals against will be scored.
At least put a couple of players on the halfway line when you are defending a corner. Simplistic it may seem but it takes at least four bodies out of the way and makes it easier for your defenders to defend.
Also, if a defender wins it and launches it up-field, you have the chance of a counter-attack.
At the other end of the pitch it’s all about ball in onion bag and, to be fair, we have scored 21 goals so far this season, But, again for context, 13 of those came in the first four games.
And then we lost Sarge and Barnes.
Now we score one goal a game and concede more – a recipe for a cake with a soggy bottom if ever I saw one.
Our midfielders are currently carrying the scoring burden, penalties aside, and are doing okay but the quality of our striking minus Sargent and Barnes is a huge concern.
Idah appears capable of getting into good positions but then lacks composure, and right now I can see no reason why Nottingham Forest bought Hwang in the first place. No wonder he’s never played a minute for them.
(As an aside, young Abu Kamara is getting decent reviews from the Pompey faithful as he holds down a position in a team top of League One).
So, now it’s international break time and then on October 21st, we welcome back the bloke on a horse, followed by four more games before the November break – Middlesbrough (h), Sunderland (a), Blackburn (h), Cardiff (a) – a run of games that will define our season.
If we come out of them in touching distance of the top six it will still be game on but if not the pressure on Mr Wagner will be massive. I like him as a person, but like other managers and head coaches before him, he has no Plan B to fall back on when Plan A isn’t working.
I say we bring in young Jaden Warner and play three at the back with five in midfield, but that would mean wingbacks and, as Bali Mumba found out, Wagner doesn’t do wingbacks.
At least that would have given us a Plan B. Nice idea… in theory.
Finally congrats so far this season to the Portaloo Boys who are ripping it up like a Paul Lambert team in the Championship after being promoted from League One.
(Yes, it does hurt).
As is traditional on a Monday, we conclude with a piece of music that’s tenuously linked to the prevailing mood among the faithful.
“The Only Way Is Up” by Yazz and REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It…” were a little too route one (even for me), so instead I’ll leave you with this little-known number which, for obvious reasons, currently ticks a couple of #NCFC boxes.