Ian Clarke: I’m worried about Norwich City - but we must stick to plan A
PUBLISHED: 16:47 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:47 09 October 2019
For the second time this season I am worried about the Canaries.
The first bout of concern came at about 8.45pm on Friday August 9.
City trudged into the Anfield dressing room 4-0 down after a sobering first half against the European champions.
The excitement and expectation of the return to the top flight had been replaced with the prospect of leaving Merseyside on the back of a really, really serious pasting.
Of course as it turned out, Norwich won the second half and we came away with plenty of positives.
In the subsequent two months there have been lots of high points - clearly the victory over Man City was our Everest - plus some down points - mainly centred around three away games with no goals and three defeats.
Since Saturday's awful drubbing against the team we finished 18 points clear of last year, my second - and more prolonged - onset of worry has kicked in.
I'm proud to generally be a yellow and green tinted glasses, Canary mug more than half full type of fan.
Fear not, I'm not about to throw in the towel and say we're certainties for the drop.
Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber have made it abundantly clear we're going to face plenty of barren periods in this campaign.
We knew survival was the goal - and if it's secured having spent a little over £1m in the summer, it will be a magnificent achievement.
The humbling by Villa means we have lost the same number of games in the opening eight fixtures of this campaign as we did in 46 matches last year.
Of course the challenge is so, so much different.
Let's remember we have six points on the board and are only one point behind Everton and just a single win off Man United.
And we have played six of the top eight already.
If we'd lost 5-1 at home to Man City and beaten Villa 3-2, the feeling among fans would be somewhat different.
The huge impact of City's injury crisis is now biting hard.
I saw some stats this week which showed that the Canaries have lost 367 days of football through 23 injuries so far this season.
The next highest is Man United with 183 days from 12 injuries.
When we have by some distance the most frugally assembled squad in the PL, that is going to hurt.
Ten of Farke's troops were out at Carrow Road and three only took to the pitch after taking pain killers.
Despite all the mitigation, the capitulation sent us into the international break with big doubts in our minds.
Villa looked impressive - and so they should after shelling out about £130m.
However, we were seriously poor.
Whatever the impact of injuries, there can be few excuses for such poor defending and lack of responsibility from too many men in yellow and green.
Our squad is really stretched, heads were dropping, there was a lack of leadership and Dean Smith's side showed how to stifle us.
The weekend was made all the more miserable by our main rivals improving their situations.
So where do we go from here?
I've seen fans pleading with the board to spend big in the January window. "Come on, get the £20m central defender we need."
Others want Farke to change his ethos.
Come on everyone, let's get real.
The club has done unbelievably well to build a cracking squad on a shoestring and get rid of the ridiculously high earners who were doing so little for the cause. That cannot be undone by unsustainable profligacy.
The amazing promotion, competing with Liverpool in the second half, unpicking Newcastle and overcoming the league champions came from playing the Farke way.
We must keep the faith and stick to that style - but mix the beauty with the courage, confidence, bravery and spirit which were missing in the 5-1 loss.
Of all the players who were absent on Saturday, I felt Tim Krul's omission was key.
Full credit to Michael McGovern for the terrific penalty save and follow up block.
However, we seriously missed Krul's commanding presence and confidence he gives those in front of him.
City need him back and the players must use this international break to recover psychologically from that reversal and we must hope as many as possible leave the treatment table to be ready for the battle at Bournemouth.
A really key part of Norwich City's plan A is for the brilliant fans to stick loyally to the team. It's going to be tough - but we can do it. OTBC.
I still don't get VAR
I've come back to the subject of VAR in just about every column since it was first announced that it would be introduced in the Premier League.
I am becoming less and less convinced it's a good idea.
So far this season there have been a series of baffling decisions - most clearly to rule out a goal as a player was literally millimetres offside.
To me the system is causing confusion and disruption and failing to do what it was intended for.
We sit in the top of the River End and it was so, so obvious to us that Tryone Mings had clearly handled the ball during a goalline scramble in the first half.
The ref didn't spot it, but surely as so many others had seen it, that had to be a case for a review?
I've heard an explanation of the revised handball rule. However to me - and lots of others I have spoken to - there had to be justification for it to have been looked at.
While these inconsistencies continue, VAR is losing all credibility.
Get those swaps ready
So how is your Norwich City sticker collection coming on?
I'll readily admit it's become a bit of an obsession for me.
I'm down to needing only about 30 of the 230 stickers (and already have all my shinies!)
I'm like a kid as I open every packet and the more gaps I fill, the more I'm loving it.
Several of us in the office are collecting - name checks for Dave Hannant, Connor Southwell, Pete Raven and Dave Powles - and we're all building up our swaps.
A Facebook group has been set up to put fans in touch with one another and there are also going to be two swap shops in the city, including one at the Norwich City fan hub on London Street.
That event will take place on Tuesday, October 22 between 11am and 1pm and will be followed by appearances from two first team places between 1pm and 2pm.
The following day, a second swap shop will be held on level one of the Castle Quarter between 12pm and 3pm. I'll see you there!