Paddy Davitt verdict: It is not City fans who need to believe
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited
Norwich City appear locked in a struggle between their cultural quest and the brutally unforgiving Premier League landscape.
Spend what you earn jars with Ismaila Sarr, recruited for a reported £27m and worth who knows how much more now, settling this latest contest. We do not even need to stop and re-visit the sums required to assemble Liverpool or Manchester City’s cast lists.
Trust youth, develop your own, then add some highly-rated gems on loan, while Watford recruit seasoned internationals in Moussa Sissoko and Danny Rose. Not to mention a financial package City could never hope to compete with for Josh King.
Accept mistakes and naivety come with the territory, as part of the process of cultivating that talent pipeline, while trying to end a regressive cycle of results in the Premier League under Daniel Farke.
Whether the City coach can square this circle holds the key to their survival prospects.
Prior to the Hornets' defeat he seemed to rail against the criticism in some quarters of his players, primarily one suspects on social media. If he dared to venture into the same territory since the final whistle he is now being urged to abandon his new ‘base formation’ and return to the tried and trusted formula that is seemingly effective in the more forgiving Championship.
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Yet, a change of shape hardly absolves abject defensive mistakes and a lack of individual responsibility. Charges that stand for all five of these opening league tussles, which with no points on the board now constitute the worst ever start to a league campaign for this football club. A sour encore to last season’s record-breaking exploits.
This is not even about Farke abandoning his philosophical leanings. He has shown his pragmatic side liberally in his Carrow Road tenure.
One recalls that early Millwall watershed that saw him unstitch a midfield populated largely by technicians and restore the robust Alex Tettey. The same happened last time in the Premier League, when Tettey and Kenny McLean replaced Moritz Leitner and Tom Trybull.
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In Mathias Normann they appear, on the evidence of his Premier League debut, to have acquired a player who at least grasps the concept of muscular defence. Allied to that quality on the ball which produced an equaliser for Teemu Pukki.
Yes, he can do much better for Watford’s second goal. But in that he was not alone.
Much more that a chin stroking discussion on tactics or templates is the visible lack of belief and leadership. Norwich were on top after the interval until one devastating counter induced an alarming abdication. That is not acceptable five games into a new season.
You start to question whether the scars of past relegations is a much bigger challenge for Farke and his coaches than finding players who sense danger, who can close down a cross or anticipate a near post run.
It is not only the rump of the German’s existing resource but even new arrivals like Josh Sargent or Milot Rashica who have experienced the pain of demotion in the recent past. Albeit Sargent was one of the few who seemed up for the battle.
Until results improve dramatically, and there is far more fight and far more urgency in the face of adversity, such questions will linger.
The bare minimum a second tilt at the Premier League under Farke should deliver, boosted by a concerted attempt to add more quality in the summer, is for this current vintage to be routinely competitive. At present they seem to be able to muster parity for pockets within games.
Either side of half-time they had Watford where they would have wanted them. The decibel levels from the terraces surely echoed Farke’s impassioned pre-match clarion call. Then his team parted from a phase of play which started with a Norwich corner.
Ben Foster’s positioning was the key factor to beat away Rashica’s fearsome right-footed shot after they had fallen behind again, but that was a skinny riposte for a set of players who should be scrapping for their lives. McLean’s horrid slice then triggered a passage of play that ended with Sarr applying the finishing blow.
His manager, Xisco Munoz, talked of maturity and experience as key facets, in his view, to a comprehensive win. Underpinning such comments was the sense Watford felt they could toy with this Norwich collective.
Time is not on the Canaries’ side. If Farke and his players hoped for patience and more games to grow, to gel as a unit, to digest lessons and translate that into winning football they can forget it.
The drain of supporters to the exits before the final whistle, and the predictable response from many who remained at the end, should leave no-one in any doubt the expectation is they start to deliver.
Norwich fans do not want rallying words, they want action.
It is not supporters who need to believe. It is those Farke has entrusted to carry the fight.