You’re stuck with me again I’m afraid. Our Martin’s still poorly and so, for now, the Monday stripes will be shared around.
I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing the ol’ boy all the best for a speedy recovery. MFW is not the same without him – that’s for sure.
But, while I’m no Martin P, and there’s not much scope right now for Monday mirth, it does give me the chance to respond to some of the brilliant comments that followed the piece I wrote yesterday.
Jane: “I feel very sorry for Wagner, being used as a pawn in a desperate game played in the ivory tower … We’re back to the Gunn and Grant years in terms of squad ability.”
Hard to contest on both counts. For all of Wagner’s all-too-obvious failings and inflexibility, he appears to have been handed a squad that just doesn’t deliver what it was supposed to.
In his six-and-a-bit seasons, Webber has failed to add physicality, muscle, and pace to this squad despite it being routinely one of the areas from which we suffer. Wagner-ball absolutely cries out for all of those things, yet despite the arrival of Shane Duffy and Ashley Barnes – who we initially believed to have gone some way to solving the problem – we still get outmuscled and out-run.
And the super-fitness, also a Wagner necessity, is nowhere to be seen with players being routinely out on their feet after the hour mark.
As for the Gunn-Grant years, I prefer to think of them as the Roeder-Grant years, but the point still stands. Over the last month, the dearth of overall quality has indeed a similar feel.
Gary F: “Farke was the scapegoat for the poor recruitment in the summer of 2021 … NCFC are still paying the price for these decisions nearly two years on.”
As above, impossible to contest. Farke was armed with a pop gun in 2019-20 but was not much better off in 2021-22 – maybe at a stretch a plastic toy rifle. What he wasn’t delivered was a squad that was capable of even competing for 17th place in the Premier League.
For that, I don’t just blame Webber, but also the owners who effectively demanded another Webber-Farke miracle. Their desire to retain ownership of the club has come at the expense of progress – which is, of course, their prerogative but Dean Smith demonstrated perfectly that the squad Daniel had been handed was wholly unfit for purpose.
Cyprus Canary: “This debacle of late was made probably by the poor decisions made in the past year and a half – primarily keeping a failed football director in place for too long. Even now we can’t get shot of him.”
The decision by the owners – presumably contractual – to allow someone who is clearly desperate to leave the club to continue making the big decisions when, on the playing side, he has failed to deliver, looks increasingly astounding.
We find ourselves in this incredulous situation of having a bloke who doesn’t want to be here, and who most of the fans don’t want here, overseeing a rebuild that hasn’t worked. I can’t think of another club (or business) in the country where such an arrangement would be deemed acceptable.
Jon B: “Our substitutes have little presence, whether that be physical, ability, or other.”
Greg: “My concerns with the manager are that he seems to be unable to identify problems on the pitch.”
As I alluded to in yesterday’s piece, Wagner appears to favour substitutions by numbers – most of them apparently not based on the state of the game and how he wishes to impact it, but by a formula for minutes-per-player and who needs to be rested.
Very rarely does a Wagner substitution have a positive impact on a match – something that for him appears to be an Achilles heel. So too, his ability to make in-game tactical changes to neutralise threats caused by our opponents of the day. Saturday was a perfect example – he had no answer to Farke reverting to a 3-5-2.
Canarylad: “After years of under-investment, and seasons of poor recruitment, we have reached where we are… waiting for the January window to get a (cash) injection from the sales of Sara and Rowe.”
I was scolded for suggesting this last week, but given the club’s dire financial state, this has to be considered a very real possibility.
Financial black holes when you’re Norwich City either tend to get addressed by Premier League cash injections or player sales. And with there being, as things stand, little likelihood of a Premier League return anytime soon, I believe we should make the most of watching Messrs Sara and Rowe while we still can.
It goes without saying that I hope I’m wrong.
Riverender: “Only at Norwich could players like Idah and Springett be considered worth a place. I hope a positive change is made before the season has gone but everything is so stale now. Even a takeover takes forever and the previous incumbents are still there.”
I have tended to be more patient than some with Adam Idah – who I actually thought put in a decent shift on Saturday – but he clearly offers significantly less threat in front of goal than either Sargent or Barnes. The problem is, the gig is his for the foreseeable with Hwang Ui-jo (I’m sorry to say) currently looking like little more than a competition winner.
I refuse to believe the Korean is as poor as he appears (no one gets 60 international caps by being a poor player) but right now he and Idah are a million miles away from being the answer.
As for young Springett, I just think he looks a long way off being ready to contribute regularly to the first XI, yet he clearly remains high in the estimations of Wagner. Whether that’s because Wagner sees in training what he is capable of yet struggles to replicate it on a matchday, or whether it is a Wagner blind spot, I have no idea but to bring him on on Saturday ahead of a fit-at-last Borja Sainz seemed bizarre.
Tonyb: “There should have been a new SD in place straight after last season – a new start for a new season.”
Would indeed have made logical sense … but logic and common sense haven’t figured large in the decision-making at the club for some time now (in my opinion).
JohnF: “As Webber said he wouldn’t leave Delia in the lurch, it’ll be interesting to see all the activity between now and the end of November as he clears the £60 million deficit he’s created and moves out the deadwood he’s brought into the club.”
I dare not comment.
Chris: “We are regularly treated to the sight of opposing attackers tearing unchecked toward our goal with Gert and Daisy at the back frantically backpedalling like the Italian army at El Alamein.”
Chris: “I’m sure Wagner is a decent guy and I’m also sure he knows it’s not going to work here for him. Like the man in the opposite dugout (on Saturday), he is set to be the next victim of those owning and running the club.”
As mentioned earlier in the piece, it appears Wagner has been handed a dud hand and his limitations as a coach have been exposed by the paucity of the squad he has at his disposal.
I do wonder if a coach in the young-and-hungry bracket would get more of a tune out of this group than Wagner but against the backdrop of it being not good enough to compete against the division’s elite teams.
What we’re seeing now is, for me, the end result of year-on-year of under-investment in the playing squad caused by those at the very top pursuing a self-funding ideology based on their believing that no one, other than themselves, is suitably qualified to run our club.
Peter P: “To get promoted twice and not invest in the team guarantees relegation sooner rather than later. Delia played safe, cleared debts, and settled for the mediocre.”
Agreed. As above.
Andrew H: “It’s just become a bit depressing and embarrassing and it really doesn’t help when Wagner comes out saying he thought the performance was good.”
It was indeed a bizarre comment. Deep down he must know that it takes more than some good moments in a game to constitute a good performance. I’d argue that any performance that results in a two-goal lead being thrown away isn’t a good one.
But we’ve seen this before and not very long ago. Dean Smith would routinely describe a game in his post-match interviews that was unlike anything we’d just witnessed. I fear Wagner is now heading down a similar path, and usually, the reason for those types of comments is self-preservation.
Wagner is clearly a clever and decent man, and I’m sure, deep down, he sees that without a dramatic turnaround – one I suspect this group of players is incapable of producing – the writing is on the wall for him.
Apologies to those whose comments I’ve not included but thanks to each and every one of you for taking the time to write them. Without the follow-up comments, MFW is nothing.
As it’s Monday, we’ll conclude with some music – a jaunty little number from the pipes of Michael Stipe, which, while a little overly dramatic, describes perfectly my mood last Saturday evening: