Robin Sainty: Snowdrop time for Norwich City, according to the law of Brian Clough
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
To say that this has been a black week for Norwich City fans would be an understatement.
The performance against Barnsley was tepid and lacking in energy and the fact that City took the lead having offered nothing up to that point came as a shock to most in the stadium, while the fact that Barnsley finally made one of several impressive breakaways count could have surprised no one.
City were sloppy in possession, the equalising goal actually originating from a misplaced pass on the edge of Barnsley’s penalty area, and second to virtually every loose ball.
What was really worrying was that the switch to three at the back because of the injury to James Husband should have provided more width to City’s attacks, but in fact seemed to have the opposite effect, with Barnsley stretching the Canaries almost to breaking point.
The visitors showed that breaking quickly and in numbers when space becomes available can be hard to deal with, and the speed of their attacks was in sharp contrast to the home team’s turgid build-ups. In fact, on the odd occasions that a City player broke at pace in a wide area he was invariably forced to check back as there was no one to find in the box.
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It was therefore with a sense of foreboding that I arrived at the City Ground on Tuesday, but in fact City started brightly and showed a level of energy that wasn’t evident on Saturday. However, yet again, all the good work in other areas of the pitch was negated by the failure to make things happen in the final third.
The slow pace of City’s build-up inevitably results in too many bodies around the opposing box, and on Tuesday it was a case of too many cooks with three playmakers all trying to operate in minimal space and inevitably running into blind alleys or looking for one pass too many.
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Given Daniel Farke’s remarks on Saturday evening about trying to field “technical” players it’s ironic that the winner at Forest came from a bit of old-fashioned English centre forward play with Mustapha Carayol whipping in a superb cross and Daryl Murphy gambling on where the ball might drop, something that City’s strikers seem reluctant to do.
There is no doubt that while some of the midfield interplay and more resolute defensive work shows promise, the glaring lack of goals, and indeed goal threat, is worrying and we are fast approaching a watershed for fans as they are asked to renew season tickets.
Last season we demanded and got radical change, both on and off the pitch, with this season so far split into three distinct sections; the early period where the team were clearly struggling to come to terms with each other and the coach’s strategy, the eight-game unbeaten run, and the recent slump.
However, for some fans it almost seems as if that unbeaten run never happened, or at least counted for nothing, while the current decline is taken as incontrovertible proof that disaster awaits. Some have even suggested that doyen of attractive football, Tony Pulis, should replace Farke.
However, scrapping everything and starting again isn’t an option, as even a cursory study of the club’s accounts will show. We are embarked on a course that will take time, involve more disappointments, and has an uncertain outcome, but to sack a manager after just 18 league games with his side in mid-table is the sort of behaviour that most of us would condemn from other clubs.
As the great Brian Clough, who knew something about building teams, said: “You don’t put snowdrops in the garden and expect to see them the following month; you plant them in October and nurture them for six months. It’s the same with a squad of footballers.”
However, City must find a way to turn possession into goals, and soon.