Paddy Davitt: Roll the dice. City have nothing to lose
Unpredictability is Daniel Farke’s quest at Norwich City right now.
Cast your mind back over some of the most epic seasons in recent times and there is a common thread.
Paul Lambert’s squad of has-beens, rogues and journeymen taking a one-way ticket straight through the Championship to shake up the Premier League, following on from a far more routine League One title success.
Alex Neil arriving with a crash, bang and a wallop delivered mainly by Bradley Johnson in a breathless six-month ride that ended with Wembley joy and 40,000 fans savouring a day they will never, ever forget. Even if age and the passage of time may dim the shine from those memories.
Then there is Farke himself engineering an unexpected ascent to the Championship title two seasons ago on a plentiful diet of attacking punch, Emi Buendia’s wizardry, Teemu Pukki’s goals and late drama.
Arguably the three sweetest campaigns in the last decade or so. All achieved against the odds.
Toiling in the Premier League, scrambling for survival is, alas, a far more predictable script whoever is prowling the front of the home dug-out at Carrow Road. Even the eternal optimists know how difficult the challenge is before a ball is kicked for Norwich City in the top flight.
Why that is and how the Canaries go about attaining a degree of sustainability in the Premier League has been debated liberally elsewhere.
The here and the now, the narrow focus when this current season resumes at Rotherham, is Farke’s quest to inject some dynamism into City’s attempts to buck the odds, and launch a concerted push for an immediate return to the big time.
The mitigation is there and largely accepted. Even if there is not a universal agreement among Norwich’s fan base.
When is there ever about anything?
The pernicious overhang of a transfer window which has seen oceans of speculation and then the eventual departures of Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey and to a lesser extent Timm Klose proved an unwanted distraction.
So too wrestling with the negativity that accompanies a relegated club back to the Football League; even if there has been a large scale overhaul to rejuvenate the squad at Farke’s disposal.
But when City emerge at Rotherham on Saturday the transfer window will be closed and the urge to look backwards should recede further with each passing winless league game.
Norwich need to look forward. They need re-invention, they need to show a greater urgency, for all their weight of possession and territorial dominance. Whether it is a change of personnel, whether it is simply a change of mindset or an acknowledgement they are the hunted this time around and as such viewed as a prized scalp, Farke must discover the alchemist’s touch he showed before to get these Championship opponents off balance.
Early though it is in the proceedings if a predictability in both approach and outlook is allowed to settle then the overall outcome is likely a season of transition.
A building block, in the round, once you peer through the inevitable disappointment, to attempt a concerted tilt at upward mobility, at some undefined point in the future.
Farke allowed himself to be drawn into the area of expectation management prior to the Derby County defeat.
Or maybe, given how astute an operator he is, the City head coach allowed himself to be taken down that path. He said any framing of ambition for this season on the pitch is linked to the end of the transfer window and, by definition, you feel the success or failure of warding off suitors for their remaining assets.
There is certainly the depth of resource still left in the building to justifiably expect Norwich can compete at the sharp end of the table.
Then it requires luck at the right times in the right games, a fortunate run with injuries and suspensions and the possibilities are genuine.
But Farke was right to assert, as he did again following Godfrey’s club record move to Everton, his prospects of winning games of football as a simple head coach diminish if he loses his best centre back, his best left back and who knows who else.
That is not the German’s bid to serve up some ready-made excuses should the quest for results to match encouraging performances remain elusive.
Rather it frames the possible restrictions he is working under. Although by way of a counter proposal his sporting director made it clear earlier in the window there can be no excuses this time around City have failed to spend sufficient money to attract quality. The playing roster looks stronger, pound for pound, than the group who tried and failed at the higher level.
The faultline that is opening up now is the on-going loss of revenue from the absence of supporters at Carrow Road, which the club estimated in recent days to have cost tens of millions.
A figure that will rise sharply if government and public health bodies hold firm and keep the current restrictions on social movement in place until well in 2021.
That injects a whole different level of financial unpredictability that is unwelcome and concerning you feel for those shaping this self-funding model.
Farke’s issues pale in comparison.
He just needs to come to the table with something that is not more of the same.
Unless it is more of the late drama, more of the goals and more of the wins he served up for Norwich fans who dared to hope at this stage two years ago they were imbibing more than just a deliciously brief interlude.
They discovered in due course it is was real and long lasting and fulfilling.
Achieve that again, for all the complexity off the pitch and these adverse currents swirling around the playing staff, and this season may rank as the finest, most unpredictable of all over this past decade.
Time to roll the dice and see where it lands.