Connor Southwell: Don’t let expectation suffocate City’s chances of Championship success
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Norwich City’s negotiation with expectation will be their biggest challenge to overcome this season.
Don’t worry, we won’t persist with the convoluted Daniel Farke analogy starring Hollywood actress Keira Knightly and fictional character Julie.
It reared its head again after City’s draw with Brentford. It was a point, but City hadn’t performed in the way many expect them to, given the quality in their squad.
Those lofty ambitions were set by those inside the walls at Colney post-Premier League relegation and the supporters did afford leeway after their top-flight season swirled down the plug hole. They have every right to demand improvement off the back of that offering.
By the same token, City are currently enjoying a four-game unbeaten run that has seen them emerge victorious from three games and draw against a team tipped for promotion by bookmakers, pundits and supporters alike.
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So why the reluctance to enjoy it?
There’s a simple answer to that question; expectation. However you dress it up or place caveats, City’s squad is one that possesses quality.
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What’s more, it contains a group of players who have displayed their talents before, whether that be during the title-winning season or in patches during their Premier League campaign.
Farke’s analogy contained the right messaging. A win isn’t enough - now it needs to be backed up by a worthy performance that shows their quality at every moment in the eyes of some.
That’s unrealistic. The relentless scheduling of this campaign means City will have to grind and dig in on occasion, regardless of their opposition.
There is no God-given right to be at the right end of the Championship. It’s a division that suppresses ego and transcends humility.
Performances do need to improve, but no side is consistently playing in top gear at present. The volume of fixtures and lack of pre-season is creating a really muddled division that is even more frenetic than usual.
City need to waltz with that expectation. They are still growing and the excitement should arrive from the fact that their only trajectory is up, and thus far, they are managing to pick up points whilst still in transition.
Comparisons with seasons gone by are inevitable, but the circumstances are radically different.
Arguably, City have played better against Derby County and Bournemouth and lost than they did in victories over Rotherham and Wycombe.
They have led for only 25 minutes this season and elements of their play need work and improvement.
However, their last three goals conceded have stemmed from individual errors. As Reading are proving at present, having a solid base means less of a reliance on being clinical.
City do need to inject more of a thrust into their offensive play and learn to control counter-attacks with greater effectiveness – in Farke’s defence, these are points he’s acknowledged.
Remember, just a few months ago they were against the ropes and tackling opponents who possessed more quality and were brutal in their approach to facing City.
Now the emphasis has shifted, a squad that had to play against the ball is now finding its way again with it. Whilst confidence is fragile. With a largely new squad. Without an extensive pre-season or a period to iron out those issues due to the schedule.
These are excuses, and improvement does need to be seen, but if City can get it right then that quality will come to the fore in the weeks to come.
In the Championship, they say that winning your home games and drawing away will be enough to be at the top end of the table. City are quietly building momentum. Performances will follow in time.
This is a process. It was never going to be a case of flicking a switch and suddenly the good times would come flowing back.
Everyone needs to ensure that expectations don’t suffocate their chances of success this season. It has caused the downfall of so many relegated clubs, the fallout is then more dramatic and the wounds take longer to heal.
They do have quality. They should be favourites. But they won’t perform at a level worthy of accolades and plaudits every week.
It’s about consistency. They’re picking up points whilst trying to blend the fundamentals of Farke’s style with added variants. To do that whilst winning 10 points out of 12 is impressive.
Standards are important. They have to remain high, but a win needs to be cherished given how starved of them City were last season.
If improvement isn’t witnessed and the points dry up, then questions will rightly be asked - but for now, it’s about enjoying the journey and ensuring those expectations don’t lead to disappointment.
There will be bumps in the road, there will be performances that City need to improve and they will lose fixtures. But gathering a momentum and rediscovering confidence will define their success this season.