Michael Bailey: Even the attendance got booed - Six things learned from City's Brentford bodge job
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The night things really turned sour? MICHAEL BAILEY offers six learnings from Norwich City's latest defeat - this time a 2-1 EFL Championship home loss to Brentford.
1 – Time to ignore what’s happening above
I love chatting to Alex Pritchard. He has a real competitive streak, which often comes out in quite truncated interviews – but I can appreciate his edge.
That said, I felt my back shudder slightly when the former Brentford forward declared ahead of Friday’s game: not that Norwich had to win it, but that they had to win it because of how much ground they were losing on the leaders.
I have no doubt players like Pritchard, James Maddison, Timm Klose and Nelson Oliveira will want to look only at how far their current club is off making a return to the Premier League. That’s what brought them all here in the first place.
But I’m afraid at the moment that is akin to walking backwards and tripping up. Seven wins from 10 league games is a desperate run, when you consider August was no walk in the park either.
At half time on Friday, so much felt wrong I wouldn’t have known where to start with putting it back together. If reality doesn’t hit before Boxing Day, then Birmingham will.
2 – Too many cooks are spoiling the broth
I worried this was going to happen. We had the Sheffield Wednesday promise. Then a bit of Leeds rawness. And I think on Friday we got the first signs of why it might not work.
All too often James Maddison and Alex Pritchard swapped their pockets of space with each other, taking the ball with them or passing it on – usually bringing no progression to City’s attacking play.
By the end of the game, Maddison was pirouetting in midfield surrounded by three busy Bees, while Pritchard was out on the right flank being asked to take on his man – rather a waste of his talent.
From the very beginning Daniel Farke has appeared to have a keenness on using as many playmakers as possible.
Sadly, that has often made City look like they are waiting for the ball to conjure up all their movement without any of the players generating it themselves – especially when Brentford made it look relatively easy. And once again, we’re left wondering if City’s imbalance is going to cause them to topple over.
3 – Even the attendance wasn’t safe from the discontent
I can’t remember many times when an attendance has been booed, as it was on Friday. Is nothing safe?!
Whether that was directed at the fact so many fans are still turning up, the belief the number inside the ground was lower or the feeling such support is being taken for granted, not one member of the Norwich City board can now claim they don’t know what the current feeling is around the club.
Most stark was perhaps the fact that as the full-time whistle came, the City fans still in attendance applauded the players who came to acknowledge their support.
As City looked a tactical mess crippled by doubts in that first half, it wasn’t Daniel Farke who the fans chanted to leave. It was Delia and the board.
The thing about the current guise appointed by the City stakeholders is that with no new money and no apparent desire to help the club out financially themselves, if their current plan doesn’t work I’m not convinced of their abilities to find a new one.
4 – Things really did get brutal
Honesty can be a good policy, but it doesn’t come without its consequences.
Daniel Farke’s concession of blame over Friday’s defeat having relayed the need for a win and what he felt were too many instructions to his players, made perfect sense. It tied in exactly with the performance his players turned out on the pitch. Fair play to him fronting up – and no one should ever accuse him of shirking his responsibilities.
Sadly, the consequences of that could be defining.
That situation now undermines the faith many fans had in what Farke was doing and his ability to manage what he’s facing – parts of which is truly trying. Losing the fans’ faith can cause real issues, especially so soon after so much at Colney was called into question by one unnamed player.
But I worry more about what the players now think. After a lengthy run of almost entirely horrible results, their leader has led them into trouble. That relationship is such a delicate balance from the outset, it may now be that Farke simply cannot afford another misjudgment if he’s to retain his squad’s trust.
5 – Another example of what City don’t do
Sure, Norwich aren’t trying to do things the same way. And of course, Brentford conceded chances and possession. They were neat, tidy, and a long way from the best side I’ve seen all season.
And yet, they pressed with purpose. They had a lively front line that found spaces with and without the ball. They played with pace and tempo. And they had balance.
Not only that. They didn’t even need Sergi Canos to start.
With players like Ollie Watkins looking dangerous and Ryan Woods, who closed down Maddison and Pritchard time and time again, it was hard to watch City fall so short of a side that will finish in midtable this term – and be reasonably happy with it.
At best, it shows how much work City have got to do to catch up with sides more used to working without a massive budget to blow. At worst, is a scenario that doesn’t bear thinking about.
6 – Jeremy takes top prize
We all know what’s coming up in terms of the big two games to round off the year, so I’m not going to get stuck into that. Instead, I’m going to praise a referee. I know.
Fair play here to Jeremy Simpson, who made two top-class calls as Neal Maupay and Alex Pritchard went to ground with what was – if I’m being generous – the anticipation of contact.
There shouldn’t be any more recriminations for either player, given Simpson not only turned away the penalty appeals but booked the pair for their misdemeanours.
Whether City were picking up good results or bad, the quality of refereeing so far this season had been fairly atrocious. So at least this is a nice note to end things on.
That said, I’d much rather Norwich were playing a lot better – then my positive could have come from something far more worthwhile.
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