Quite what Shane Duffy was thinking when he boomed that header into touch near the South Stand/River End corner is unclear but what it provided was the most perfect snapshot of another grim, error-ridden night at Carrow Road.
The boos and the cries of ‘Wagner Out’ were, I’m afraid, inevitable as the frustration boiled over after another 90-plus minutes of disappointment. Make no mistake, the call for the axing of the head coach would have been accompanied by the same for the current sporting director were he not already on his merry way.
But therein lies part of the problem.
We may have had our moments over the last decade but being a Norwich City supporter is undeniably grim right now, much of it stemming from the biweekly bouts of paucity we’re subjected to as our heroes prove themselves to be only zeroes – Johnny Rowe aside.
But it runs deeper than a team that is devoid of confidence and a head coach who has lost his way, if indeed there was a way in the first place. David Wagner’s race appears to be run but he’s not the root cause of this malaise – far from it. But he is a by-product of it.
Like Dean Smith before him, he’s a decent guy but also the wrong guy. Having said that, with Norwich City in its current state, I’m not sure if there is such a thing as the right one.
Had Wagner not been so intrinsically linked to Stuart Webber, I’m not sure he would have been even short-listed for the job. Had Webber not been involved at all in the process in the first place, I suspect his CV is such that he would have been a ‘Thank you for your interest but…‘ type of candidate.
Those of us who described it as an “easy”, even “lazy” appointment were rounded upon by some but it looks increasingly so.
Wagner’s football, when it clicks, is progressive, modern, and easy on the eye – nothing not to like – but it only thrives in very specific conditions. And the more teams play against it and the more it gets sub-analysed by opponents, the easier it gets to nullify.
And another thing… it relies on having defenders and deep-lying midfielders who are infinitely more comfortable on the ball than those we possess (aside, of course, from Gabriel Sara) or can afford. It relies on players, across the board, who are comfortable in possession and who, even when under pressure, can be relied upon to keep the ball.
But we don’t keep the ball. We do the opposite. We consistently cough up possession cheaply – one of the main reasons why the stats show we concede more big chances per game than almost any team in the division.
One of the great qualities of Championship Daniel Farke – apologies for mentioning him again – was his ability to produce a team greater than the sum of its parts; the complete antithesis of both Wagner and Smith. Both have proven themselves expert at producing teams that punch below their weight.
Right now, the good performers in a Wagner team stand out like a Belisha beacon because, generally, they find themselves surrounded by mediocrity.
I wrote about us being just an average Championship side a couple of weeks ago but since then the direction of travel suggests something even more concerning. With one win in seven and with performance levels falling off a cliff, the echoes of Roeder 2008-09 are all too real.
As things stand, three teams are marooned at the foot of the Championship table and so we can only hope it stays that way and that, from somewhere, one of them doesn’t find some form. Then it could get messy.
I suppose the big question is, would a change of head coach have a positive impact on this ordinary squad of players beyond perhaps a one or two-week honeymoon period? If the answer is yes, then the change should be made sooner rather than later.
But at Norwich City, even what should be a relatively straightforward decision is anything but.
Who makes the call? Webber? The bloke who is desperate to leave and who appointed Smith and Wagner in the first place?
With his replacement, Ben Knapper, not starting for another month and then apparently being hand-held by Webber until at least January, do we wait until the new year for him to make the call?
And what about Mark Attanasio, the bloke who must serve a three to seven-year apprenticeship under the guidance of Delia and Michael before he’s permitted to make an important decision?
In the real world, should he not have an input?
I guess the sensible thing to do would be to humanely relieve Wagner of his duties and appoint Narcís Pèlach as caretaker head coach to buy time until Knapper arrives but, again, what he does when he arrives will clouded by the spectre of Webber for a few weeks. Will he be permitted to make that call alone?
And, besides, we don’t tend to do sensible.
Like I said, what an absolute shambles.