Connor Southwell: Why it’s okay to be confused by the Canaries’ performances

PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 October 2020

Dejection was the overriding emotion after full-time against Derby. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Dejection was the overriding emotion after full-time against Derby. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

It’s okay to feel confused by Norwich City’s performances at the moment.

In fact, one might argue it’s the common position in between those who feel strongly disappointed or optimistic by the Canaries’ displays in the opening weeks of the season.

The fact so many people are on polarising ends of the debate means that the reality is somewhere in the middle.

Even neutrals are feeling puzzled by City. One discussion with a data analyst who works with other Championship clubs earlier this week revealed this isn’t a feeling confined to the City fanbase.

In truth, it was never going to be a case of flicking a switch and returning to the cohesive, free-flowing side that romped their way to the Championship title two seasons ago.

Farke has to get it right at Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdFarke has to get it right at Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Those comparisons are wearing thin – this is a new group. A new approach. Increased expectations.

Primarily, that is the source of the anger. City’s self-set expectations and loud ambitions of success mean that supporters will be expecting improvement at a rate not seen in previous seasons.

But there are still 126 points to play for. Nothing is won and lost in the opening four weeks of the season.

It was always going to be difficult to shift a losing mentality; the hangover from the brutal nature of their Premier League departure is lingering amongst those who were involved.

Emi Buendia's return is one of the positives for Norwich City. 
Pictures: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesEmi Buendia's return is one of the positives for Norwich City. Pictures: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

To see them look to retain possession and re-discover the fundamentals of Daniel Farke’s philosophy is encouraging. Especially after being forced into a more pragmatic style in the top flight.

But it is ponderous. They do lack thrust. On the contrary, those elements weren’t ever going to be visible from the off after 11 fresh additions to the squad.

Confidence is a critical element to executing Farke’s possession-based philosophy as well – it is predicated on taking risks, on cutting open defensive shapes with incisive passing.

At present, there is a safeness about their play. A lack of intensity perhaps. A trend is emerging where they struggle to play through teams deploying a low block.

Teemu Pukki's penalty slip proved costly in Norwich City's 1-0 Championsip defeat to Derby Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdTeemu Pukki's penalty slip proved costly in Norwich City's 1-0 Championsip defeat to Derby Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

This is why people are feeling perplexed – there are positive elements and negative ones. But it’s too early to decipher whether these are teething issues or problems that run deeper.

You don’t put Usain Bolt in to run a marathon just so you can get a quick start.

Sometimes those strategic athletes wait in the middle of the pack as they find their stride before mounting their bid to win the race.

That’s where I feel Norwich City are at present. Discovering their running style but making mistakes as well. We haven’t even completed the first lap and some seem to be willing to throw stones.

Ben Gibson's debut was a bright point despite their defeat to Derby County on Saturday. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdBen Gibson's debut was a bright point despite their defeat to Derby County on Saturday. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

In their defence, those expectations were always going to mean increased pressure. It’s up to the club to respond to that.

They are well within their right to vent their frustration after a turgid end to the season post-lockdown. Farke and his side came in for criticism, and rightly so.

The majority of those concerns are legitimate as well. City are crossing without purpose. They are struggling to control games without being hit on the counter-attack. They can’t break down low blocks.

Their only league win has arrived because of a Richard Stearman mistake.

Emi Buendia shows his frustration on the sidelines. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesEmi Buendia shows his frustration on the sidelines. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

But they’ve played better since and lost.

That’s why I, like so many, feel perplexed by it.

Behind closed doors football does make social media’s echo chamber seem louder. Those conversations in person are now being published on social media.

This isn’t a column throwing the blame at supporters – the frustration is justified. Their opinions valid.

Norwich City have plenty of work ahead to pick up the pace in the Championship 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich City have plenty of work ahead to pick up the pace in the Championship Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Farke is also correct by asking for patience. He has had to contend with incessant transfer noise and has seen some of his best talent removed from his squad.

His task is re-building and re-implementing – that won’t translate into instant success.

Right now, it’s about discovering his best side within a tactical system that extracts their quality effectively. There’s enough quality in City’s squad to succeed – now it’s ensuring it’s evident on a consistent basis.

But it will take time.

If those aforementioned areas don’t improve – then more pressing questions will need answering, but City’s performance in gameweek four was more complete than it was on the opening day.

Results often follow performances – there’s logic behind that assertion. But confusion needs to turn into confidence soon.

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