Paddy Davitt verdict: Farke and the City curse
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Someone, somewhere must be sticking pins in a voodoo doll of Daniel Farke.
Top of the Championship, top of the casualty list into the bargain. There is surely no other club in the league trying to amass points with a full complement of injured first team players.
Add the suspended Emi Buendia to the other 12 players unavailable for Coventry City’s visit and you have to seriously wonder what was going through the Norwich City head coach’s mind at the precise moment Max Aarons lay prone on the turf.
Aarons’ physio-assisted hobble around two sides of the Carrow Road perimeter was a sad but fitting metaphor for the current state of play.
Farke was able to provide an encouraging initial bulletin on his star defender. But no-one will be surprised if a return to his hometown club, Luton, on Wednesday proves too quick a turnaround.
Then what? City’s substitutes bench on Saturday had three vacancies. Of the six listed, five possessed not a single minute of league football for the Canaries between them.
A statistic that ran until Reece McAlear’s stoppage time debut as Aarons headed for the dressing room.
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In such a context Farke’s assertion it is ‘surreal’ for Norwich to be leading from the front, and now 10 games unbeaten, feels an understatement.
It is a remarkable testament to their fighting spirit and ability to handle adversity. It is also, clearly now, if you look around the top of the game, perhaps a recognition this condensed season is starting to bite hard.
That is casting a huge shadow over any projections on how this plays out from here for Norwich.
The manner of the performance against Coventry was arguably the first signal this season could now be entering a holding pattern phase.
The task ahead is to try and maintain City’s position towards the front of the pack and hope come the turn of the year they can go again.
Aided perhaps by some astute work in the January transfer window. The situation at left back must be addressed, while Farke requested another centre back in the closing days of the previous window.
Although one of the few upsides from the current predicament might be to render the hunt for a fourth option redundant, should the highly-rated Andrew Omobamidele be exposed to the first team between now and then.
Farke likes to refer to guiding young players towards the door. Then it is up to them to walk through it.
At this rate they can expect a gentle shove from their head coach should the downward spiral of injuries to first team options persist.
Contrast what Norwich faced with how Coventry set about the task.
Mark Robins made five changes to freshen up a team who arrived in Norfolk following a clean sheet victory over last season’s play-off contenders Cardiff City.
He was then able to make five attack-minded changes in the second half to chase a game they trailed, before Farke finally turned to Christoph Zimmermann to shore up a win that would have been epic in the circumstances. One of Robins’ arrivals, Max Biamou, profited from Ben Gibson’s sliding challenge to lash home from close range. The stricken Aarons had played him onside as he lay on the turf near the byline.
Coventry would argue they merited a point for their persistence. They may be right but you could not have begrudged Norwich the win.
Robins sourly remarked in the aftermath the Canaries are able to field two sides who are more than competitive in the Championship, when it was put to him how many injuries his counterpart had to contend with.
They are proving his point at present. But this Norwich roster was not re-shaped simply to compete back in the second tier. The expectation is they can mix it with the best, and to this point they have been peerless.
Farke would not have wanted it but now he has some insurance should results in the short term start to reflect the diminished resources.
Luton will be no less committed, after a heavy loss at Cardiff, and Tony Pulis is likely to relish probing for any vulnerability at Carrow Road. Sheffield Wednesday’s pending visit will be the first with a small sample of home fans present.
Much was made in the ‘Project Restart’ era of the detrimental effect on City’s failed survival bid of playing in an empty stadium. This phased return over the coming weeks, and hopefully months, could not be better timed.
Those wearing the green and yellow need support to weather this most testing of cycles.