Jonathan Blathwayt: How do City break their Premier League curse?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Daniel Farke must be going through his memory trying to think of anyone he has wronged or which of the football gods he has offended over the past few years.
It certainly seems there is some greater force out to get him and Norwich in the Premier League. Some might say even a curse.
Certainly, when the fixtures computer handed Norwich their early season schedule there may have been cursing in haus Farke.
While it was no great stretch of the imagination that four games into the season Norwich could be sitting on zero points and at the bottom of the table, it still will cause much fretting and handwringing among Norwich fans and I’m sure the players and coaching staff must be feeling the same.
If the same four fixtures had been dotted about the season, I doubt there would be massive worries with a return of no points, but to have them in a row and after the Project Restart experience, makes everything seem more fraught.
A horror pre-season and being denied the usual comfort a Norwich manager has of spending the international break with most of their squad to work on the training pitches have both added to feeling of the world on the club’s collective shoulders.
All this creates an easy narrative that Norwich are not fit for the Premier League and there are genuine fears that a collective PTSD is seeping into Norwich’s squad – even if many of them were not around frokm the previous campaign.
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So where to now for Farke and Norwich? The Watford game already feels a huge one and the pressure will be immense at Carrow Road. Brave choices were made in dropping some regulars for the Arsenal game and Farke’s post-match comments that he will be pragmatic in team selection is a change to the coach we have seen at Norwich so far. Farke will need to continue to be brave and hold his nerve, even if that means rocking the boat even more.
Previously he tended to pick a first XI and run with it, pretty much regardless of who the opposition were. Farke now has the luxury of a squad with real depth and opportunity to pull a few surprises an hour before kick-off when the teams are announced. Something he has never really had in his Norwich career so far. Whether a team that sees regular changes, should that be the plan, can gain the fluency and cohesion to make a real success is another matter.
It is this lack of cohesion that really seems to be stifling the start to Norwich’s season. Midfielders are seemingly confused whether to push up and press, or drop back and defend deep – arms frantically being waved at each other as they find their team-mates are not where they might expect. The normal fluid build-up from Krul and his defence has been slower, more obvious to the opposition and easy to stifle. Attacking players are too far from each other or hitting high crosses to an isolated Teemu Pukki who watches them sail over his head.
To break the ‘curse’ Norwich will need to work hard on the training ground to build that understanding, only then can they start to show what they are truly capable of achieving. The transfer window closed with the strongest squad in recent memory being assembled, time will tell whether it is enough.
If all else fails, Farke can take the tried and tested method of breaking football curses. Barry Fry resorted to relieving himself in all four corners of St Andrew’s at Birmingham to break a curse and Bruce Grobbelaar took a more conspicuous method of personally filling a water bottle to pour on the goal posts at Anfield to break a curse for Liverpool. So, if you spot Farke acting suspiciously before the Watford game kicks off and hanging around the goal posts or corner flag, it might mean he has resorted to drastic measures.