Lee Payne: Everyone has an opinion, or two, on Norwich City
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When the task is to provide my opinion on Norwich City, I can't win.
That might seem like the cue for a joke about the recent form of the Canaries, but I'll leave you to do that yourself.
You see, if I'm feeling fairly positive about the club, I will be accused of being a 'happy clapper'. Overly optimistic, detached from reality. However, as my family and friends would tell you, I don't usually need to be told to be more miserable. If I take a more downbeat view, I will be dismissed as one of the moaners.
So, for this column, I thought I would give two contrasting summaries of what's going on at Carrow Road right now – one as upbeat as can be, another as depressing as I can muster. Then I'll tell you where I actually stand between the two of them.
On the bright side
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It hasn't yet been a year since Daniel Farke became Norwich City head coach, and already the Canaries are dominating the possession in nearly every game and keeping the ball on the ground – the way football should be played. He's managed to get the players that were already here dancing to his tune, and those that were brought in last summer have proved to be inspired purchases. Christoph Zimmermann had never been to the city before he signed for the club, now he looks like he'd take a bullet for us, the sort of defender every club craves. Tom Trybull has been superb in protecting the back four, taking the pressure off Alex Tettey and his dodgy knees. Just look at how much we've reduced the wage bill, and how much deadwood we've got rid of. The academy has been bearing fruit, with Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell making first team appearances. If they keep going the way they are, hand in hand through their Farke life, promotion is surely on the horizon – especially seeing as they more than matched two big Premier League teams in the cup competitions this season.
Every silver lining has a cloud
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A year since Alex Neil was sacked, Norwich City have gone backwards, not forwards. While Neil has taken his new team Preston to the fringes of the play-offs, Norwich have never really been in the picture, with their dull and ineffective football proving too easy to play against. Despite keeping a lot of clean sheets, they have conceded an alarming number of goals. While some of the new signings have improved as the season has gone on, a few of them have not inspired at all and their appearances on the team sheet are greeted with ridicule from the fans. In order to deal with the financial reality of life in the Championship, City have had to let a lot of good players go – Alex Pritchard's mid-season move to Huddersfield particularly galling. The supporters have been actively looking forward to the end of the season, and that doesn't bode well for the future.
I understand that the Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke revolution will take a while to pay off – but that hasn't made it any more enjoyable to watch this season. I can see the possession-based football that Farke wants us to play starting to develop, and with more time and more of his own players I think it will bring results. I've been encouraged by the increased participation of the youth players, and impressed by the players brought in from the German lower leagues. My highlight of the season has been going to the Arsenal cup match at the Emirates, where the Canaries matched a Premier League side blow for blow. My fellow fans have been well within their rights to complain about some of the games they've been to this season, but I urge them to stick with it. The people in charge of the club know what they are doing, and we should trust them to get on with it.