Paddy Davitt: Too much, too young? Maybe, but this is City’s journey
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Chris Hughton’s seemingly weekly praise for Norwich City’s Premier League opponents grated with many fans. Daniel Farke might be edging into similar territory with his emphasis on youthful inconsistency.
At least that seemed to be the case from more than a lone voice on my social media in the aftermath of a frustrating 2-1 top flight home defeat to Sheffield United at Carrow Road.
Farke opted to highlight the inherent drawbacks in fielding such a youthful line up when it came to the fitful response to the 'shock' of an early second half goal blitz.
Norwich, as a collective, did struggle to muster any concerted reaction to fresh adversity until the closing stages; partly due again to those infernal VAR-induced stoppages and also a streetwise Blades' outfit.
Which prompted some fans on my timeline later that evening to urge Farke not to retreat behind an acceptance young players bring maddening inconsistency, as much as they do energy and freshness.
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Max Aarons hardly needs telling he had to do better than allow Enda Stevens a free run at George Baldock's cross.
In the same way Todd Cantwell was punished for a lapse in concentration by James Ward-Prowse in conceding a free kick that exposed Ben Godfrey and his backline at Southampton. Not once but twice.
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Where that naivety may have actually pushed Norwich over the line in the promotion race it is being exposed in the unforgiving terrain of the English top flight. That lack of scarring or toxic memories from past career failures allowed the Canaries to attack promotion with a freedom and a sense of liberation.
Young men like Aarons, Godfrey, Cantwell, Jamal Lewis, even Emi Buendia, were fearless and grasped the huge opportunity in front of them.
The reward now is a level of scrutiny and a quality of opponent most weeks they had never previously encountered on their ascent from the Canaries' development ranks, or in Buendia's case from a stop start career in Spain.
Given the curve has bent sharply upwards it seems unfair to criticise what was perceived as a huge asset last season. Young players make mistakes. The misfortune for Norwich is they have a higher proportion than pretty much every other Premier League side in their ranks.
They are also playing against the biggest and best.
Like Christoph Zimmermann pertinently observed recently it is all too easy to forget just how young some of his colleagues are and how fast they have progressed.
Growing up in the Premier League spotlight is tough enough if such players were being blooded in an established top flight set-up.
But to be frontline options for a newly promoted club who had to cut their cloth accordingly is another level entirely.
You could justifably argue Norwich needed more top flight nous in their limited summer recruitment, but that is a different debate.
Farke is merely stating facts not offering excuses or even mitigation when he underlines there are negatives from a faith in youth. Right at this moment at the highest level these players may not be ready.
The galling aspect is if City do return swiftly to the Championship they might not be even on the journey thereafter, given the potential, if not the consistency at present, is hardly in question.
Look at the overhaul in bricks and mortar around Colney designed to attract the best young talent across the country for years to come.
Look also at one of the reasons Farke was appointed in the first place, to create a favourable environment to facilitate this burgeoning talent pool.
Norwich may now be in a financial position whereby from January's transfer window they could look to recruit with experience in mind, but to do that wholesale would mark a departure from the culture created by Stuart Webber and shaped by Farke.
The City head coach is a harder taskmaster than any of those fans who might find a focus on youth wearying in the hunt for reasons why Premier League progress remains so elusive.
City may have young starlets but they have to grow up.
And Farke would be the first to accept that.