Chris Goreham: The red warning light is on for Farke and Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City are running on empty.
Canaries fans didn’t need to head to their local petrol station to experience feelings of bemusement, anger and frustration at the weekend.
Every other league team in England and Scotland has managed to put at least a point or two in the tank this season. Norwich don’t even have vapours.
Technically there is one team with even less than nothing. Derby County haven’t just run out of gas, that club’s spectacular breakdown has brought about administration. That means a hefty points deduction and a well-timed cautionary tale for those who like to remind Norwich City supporters to be careful what they wish for.
It’s no good judging the rest right now. Norwich can’t afford to be the ones peeping through other windscreens to see whether the car next to them really does need to squeeze in an extra £15 of diesel. The Canaries have got to find a way of stopping their own Premier League vehicle from becoming a write-off before it’s too late.
The spluttering performance at Everton summed up their many minor faults in a neat 90-minute Premier League driving test. It’s the first time Norwich City have ever lost the first six games of a league season. They’d never even lost the first five before this one. The statistics might suggest that there has never been a worse set of players to wear the famous yellow and green but there is more to football than numbers.
In over 30 years as a Norwich fan I have definitely seen teams that are more hopeless than this one. They were applauded off by the travelling supporters at Goodison at half-time on Saturday despite being 1-0 down. In our post-match interview goalkeeper Tim Krul was even prepared to stick to his conviction that this City squad is better than the one that could only collect 21 Premier League points two years ago.
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Since then they have lost Emi Buendia. He’s a talented player and becomes an even bigger City legend with every passing defeat. It’s probably worth remembering that they did actually have him in 2019/20 when they finished bottom.
Selling one player and using the income to reinvest in the rest of the squad is not necessarily a bad idea. Buendia’s new employers at Villa Park don’t seem to be struggling without their own departed superstar, Jack Grealish.
I always feel like the point about Norwich City spending £50 million this summer should be said in the same tone that Dr Evil talks about “one million dollars” in the Austin Powers films. It’s a lot of money to us but not a huge amount in Premier League terms.
Stuart Webber’s task in the summer wasn’t to find a set of players to compete for Champions League football or even the top ten. We wanted to watch a squad that could genuinely put up a fight for 16th or 17th in the table.
Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons stayed and were joined by new signings who were with Chelsea, Mancester United and Liverpool last season. The captures of Milot Rashica and Christos Tzolis were described as Canary coups by many regular watchers of European football. The same was said of Billy Gilmour, one of the very brightest British talents.
The experienced spine of Krul, Grant Hanley and Teemu Pukki remained. It looked like a decent blend.
The individual errors have been alarming, and there were more at Goodison. The most worrying aspects for me have been a sudden inability to keep possession. It was noticeable in the second game of the season at Manchester City and hasn’t improved much since. The sloppy passing, the number of times the ball has been given away, it’s the aspects of Farkeball we used to take for granted.
Then there’s the complete inability to strike while the iron’s hot. Yes, the first six games have been difficult, yet there have been mini-spells against Leicester, Arsenal, Watford and Everton when City have been on top at crucial stages. They haven’t been in front in any of those games. Even the squad Farke had two seasons ago won two of the equivalent fixtures.
The most noticeable change in the last 24 months has been the subtle changes in Daniel Farke’s language. Back then he had a mantra of “our little miracle” being needed if Norwich were to stay up. He hasn’t said that this season because he knows he’s been backed.
The head coach needs to jump start his yellow and green bandwagon quickly. Most fans would dearly love him to get a good grip on the steering wheel once more and turn it all around but the red warning light is definitely on.
Do you speak Klingon?
While Norwich City were toiling away at Everton The Norfolk Showground was being filled with some actual superheroes.
It was the return of NORCON at the weekend, a big festival for fans of TV, films and comics.
The website sells it as an event for people who love “Batman, Iron Man, Doctor Who or any other type of complete ‘Nerdity’”. It’s not my world at all but I had to do an interview to preview it on the radio a few weeks ago.
During that chat I had a sudden realisation that I may have more in common with people who like Cosplay than previously thought.
Going around dressed up as Batman, Superman or Darth Vader is often seen as eccentric behaviour. Yet we never question the idea of going to Carrow Road wearing a Norwich shirt with ‘PUKKI 22’ on the back.
I am no more likely to score an important penalty in front of The Barclay than I am to defend Gotham City from The Joker.
A few years ago my wife and I went to the Horse of the Year Show at The NEC in Birmingham. It happened to be on the same weekend as a big Star Trek convention in one of the other halls. The shuttle bus from the car park to the exhibition centre was hilarious.
On one side you had all the people in their best equestrian fashion. Hunter wellies, gilets and breeches galore. The other side of the bus featured those dressed up for a voyage on The Starship Enterprise. The two tribes didn’t really communicate during the short journey. There was an unspoken sense of “What are they wearing? I could never go out dressed like that” from either side of the bus.
Then the doors opened and off we went. Some to speak Klingon and others wondering whether their favourite rider would be able to do so over the challenging jumps.