I find myself in agreement with Gary’s article yesterday of yesterday…
Ben Knapper was hamstrung from day one. Delia’s de facto “vote of confidence” and David Wagner unsurprisingly telling the media about it, meant Knapper couldn’t have sacked him on day one even if he had wanted to.
Okay, a lot of my fellow fans will scream, “He’s a yes man”, and with some justification, but really how many of us would piss off our new employers in your first week? Not many I wager.
The other thing I agreed with in the article was regarding the injury situation, which is bad but nothing like the one Daniel Farke had to contend with in his first season in the EPL. To me, that was the worst since the days of Bruce Rioch.
But, I am sorry, this is the way the club now operates. If Knapper wanted to have a month or so to see how Wagner works (it took David McNally a damn sight quicker with poor ol’ Gunny) then fair enough, but to have that choice of sacking him at the start of his time here taken away from him just wasn’t fair.
I like Wagner as a person and I would love to see him succeed but unless, among other things, he finds defenders who can defend then he will not last the year. That is just a cold hard fact.
He could also do without our defenders scoring for the opposition (looking at you Mr Duffy) – that would be a start. Even last Saturday, against Cardiff, we had to score three to win as we had conceded our customary two goals.
Only Norwich City could field a team in late April of this year against Swansea with a team that some perceived to be far too young to only, a few months, later field a team akin to Dad’s Army.
In the Sunderland game a few weeks ago, we started with seven players aged 30 or over! (I know, it shocked me too), yet in the Swansea game, we started with just one player in that category, Onel Hernandez – who was just 30 at the time.
To be honest, the team against Swansea did lack experience but to go from one extreme to the other in such a short space of time is, I’m afraid, typical Norwich – at least at the moment.
To turn attention for the final time to the departed Stuart Webber for a moment, I’ve read several comments in the last two weeks claiming that he had done nothing for the club, but cannot agree with them.
I disagreed wholeheartedly with Stuart’s brusque and rude manner towards us supporters – blaming us for the relegation from the EPL in the second Premiership campaign was bizarre and disrespectful to supporters, especially the away contingent who spend small fortunes following the team all over the country and 100% wrong – but Colney has improved by leaps and bounds under his watch.
He must take a lot of credit for that and we should never forget that it was his appointment that gave us those two glorious Championship years under Daniel Farke. Again kudos for that.
In terms of the relegations, the faults were numerous. There was the ineptitude in recruiting poor players but also the lack of financial backing to consider.
Yet here we, are six years on, and on the pitch it is probably worse than it was when Stuart was appointed. At least then we had James Maddison.
We also have an ageing squad and players on long contracts; the average age being a good bit older than the squad Webber /Farke inherited.
Upon his appointment Webber introduced a new system by appointing a young up-and-coming coach and a new way to play (he actually said we will ‘play football on the ground while Ipswich will keep it in the clouds’ … oh the irony!), while using a mixture of youth and experience and developing a pathway for youngsters who were deemed good enough to play for the first team.
At Championship level that worked a treat. In the EPL it was doomed to failure, as Burnley are finding out.
Then Webber sacked Farke and made him the scapegoat for his own inadequacies in recruitment without Kieran Scott, and then tore up all of his own rules and went for Dean Smith.
I have to admit at the time I thought it wasn’t a bad shout, but in retrospect, it just didn’t work. And, crucially, it veered away from the model that Webber himself had introduced.
To be fair to Webber in his last interview (and to my amazement) he did admit that our supposed self-funding model just wouldn’t work. But there was no apology to the fans. I suppose his admitting that he got things wrong was the closest we were ever going to get.
But it is all very well having a state-of-the-art training ground and a Soccerbot to boot, it still does you absolutely no good if you have defenders who cannot defend.
Like Tommy Docherty (one for the kids – Ed) said years ago, “If you keep buying second division players, you end up with a second division team”, And, guess what, he was talking about Norwich at the time!
We never replaced Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki with players anywhere near that same quality, and I would even go as far as to say the same applies to the defenders we have sold or let go. I would still have Hanley, Zimbo, and Godfrey ahead of any of those who have played since August.
(Thankfully Grant will soon be available again.)
Nor have we replaced Alex Tettey and even, for my money, someone with the craft and guile of Mario Vrancic.
But it will be very interesting to see how, going forward, Ben Knapper and Mark Attanasio are able to work together. They are clearly aligned with the importance of data in modern football – I just hope there is also room for some old-fashioned scouting.
It’s Monday, so a piece of music for which we hope our Martin will approve…