Another poor week for the club, both in terms of results and also with the news that the beleaguered David Wagner and his coaching team have again been asked to pick the team for the Cardiff away game. I just hope, for all of their sakes, they all have their tin hats with them.
But away from the team and team selections for one minute, my last article received lots of great comments but one that suggested that I wanted Zoe Webber to be sacked and gave no clear reason why.
To be clear, I have no axe to grind with Mrs Webber and neither with her husband come to that – both have, for a time, enjoyed success at City – but times are slowly changing and sacrifices have to be made to implement fundamental change.
With Ben Knapper coming on board two weeks earlier than originally reported, hopefully, those changes will be coming sooner than expected but my point was that having your predecessor’s wife as your boss could make those changes harder to implement.
I’m not suggesting for one minute she will intentionally block any progress – far from it – but loyalty runs deep and some changes could be hard for her to accept. I feel a clean break would be in everyone’s best interest and if she were to find another big challenge at another club, I would wish her the best of luck.
But back to Mr Knapper and his in-tray. For me, it’s as follows:
1) Make a swift decision on Wagner and his backroom staff.
2) Decide on a replacement coach and their own backroom staff.
3) Rebuild the recruitment team
4) Use the Arsenal connections for possible loans for January.
5) Do what is possible to keep Jon Rowe, Gabriel Sara, Angus Gunn, and Josh Sargent.
6) Engage with the local media and supporters in order to get them onside.
In that search for a new head coach, Knapper needs to identify one with a preferred style of play – one that can become the new ‘Norwich way’ – but given the names already being bandied around, who knows what that will be.
The bookies have already drawn up lists of possible incoming coaches, whether it be the young Arsenal assistant manager Carlos Cuesta or more experienced names like Frank Lampard, John Eustace, Gary Rowett, Nigel Pearson, or a completely out-of-the-blue unknown candidate. Maybe even Big Sam, Chris Wilder, or Neil Warnock (please no – Ed) could be considered options to steady a slowly sinking ship?
Let’s hope Knapper can ignite a spark into this team with a change of coach but being open with his aims and ambitions with the local media and supporters in order to start rebuilding trust would be a first great step.
What is certain is that the recruitment of a complete unknown outside of Arsenal to lead the club forward is a risk. It could end up being a brilliant move but the big risk element is clear. Let’s just hope he wasn’t appointed because they perceived him as someone who won’t stir the pot and will be content follow their lead.
But there can be no underestimating the size of his task. We now have the oldest squad we have had in a very long time – maybe since the days of Glenn Roeder.
In terms of the summer recruits that pushed up the average age, the relatively youthful Jack Stacey has looked like a positive signing and Ashley Barnes had a good start until his untimely injury, but Shane Duffy has shown why Fulham let him go and, until now, no one has seen hide nor hair of Danny Batth.
Ben Gibson is out until the new year, but Grant Hanley is possibly back for the Cardiff game and with Kenny McLean a constant in the starting XI, the average age shows no sign of coming down, so there is much work to do for the new sporting director.
In terms of the changes at the board level, Mark Attanasio needs to front up and tell everyone what his immediate and long-term plans are. Many have said this over the last few weeks, but the sound is deafening and the Stowmarket Two haven’t exactly been forthcoming either.
Much has also been written about the accounts and the loss of income via the TV monies and the taking out of loans charged against the parachute payments, but little has been mentioned about payments made to Daniel Farke and his team and Dean Smith and his team following their respective sackings.
I’m sure both would be eye-watering sums.
In summary, City are in a mess both on and off the pitch and no one at the club or on the board seems to want to address supporters or open dialogue with them.
Worrying times. Good luck Mr Knapper!