Get ugly: How Norwich City can copy Palace blueprint and turn season around
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
We're not even out of September and it already feels like time is running out on Norwich City and the Premier League.
It’s not of course – there are still 32 games left with ample opportunity for the Canaries to garner enough points to survive and leave fans wondering what the fuss was all about at the start of the season when their team couldn’t win a game.
But it’s perhaps the manner of the last two defeats that’s caused most concern. Defeats to Watford and Everton have prompted supporters to start wondering when that first point will come along, let alone enough to survive.
There is still time – other teams have had worse starts and survived. Crystal Palace went seven matches without a win or a goal at the start of the 2017/18 season and ended up finishing 11th.
There is context around that, of course, but we asked Daniel Cook, host of the excellent Crystal Palace podcast ‘Hopkin Looking To Curl One’ to see what lessons can be learned from that Eagles vintage.
What do you think of Norwich so far?
“I listened to the Stuart Webber interview on the Jake Humphrey podcast a few months back and I was sold on the idea on how they had recalibrated back in the Championship. I thought they would be a very different prospect.
“But from an outsider’s perspective it doesn’t look like there’s anyone in that Norwich side that is going to kick anybody! I know that’s not what you need necessarily at Premier League level but you need to have a couple of people that are going to put their foot in or make it difficult.
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“I look at players like (Max) Aarons and (Todd) Cantwell – Norwich have got players that can thrive in the Premier League but it’s a case of having a collective that’s greater than the individuals.
“I must admit I was a bit baffled at Norwich letting Buendia go. I understand the financial aspects of it but when you’re coming up to the Premier League and he’s been such a big player I’m thinking you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face before you’ve even started.
“They were never going to get anyone in that’s as good as him. It would be like Palace getting promoted and letting Wilfried Zaha go. It would stop that momentum in its tracks so I don’t think it’s helped.”
How did Palace turn it around in 2017?
“It’s a bit different because we had been in the Premier League for four straight years by that point. We’d had (Alan) Pardew, (Sam) Allardyce, (Tony) Pulis, came up with (Ian) Holloway, we had (Neil) Warnock for a little bit. Other than Pardew for a bit, all of them had been stoic, 10 men behind the ball, grafting for what you can get.
“It felt like we were butting our head against a bit of glass ceiling that we were trying to get through. People wanted to give (Frank) De Boer a go but we didn’t back him in the way we should have done in finances, coaching staff etc.
“It actually turned out to be a sensible decision because he has gone on since to show himself not to be a very good coach.
“It might have looked like from those five games it wasn’t long enough but it was always clear that it was square pegs in round holes. We got (Roy) Hodgson in and went back to basics, going back to what this squad knew how to do.
“He was the guy that provided the stability over the next three-and-a-half years.”
What can Norwich learn from that Palace side?
“The problem for Norwich is that they are not necessarily going to change the manager and I don’t think necessarily that would be the right thing to do because how the squad know him.
“I don’t know how Farke approaches the tactical side but in my mind at Premier League level if you’re in the bottom half and you might want to play attacking, expansive football then you need the players to do it.
“But if it takes sitting in, last-ditch challenges and time wasting and basically doing what Brentford have done in these first few weeks it will enable you to be in games late.
“I suppose the parallel I can see is to strip back any kind of expansiveness in the attempt to get some points on the board. It brings confidence if you can scrape a 1-0 win – that in itself can get a ball rolling.
“I’m looking at it and by November Norwich could be gone – that is not something fans want to be going through again.”
Who are you?
“At Palace we’re not a fashionable club in many ways but that’s sort of our USP. No-one likes coming to Selhurst, it’s a horrible place to come if you’re a visiting fan, it’s difficult to get to, south London is gritty and it’s urban and it’s not pleasant – but we thrive on that – that's us.
“If you are going to come to us and get three points then you’re going to have to earn it.
“I always feel like Norwich is a nice place to go and play football and visit as a fan. Their fans clearly care deeply about their club but when we’ve gone to Carrow Road it doesn’t feel like an intimidating place to go. It doesn’t feel like the fans and players make it somewhere that you wouldn’t want to go and play.
“I suppose a lot of it comes down what you want from your football club. You will get Spurs or West Ham fans who wouldn’t be happy winning 1-0 with 25 percent of the ball and kicking people. It wouldn’t mesh with what they feel is right for them.
“I feel as though Norwich quite like they get a year every couple where they can score all sorts of goals, get 93 points and win the league and then it’s just a case of we will see what we can do in the Prem.
“It’s difficult – do fans want to get rid of all that just to finish 15th?”
“I think if you a promoted club wants to stay in the Premier League then it’s a case of sticking in to games and being stoic. That’s the way it’s got to be unless you are going to throw a huge amount of money at it.”