Dave Major: A lot to play with, but Premier League will have to wait for Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 March 2018
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So much for my positivity last week.
After Saturday’s blank, we finally put a nail in the play-off hopes for this season which, given I’ve got plans to be in North Norfolk on that May Bank Holiday weekend, avoids some rather difficult family discussions about being at Wembley.
In some ways, there was positivity last Saturday. The team created chances. But it’s goals that count and that remains the conundrum for Norwich City in 2017/18. There’s the ‘if only’. If only Moritz Leitner had put away that chance. If only we’d been 5-0 up at half-time as Daniel Farke felt we should have been.
The yellow and green-decked fans left Carrow Road disappointed once again by the lack of goals. It’s a challenge Farke needs to address in the coming months.
What disappointed particularly in the second half was the reversion to form as the game progressed – narrow and slow build-up play – particularly strange given the switch in formation and the use of two ‘wide’ players in Josh Murphy and Onel Hernandez.
Murphy appears to have suffered in recent times by playing as the second striker. He needs to rediscover the art of playing wide, beating his man and getting crosses in. I started off the season feeling the lesser Murphy had been sold to Newcastle, but the jury remains out. The 2018/19 season really needs to be the one for him to make that step up in regularly influencing games and be the sort of player Championship defences can’t live with.
So does last Saturday leave us with nothing to play for in the next two months?
By no means. If Norwich find the answer to the goal-scoring problem over the next few months, whilst maintaining the defensive resolve then it gives hope. An eighth-placed finish versus, say, 14th. It gives positivity.
Does it give enough positivity to keep a James Maddison, or at least a loan back from a higher Premier League suitor? It might, with the prospect of playing at the top level of the second tier twice a week, continuing his football rise.
To solve that goal-scoring problem, Norwich need to find a Plan B and C, to an A which revolves solely around Maddison. Width would be Plan B, something sorely lacking particularly since Ivo Pinto has been out of the side. Tactical adjustments where needed as a Plan C – be they the second striker, an injection of directness or pace. Trying something different.
Those two essentials bring a third. They maintain the positivity; lift the hopes and thoughts of the Canary faithful. The prospect of seeing off mid-table Championship mediocrity regularly at Carrow Road will almost certainly lead to a few more renewed season tickets, to increased coffers at a time when the parachute payments stop.
The next few months also give Farke the opportunity to firm up opinions on members of the squad. Does it give you proof that there’s a player in a Marley Watkins, in Sean Raggett, in Marcus Edwards? Can Mario Vrancic perform consistently from a deep midfield role? Are there contracts next year for the likes of Alex Tettey and Wes Hoolahan?
So many questions. An ideal opportunity to look for answers.
But let’s not forget. There’s an awful lot of good in this year’s Norwich City. The injection of youth, the introductions of Christop Zimmerman and Tom Trybull and the colossus that is Grant Hanley. Yes, the teams a work in progress. Yes, there are answers needed in the last third of the pitch but there is a base to now build on, with a chance to tinker, to try and to test.
So, in many ways a lot to still play for. Apart from the promise of Premier League riches. Those will have to wait.