Patience will be rewarded as long-term project builds at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
While fans may all regularly repeat the mantra of “this is going to take time”, believing in it can be another matter when witnessing a substandard performance like that at Villa Park or the plethora of unforced errors in the first half against Charlton.
Indeed, the tone at Villa Park was set as early as the second minute when Christoph Zimmermann made a complete hash of a back pass only to be retrieved by what was to be the first of a series of outstanding saves by Angus Gunn, but the individual mistakes kept coming and it was no real surprise when Villa latched onto a poor pass by Harrison Reed to set up the opening goal.
While I can understand why Daniel Farke didn’t start James Maddison or Wes Hoolahan, because with Alex Pritchard out he can ill afford to lose either to a fatigue related injury, the fact is that without either of them City became much too lateral in their build up, and, as against Sunderland, this allowed the opposition all the time in the world to get men behind the ball.
However, when a team defends as badly as a unit as City did they are going to find it very hard to get anything from a game against decent opposition regardless of how quickly they develop their moves. The simple fact is that whenever Villa came forward they looked likely to score, and while City produced two well worked goals themselves they never really looked likely to get anything from the game because the back door was always ajar.
The same shoddiness was apparent against Charlton on Tuesday, particularly before half-time, and is something that must be eliminated, but unfortunately unforced errors, misreads and bad decisions are the common currency of players trying to integrate with new team-mates and a new system.
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What City must do as a matter of priority, though, is to prevent large gaps appearing between the defence and midfield for opponents to exploit as was the case with Villa’s third and fourth goals.
Given the Stuart Webber connection it’s inevitable that City’s development under Farke is going to be compared to Huddersfield’s under David Wagner, so it’s worth emphasising the fact that Wagner didn’t arrive at the John Smith’s Stadium in November 2015 as a fully formed Messiah, and barely avoided relegation in his first season. In fact, his first 31 games in charge produced just 10 wins as he embedded his ideas and built his squad.
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His first four league games were all defeats with 10 goals conceded and only two scored, and I’m sure that there were plenty of Huddersfield fans at that time questioning whether their club had made the right move, but their patience has been rewarded in full.
Like the Terriers before them, City have embarked on a long-term project, involving not just a new manager and nine new first team squad members (10 if you include Sean Raggett), but also a new club structure and a policy of building for the future by signing and developing the likes of Adam Phillips, Tristan Abrahams and Savvas Mourgos.
It was never intended to be a quick fix; something, it could be argued, that has been attempted too often over the last few seasons, hence the need for major surgery now.
Believe me, I get as frustrated as the next person when City play poorly, but consistency is only going to be achieved by the players getting used to each other on the pitch, and there will inevitably be more setbacks as that process continues.
In all honesty, I think it will take a few more weeks before we see anything close to the best from this squad and it’s vital that during that transitional period the fans stick behind the players and the manager because I strongly believe that it will be well worth it.