Norwich City fans are still on board, but for how much longer?
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Norwich currently reside in the Linton Travel Tavern of mid-table Championship mediocrity.
On points alone, they sit equidistant between the play-off berths and relegation drop zone, and it would be hard to argue they deserve to be anywhere else.
September feels like a lifetime ago, the positivity which so quickly became entrenched is slowly starting to dissipate and with it the hope of another season is perhaps lost. It would be foolhardy to suggest City can realistically mount a charge towards the top six when a single victory in 10 games points towards an altogether different challenge. People are already starting to look over their shoulders to the challenges which might be around the corner should this kind of form be sustained.
And yet most of the fanbase remain patient. A vocal minority might be spouting hate all over social media, but there are very few calling for Daniel Farke’s head, even fewer pointing the finger at Stuart Webber. The financial challenges the club faces have been laid out for all to scrutinise, potentially even being over-played to an extent so the message becomes an unchallengeable norm. The narrative has been so heavily fixed on the long-term vision of transitioning City into a more efficient, less bloated Championship squad, so the fans remain on board with what is trying to be achieved. It’ll work for so long, but the closer Norwich edge toward the bottom three, the twitchier the natives will become about the ‘project’.
What may have been lost among this is the fact there’s no defined template for success. Money certainly helps, but it’s not a prerequisite. Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds have performed admirably on a shoestring. Mick McCarthy continues to have Ipswich punching well above their financial weight. Lee Johnson, probably only a game or two from unemployment after a run of two wins in 22 games last term, is now reaping the benefits of a sustained period coaching his side. In the latter two examples, it’s proof that the patience we’ve all been implored to exert can pay off.
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That being said, as much as there have been tangible signs of improvement in the first-half performance at Cardiff, the second 45 against Sheffield Wednesday and in spells at Elland Road, these now need to manifest themselves in a more consistent run of results which will provide a platform on which to build.
However, some of the same frailties remain. The ubiquitous feeling Norwich will concede from a set-piece, regardless of whether or not they choose to employ a zonal or man marking system, is worrying. The fact they continue to struggle with the pace of their attacks, subsequently meaning the precious few opportunities that come Norwich’s way are pressure-laden, is another deficiency which requires attention.
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Since August the management team have been playing whack-a-mole in an attempt to address the team’s weaknesses, yet there has been recent on-field progression in both the style of football and the form of players who have, up until lately, struggled with the pace and energy of the league. There are genuine reasons for optimism however much the form book would tell you otherwise.
City face a favourable festive fixture list where points will be at a premium. It could prove pivotal as to whether those who pay their money at the gate remain onside. The true test of that is, of course, when season ticket renewal letters starting popping through people’s letter boxes in January.
Only then will the club truly understand the level of resolve among supporters. What would undoubtedly help would be an upturn in results from hereon in; wins build confidence among players and fans alike. It might even define whether Farke will be driving City forward in a Lexus, rather than a Mini Metro back to Germany, come August 2018.