A few questions for Norwich City fans ahead of the return to Premier League action...
With almost a quarter of Norwich City’s Premier League season already gone, Chris Lakey poses a few questions for fans...
The good bits, so far?
It's pretty fair to say the footballing world stood still for 90 minutes on the afternoon of Saturday, September 14, as the Canaries beat Manchester City 3-2. A remarkable result in any circumstances, but given Daniel Farke had delivered some horrendous injury news 24 hours earlier, it was the least expected result of this whole season... yes, the whole season. It won't be topped. The thing is, it wasn't lucky either. There was no parking of the bus, no abandonment of principles. "They are a really good team with good players who have quality, we saw that in the Championship last year, they were clinical today," said Pep Guardiola. He was right. Other highlights so far? Teemu Pukki: a hat-trick against Newcastle in City's first home game, also scored at Liverpool and against Chelsea and Manchester City. No flukes with this bloke.
The bad bits, so far?
The Villa defeat. Losing at Liverpool was expected, and, if it is possible, done in some style. The home defeat by Chelsea was annoying given City deserved something from the game. West Ham? No show. Burnley: No show. Palace: a bit better. Villa? Awful. You can make an argument for losing to established Premier League sides, but it hurts more when you lose to a side who were promoted beside you. And at home. And by such a huge margin.
The injury list: stark and obvious. Fitness issues have cut a damaging swathe through the defence. If there are 25 'senior' players in the City squad, by my reckoning 16 of them have been/are in the treatment room. That's a staggering number. But when one area of a team is badly affected, it creates a major, major problem. Why has it happened? Is it because of different training regimens due to Norwich being in the Premier League? Is it because someone drove over a black cat? Whatever, it is undeniably a major factor in City sitting second from bottom of the table.
Watching City try to play their game. Hands up those who want bus parking boredom? Nope, thought not. If you wonder where the plus is in that, cast your minds back to a little over a year ago. The Canaries drew at Ipswich and then won four in a row. Farke stuck to his beliefs and came through a sticky opening to the season. We all know what happened next. The principle at the club is to play football the right way, but no one ever believed it would be easy in the top flight. But it is possible, and possible to survive. If you want to see a conservative, dull, boring, minimum risk Norwich City, you're in the wrong place.
I wish... what?
A few days off for the physio team... not to labour the point, but a fully-fit squad to choose from would make a huge difference.
Who's been the biggest miss?
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Time to banish the process whereby absent players suddenly become world beaters. They don't. It is ridiculous. But... Onel Hernandez to scare defenders; Timm Klose for the experience - he was made for the top flight, surely - or Mario Vrancic, for the silky passes and the ability to keep the ball, just when it looks like someone is going to nick it off his toes. But for me it is a story of two keepers, Timm Krul and Ralf Fahrmann. Krul upped his game this season, and that is because Fahrmann provided genuine competition. No disrespect to Michael McGovern, but he was only ever likely to start a game in case of emergency. Fahrmann has given Krul a lot to think about and he responded.
What's the worst that could happen?
Another international break - City just need a bit of respite from the anxiety of more injuries. That and relegation....
Fans' eye view?
The supporters really bought into the new Norwich City way of thinking last season. And it was new: there were cracks in the relationship which Stuart Webber, Daniel Farke and some excellent fan groups have mended. The club culture is a very different beast nowadays and it has run parallel with what happens on the pitch. There are critics - as there should be - but on the whole fans have been patient. How long that will be the case, who knows?
Who else is as worried?
Sheffield United? Villa? Probably not - they have made decent starts, particularly the Blades, but footballing types don't warn about tough winter schedules for nothing. The unexpected is always around the corner - what if one of those two suddenly got a roomful of injured players? Everton are unlikely to be in the drop zone for long, I have doubts over Southampton and Watford just don't seem to be able to turn a corner. If Norwich get a couple of good results, the outlook can suddenly look a lot brighter.
Early player of the season candidates?
Yes, yes, yes, it's far too early. But it's one way of ensuring Teemu Pukki gets the recognition he deserves in this article. The man is a genius: not blessed with pace but has a great ability to read the game half a dozen moves ahead. He does the simple stuff beautifully and the Premier League doesn't appear to worry him.
You know what? I think City are going to be alright. Of course, I would say that wouldn't I? But when the players come back from injury it will re-energise confidence. They've proved before what they can do and Farke has pulled plenty of rabbits out of hats. Survival of the fittest.... that's the thought for the day.