The first international break of the season is always a good time to take stock of what’s going on and how Norwich City are doing in general because let’s be honest, other than the two international games, it’s a fairly dull fortnight, football wise.
To start off with, I think most of us would agree that the squad looks more settled and not in too bad a place. There have been plenty of comings and goings during the summer and the loss of James Maddison has been heavily felt. Madders looks like a genuine superstar in the making to me but he was sold out of necessity due to the club’s financial situation. We also all knew that he was too good to stay with us for another season.
Josh Murphy was the other big summer sale, although with the money we got for him, I think it was possibly a bit of a surprise for the board. I wouldn’t say that Stuart Webber snatched Cardiff’s hand off exactly but I doubt he had to think too long about it either.
The start to the season that Onel Hernandez has had has certainly softened the blow of losing Murphy, although no single player has stepped into Maddison’s shoes yet, which is hardly surprising. Hope of a new hero emerging is not completely lost yet though because in Kenny McLean and Emi Buendia, we have two new midfield players that have not yet had a huge amount of game time but both have shown tantalising glimpses of what we might get from them.
When asked on the Pink ‘Un Show last week about who I thought would be the “player to watch” in the coming weeks, I picked McLean. He’s a tough tackling, forward thinking midfielder with an eye for goal too. I’m hoping he’s going to be a big player for us.
This time last year though, despite that awful first set of games before the international break, City were 2 points better off after their first six games than they are now. They had though only played five games before the international break, culminating in that 4-0 drubbing at The Den.
The international break a year ago saw City sign Grant Hanley, banish Russell Martin and by the time hostilities resumed against Birmingham City, they had also seen the return to fitness of Timm Klose and Alex Tettey and the emergence of Super Tom Trybull.
The transfer window is, of course, now closed and only Nelson Oliveira and Matt Jarvis remain of the big earners. Apparently, Jarvis is nearing a return to fitness but don’t get too excited, the speculation seems to be that the club may look to loan him out in January before letting him go next summer.
Oliveira is another story though and I wrote about his situation, a couple of days ago. You can read my thoughts on Nelson here.
So in terms of points alone, Norwich are two points worse off now but the 1-0 win against Birmingham in the game after the break a year ago started a feel good mini run. The Canaries’ next opponents are front runners, Middlesbrough and they are less than likely to be so accommodating to our hopes for three points.
Norwich have conceded 12 goals this season, exactly the same number as they conceded in the first six games last season and that’s with Grant Hanley. To be fair, he didn’t have a lot of pre-season and he did have some very young lads alongside him at Ipswich, not that I see that as a big problem if, as I hope, Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis nail down the full back positions going forward.
What follows in the rest of the month after ‘Boro though, is a crucial set of games.
Norwich will play two games a week as they face Reading (A), QPR (A), Wycombe (A) and then finish the month at home to Wigan.
I look at those fixtures and think that we ought to be winning those games. On paper, I think that Norwich City should be beating every single one of them. Putting the cup game against Wycombe aside, I reckon that anything less than 7 points is not going to be acceptable.
Not to me, anyway.
Will we get that 7 point minimum? Probably not.
Reading and QPR have been struggling up until now, although there are signs of life at Loftus Road and both of these fixtures are ripe for “along come Norwich” moments.
This brings me on neatly on to our Head Coach and his tactics thus far and I don’t mean just this season. So far, the story of Daniel Farke’s tenure has been lose a couple, win one, draw a couple and we’ve limped along in that vein ever since.
Quite which way our season will go, I couldn’t tell you. We’ve played some good football at times, like the first half against West Brom, the first 25 minutes against Leeds, before we were blown away and in long parts of the games at Bramall Lane and St. Andrews as wel.
However, the game against Preston was a very poor performance, despite the win, and we’ve still only got five points.
Last time out against Ipswich and we got a draw to keep the unbeaten derby run going but there was little in our performance to excite me. Maybe I’m being a little harsh there because it was a derby game with all that comes with it.
They say that you can judge a team’s season after ten games, or at least get a very good idea about what sort of season they will have and by the end of the month we will have played nine games, with the tenth coming the following Wednesday 3rd October against “Frank Lampard’s” Derby County.
This next period is going to be crucial, playing Saturday and then mid-week for the next month and ending with a home game against Stoke before the second international break. If anything is going to come of this season then this is the time to put down a marker and start winning some games.
Is Farke up to it? I’m not so sure he is. I think that we have a decent squad now with some pretty good players. If Farke’s tactical nous is not up to it then Mr Webber is going to have a very difficult decision to make as the autumn turns to winter.
Admission of failure is never easy. I just hope that we don’t limp along as I described earlier and nobody makes a decision, one way or the other.