Paddy Davitt: What can you see when you peer beyond the Norwich City numbers?
PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:50 08 October 2018
Much of the debate around Norwich City’s quest for upward mobility centres on perception and gut feelings rather than logic and reason.
As far as early comparisons with last season carry anything more than superficial meaning, most might reasonably contend the Canaries appear to be in better shape at the start.
For those who wisely opted to forget the first six league tussles 12 months ago, there was two embarrassing hammerings at Aston Villa and Millwall to contend with, plus Sunderland’s 3-1 win at Carrow Road.
Only Leeds have really toyed with Norwich in the same, dismissive fashion this time around.
Even then, City were very good in the opening 25 minutes before defensive frailties returned to undermine any attempt to halt the unbeaten Whites.
On that measure, there can be no disputing the clear parallels.
Norwich have shipped the same number of league goals, 12, from their opening six Championship encounters second time around under Daniel Farke – a cause for concern and an area the head coach must seek to prioritise on the resumption, starting this weekend against Middlesbrough.
Yet there is no sense of the rising panic that gripped, post-Millwall, before the Canaries had the reassuring figure of Grant Hanley to call upon. That is why it feels the messages are mixed and confusion reigns.
Are the first six league games a sufficient body of evidence to forecast a relegation scrap, fresh mid-table mediocrity or something better, something much more uplifting?
If you seek solace in bald numbers, Norwich at no point so far have dropped into the bottom three, like they had by this stage last season.
But it is equally true City went into this first international break two points worse off than 12 months ago.
There will be those willing to view this new campaign in isolation.
A fresh start with a re-modelled squad shorn of some exciting young talent out of financial necessity but perhaps a deeper seam acquired over the past summer with a better understanding of the British game.
But just as many, perhaps more, given the shifting sands of popular opinion which represent such an unscientific sample, feel the first six league games are a continuation of a regressive trend.
One that can be traced to the second part of Farke’s debut tour from Christmas onwards.
It is indisputable Farke is striving to fast-track a core of emerging prospects.
The financial dimension is wedded to his development background in Germany.
That youthful defence rocking and rolling at Portman Road early in the second half was the visual blurring of both processes.
Farke did not have to hand Max Aarons a league debut at Ipswich Town.
Just as he did not have to blood Jamal Lewis at Birmingham City last Boxing Day. When Timm Klose was forced off at the interval against their near neighbours, Farke most certainly did not have to introduce Ben Godfrey to lower the age of his ‘final row’ even further.
There were other options, there have been other options at various points since he arrived, but Farke believes in these players.
The importance of prospecting for academy gold to balance the books may be an obvious corporate objective, but it also fits Farke’s football philosophy.
In such a context, Lewis’ personal progress in many ways serves as the best explanation to understand Norwich’s patchy quest for progress under Farke.
There have been moments of genuine promise mixed with poor performances, games where he looks to have been at this level all his career and matches when he looks raw and out of his depth.
Take that and magnify it by a growing number of young talent, funnelled into Farke’s first team, and you can see another season where at times Norwich will look the finished article, and results come easily, and periods where fans may wonder when the next result or clean sheet arrives.
Then it is likely to return to perception and feeling rather than logic and reason to decide what success looks like for the Canaries in the short term.