For those of us who are English and fans of sport as well as fans of football and Norwich City, yesterday was a stinker of a day.
Several more apt descriptions are available but I’ll run with stinker as my mum reads my Sunday morning column. But you know what I mean. Pick your own.
The cricketers set the tone for the day with the most abysmal of defeats in their nearly-must-win against South Africa and while the rugby union team produced a performance of infinitely more guts and bravery, they too succumbed to heart-wrenching defeat.
Sandwiched in between though was, for us, the pick of the bunch. A performance that encapsulated all of the ills of defeat from both in Mumbai and Paris.
From India, City sized upon the technical deficiencies, the gutlessness and the mismanagement both on and off the pitch, and from France that priceless ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The upshot was the throwing away of a fortuitous 2-0 lead and our fifth defeat in our last eight Championship games. Or, to spin it another way, a run of 23 league games in which we have won just six.
Now whether you are Team Wagner or Wagner Out, what we can all agree on is that it is a run of results that is not good enough if you have aspirations of promotion.
Regardless of where the blame lies – and you’ll not be surprised to learn that I don’t believe it all to be the fault of Wagner – something has gone horribly wrong, and that type of run, unless averted, could see things turning very ugly on the pitch and in the stands.
And, whatever some may think, no one wants that.
All of which is made even worse because there were moments yesterday when the football flowed nicely and we looked dangerous in the attacking third.
When Wagner’s formula works it’s both pleasing to the eye and effective – that I will not contest. But what it lacks is flexibility. It’s formulaic, it’s football by numbers and so when opponents successfully suss it and counter it, there is nowhere to go.
Even the substitutions are formulaic. The decision to stay with his pre-planned triple substitution in the 78th minute, when Leeds had just equalized, appeared odd to say the least. At that point, the game had changed and so too should the thinking.
But no – the iPad said to make a triple change on 78 minutes, so that’s what must be done.
It wasn’t the only questionable substitution either. With the decision made to replace Onel Hernandez on the hour – the iPad said so – it was either a brave or stupid call to replace him with Tony Springett when alongside him sat Borja Sainz and Christian Fassnacht.
I’ve nothing against young Springett – I don’t doubt he’ll go on to carve out a useful career for himself – but in that moment, even minus the benefit of hindsight, it felt like an odd call.
It just feels so inflexible. What we can’t accuse Wagner of is being reactive. Far from it. But neither is he proactive, so I’m not really sure what he is.
But it’s not just the game management from the technical area that’s a problem. The on-pitch decision making too is, to be kind, questionable.
For example, how the hell, from our own free-kick, which Gabriel Sara had floated into the Leeds box, did Crysencio Summerville manage to find himself with two-thirds of the pitch to run into?
One booming defensive header and the Dutchman was away with the only player anywhere near him being Adam Forshaw – for all his qualities, not someone you would choose to enter in a foot race with a flying winger.
The outcome then was inevitable, as too was the result of the whole game once Shane Duffy had unluckily diverted Dan James’ cross into his own net.
Let’s not kid ourselves either. A 2-0 halftime lead was wonderful, and both goals were, in different ways, excellent but alongside that lead was the fact that, as always, we conceded some big chances to our opponents. And we’re taking really good chances – particularly those missed by Messrs Kamara and Piroe.
Daniel Farke will have been incredulous at being 2-0 down but also acutely aware that any team that gives up as many goalscoring opportunities as Norwich remains there for the taking. And they were.
For context, it is only fair to recognise that, despite their ordinary start to the season, this Leeds team is bursting full of quality and now looks destined to chase down the current top two.
On that basis, defeat to them was no disgrace but we’re not just losing to the Leeds and Leicesters – we also lose to the Rotherhams and the Plymouths. And let’s not forget how many big chances and shots we conceded in the draw at Coventry.
There are lots of things wrong and the direction of travel is clear. In eleventh and just five points clear of the team in 21st is not a good place to be when your form is dropping off a cliff.
But, as mentioned earlier, this crisis shouldn’t be laid solely at the door of David Wagner.
His team is ‘average’ – very average as it transpires – because, aside from a couple of obvious exceptions, his is a squad rammed full of average, unexceptional Championship players. The compound effect of many years of serial underinvestment in the playing squad.
The return of Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes will, of course, help but a squad that is thrown so off-kilter when it loses just two key players to injury is not a well-balanced one in the first place.
The usual soundbites around expecting a response against Middlesbrough are already in full flow but when you find yourselves asking for one on an almost weekly basis that is a sure-fire sign that all is not well.
Having said that, I desperately hope there is one – a reaction that is.
One final thought before I leave you to your Corn Flakes… Wagner was outcoached by Daniel Farke yesterday.
The in-game changes made by Farke were not countered in any way, shape, or form, and if by some miracle we were given a choice over which German we would prefer to have in our dugout while in the Championship, then it would almost certainly be a unanimous decision.
At the time of Daniel’s departure, there were some dissenters but also plenty who agreed with the decision as it appeared, at that exact time, that he had taken us as far as he possibly could.
But with the benefit of hindsight, what has followed has been little short of a horror show.
So it is not just the decision-making in the dugout and on the pitch that appears to be the problem.