Norwich City milestone for Daniel Farke. But Ed Balls’ assessment still holds true
PUBLISHED: 08:01 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:04 25 May 2018
Daniel Farke was unveiled as Norwich City’s new head coach on this day 12 months ago. Paddy Davitt looks back at a debut season that was anything but dull and peers into what the future might hold at Carrow Road.
It may go against the grain in a world fuelled by the black and white judgments that power social media, but a definitive assessment of Daniel Farke must wait.
The hugely likeable, honest, engaging German was unveiled as Norwich City’s first overseas head coach 12 months to this day.
There was something unmistakably alluring about the sight of Borussia Dortmund’s former second team boss striding across a sun-kissed Carrow Road surface to pose for those obligatory scarf-holding pictures.
Farke was the most visible signal yet the Canaries had changed course in dramatic fashion from the tried and trusted.
Just the cache associated with working for one of Europe’s biggest clubs was enough to ensure he was warmly received by the vast majority of Norwich’s supporters.
In the acres of coverage that swept Farke into Norfolk there may well have been more than a passing nod to the success of his predecessor back at Dortmund, David Wagner, given he had just piloted Huddersfield Town to the Premier League.
It was an easy comparison to make.
Stuart Webber was the link to both men but beyond their nationality and shared employment history the similarities were not as deep as they first appeared. Certainly not in terms of their playing style.
Wagner is rightly bracketed as a disciple of Jurgen Klopp’s ‘heavy metal’ approach to winning football games.
Farke is far more circumspect in his desire to dominate possession and build pressure, while depriving the opponent of the opportunity to hurt his own backline.
Farke himself addressed this distinction towards the end of a debut season that had highs and lows but was essentially framed by the financial necessity to clear the decks at Carrow Road and adjust to a new, more straightened set of circumstances outside the top flight.
Such guiding principles will apply again going into this latest summer transfer window; lower the wage bill, bring in a transfer surplus, improve the squad - at first sight a contradictory set of forces impinging on Farke’s ability to mould a group of players who can hope for more than mid-table mediocrity.
Farke spoke about the huge difference in expectancy levels around what Wagner was able to engineer with the Terriers and the weight of history and recent Premier League membership he had to deal with at Carrow Road.
City’s chairman, Ed Balls, stood up at the annual meeting in November and told shareholders the ‘jury was still out’ on the new path being forged by Farke and sporting director Webber.
That label remains the best description of essentially a work in progress.
As much as bald statistics can paint a picture, Farke’s Norwich City record stands at 52 games in charge, 18 wins, 17 draws, 17 defeats. But they barely scratch the surface of the canvas.
In those best spells of the season there was a resolute edge to Norwich’s urgings, and any number of battling away wins forged in difficult terrain.
The higher profile cup tussles against the likes of Arsenal and eventual FA Cup winners Chelsea hinted at a brand of football which could prove residually effective in the Premier League. Getting there is the humongous task ahead.
The lack of goals, the inevitable departure of some of their brightest talent in transfer windows to come, the occasional regressive defensive display or the injuries that highlighted the threadbare parts of Farke’s squad, are all negative processes the head coach is striving to navigate.
The manner he periodically dealt with what he perceived as a drop in standards from members of his playing staff - from that opening day spat with Nelson Oliveira onwards - was hugely impressive and refreshing in a profession where managers all too often prefer to keep things in-house.
That demonstrated Farke’s bravery, which was also seen in his commitment to giving the likes of James Maddison and Jamal Lewis a stage to shine.
There is plenty left to address moving into his second year in office but do not underestimate the structural work already undertaken.