A bitterly cold afternoon at the Pirelli had Norwich City supporters glaring deeply into a crystal ball, hoping that 2018 brings more promise and optimism.
Norwich travelled to Burton in search of extending the Brewer’s abysmal home record whilst seeking to build momentum.
This was far from the reality. A post match scuffle involving James Maddison contained more meat than the rest of the Christmas leftovers on offer at the Pirelli. A drab and dull affair was greeted with angst from the travelling supporters upon the referee’s full time whistle.
On the surface, this game means four points from six over the festive period; Norwich has accelerated up to 13th. However, the angst stems from the regressive trend displayed throughout the match.
Six changes will grab the headlines, and all talk of the players lacking fitness and feeling fatigue is seemingly odd considering the sheer quantity of training sessions they have undertaken in Farke’s short tenure. This is a coach caught hugely unaware by the contrast in scheduling.
With the FA Cup on the horizon, that should leave City players with a greater amount of recovery time should their Head Coach opt to rest them.
This, simply put, was an excellent opportunity to keep the pendulum swaying in the right direction. A victory here would have raised moods, yet amicably and understandingly, Farke’s priority was to avoid defeat and regroup ahead of Monday’s fixture against Millwall. This game could have served as an opportunity to pull City further away from the bottom three and ensure they didn’t become embroiled in a relegation dogfight.
Sluggish, unbalanced and frustrating, these buzzwords reoccurred after a frustrating performance. This was a Burton side who has failed to win their last eight games at home and was without a clean sheet in nine months. Farke adopted a defensive approach emulating that of Neil Warnock, only not applied as well.
The early proceedings saw Burton arduously get the better of the soft Canaries. Without Alex Tettey in the opening exchanges, Norwich looked all at sea by the intensity and were undisputedly second best prior to Tettey’s arrival.
The cohesion and adeptness displayed at St Andrews was non-existent in Staffordshire, this Norwich side lacked width and offensive impetus. This side suffers from a severe lack of movement when in possession of the football. Numerous phases of play were turned over due to a lack of movement and options for the player in control of the ball.
It’s the pertinent and reoccurring themes and Farke’s inability to solve them which is the most disconcerting factor at present. This side is too narrow, too static and seems content on overplaying in areas where simplicity is required.
Those who pay their hard earned money expect an ambition and bravery away from home. They were packaged that.
The parameters surrounding the long standing debate over the ownership of the club is well documented. Supporters must put it to one side at present however; there are more pressing and present concerns on the pitch. Farke’s squad lack the nous and ability to inspire and grind out results in this division, that’s a bigger issue than the majority shareholders.
Despite individual feelings towards those spearheading the current operation, the majority shareholders command a level of respect and they are entitled that. This doesn’t need to become a divide.
They’re common denominators, yes, but they are not shifting anytime soon. Whilst voicing opinion is pivotal, supporting the team is a greater responsibility in a tough contemporary period.
This season has been scaffolded with terms such as a ‘work in progress’ but when will supporters see a refined piece of architecture constructed by Farke? Norwich adopted a more direct style, but with restricted movement off the ball, this was nullified by Burton’s defensive brutes, it even played into their hands.
This was a match devoid of any quality.
An impressive display from Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley aside, a blunt Norwich offensive failed to muster any moments of quality in a nervy and physical encounter. Hanley is Norwich’s most dominant centre back aerially, and is exactly the incoming Norwich required following the epoch at Millwall. He continues to impress with his non nonsense approach and aerial dominance.
Without Maddison or Pritchard, Norwich looks toothless.
The early initiative was with the hosts and the visitors spent the rest of the afternoon grappling back control. A weak left side and a horrific dive from the unprofitable James Husband epitomised a poor afternoon from the Canaries.
His counterpart, Marley Watkins, must improve. This was a man who spearheaded Barnsley’s offensive line at points last term registering 10 goals. Norwich has not witnessed any degree of Watkins ability. With increased speculation over reinforcements in his preferred position, he must improve or face a spell inferior to others.
There was no offensive plan evident, no desire to push for a goal and a lack of quality on the ball.
Contextually, a win on Monday means seven points from nine over Christmas. From the state Norwich were in following that insipid result against Brentford that is some feat.
Yet this diagnosis is still damaging.
Farke has thus far failed to address his inability to efficiently and cohesively balance his side alongside a functional team who can develop his ethos. This squad should not be residing in the lower half of the second tier, with an abundance of quality present, Norwich should be aiming higher.
This isn’t about a superiority complex nor is it about fees, but Norwich has quality amongst its ranks and in glimpses, supporters has consumed and enjoyed that quality in 2017. Farke’s side must display progress in order to ease the continuously growing discontent amongst a divided fan base.
With season ticket renewal period looming, Norwich will need to display an improvement to secure the signatures of their fan base.
From everyone at TalkNorwichCity, have a wonderful, healthy and prosperous 2018 and lets hope it provides more cheer than 2017 for our beloved Norwich City.