Matthew Howman: So what's not working for Norwich City – the players, the analysis... or both?
PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:12 21 August 2018
I started watching the all or nothing Manchester City documentary at the weekend and, while it was unsurprising to see the level of detail Pep Guardiola delves into to extract maximum effort from his individual players, it is an excellent eye-opener into the dressing room and the process top teams go to in order to find success at the highest level.
It would be interesting to see how that compares at Norwich; what Daniel Farke’s approach is to managing the team in the dressing room and how he deals with results where we’ve conceded in the last minute and he has to pick his players up for a game just four days later.
Jordan Rhodes commented in a post-match interview following the defeat to Sheffield United: “The manager and the staff, they analyse things so thoroughly and maybe for the first goal, I could’ve done better for it.”
After a poor start to the season, this had me debating. Is it Farke we should be questioning; that his analysis, attention to detail and planning isn’t working, or is it the players? Individual decisions in football matches that he can’t legislate for, a result of Farke having to work with our new cut-price squad.
Or is it even a mixture of both; the style of play leaves too much hinging on fewer moments in a game, meaning a single mistake can either win or lose us the whole match as a result of Farke’s tactics?
From day one of Farke’s and Stuart Webber’s appointments, I’ve been excited about the prospect of having a new start with the backroom set-up, a new playing style and identity for the football we play. Also, the understanding that, to see the benefit, us fans need to have an abundance of patience, patience and more patience.
There have already been flashes of excellent football this season, in contrast to some dreadful periods of play we’ve observed already both home and away; the first 30 minutes against West Brom was some of the best football I’ve seen at Carrow Road for a long time and it’s the level we were playing at in that period which really gives you confidence in the Farke regime.
So why isn’t all this analysis and tactical nuance consistently paying off? Why aren’t we converting all the effort and endeavour into points?
I felt the key problem last year was that Farke stuck to his ideals without compromise. No matter which team we played, it was rigid, structural and every side knew what to expect. Yes, we created some magic from James Maddison and Wes Hoolahan, but that was the only edge we seemed to hold. The majority of teams found it fairly comfortable to sit back, let us pass ourselves into trouble and hit us on the counter-attack.
This season, however, despite not picking up a win, the style has become much more progressive, more attacking and willing to blend the philosophy of possession with the need of scoring to beat the opposition.
The issues we have faced so far have been in the areas we found more comfortable last season. Defensively we looked more solid last season than we have done in some time, but that left us short up front. Now Farke is looking to address the strike force, the defence has suffered. He’s also been up against key moments going against him, had Jordan Rhodes scored that penalty etc, etc.
When you’re in a period of overhauling the squad, replacing quality players with lesser quality, the balance within the team gets harder to find, and that may take a few more weeks of analysis and tweaking on Farke’s part.
There are certainly frustrations in Farke’s tactics, the portion of our 70pc possession that sits with our defence being a key bugbear of mine. Yet I still think we’ve started the season better than where we left off in the last.
Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki have been excellent, there are plenty of positives. Fans will have to accept the overall squad haven’t got the ability to compete at the top end of the league, but if they keep on board with what Farke is trying to achieve, we’ll be in a much better position come Christmas, so now is not the time to make a panic decision.