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Inconsistency anchors Norwich in midtable despite Maddison brilliance - Interview
Sunday, 1st Apr 2018 13:23 by Clive Whittingham

Norwich hired Huddersfield's DOF and David Wagner's replacement at Borussia Dortmund, but a similar promotion push hasn't materialised - Connor Southwell explains why.

Never a sniff of a promotion push this year, despite parachute payments and high profile managerial appointment, how would you assess the season?

CS: What we've seen from Norwich this year is a completely alternative and long term approach to proceedings both on and off the pitch. I think the parachute payments were largely used (some would argue wasted...) under Alex Neil last season and this year has been cutting the cloth accordingly and embedding the new structure into place.

There has been a sense of underachievement this season considering how the project was initially packaged by the custodians of the club, but most recognise this is something which will take time to fully construct. Evidently most were expecting to being knocking on the doors of the playoff picture, but with Stuart Webber (sporting director) effectively rebuilding off and on the pitch, that was always going to be a fantasy.

Despite the league standings being worse, this season has felt more positive. Norwich ran Arsenal and Chelsea close in the cups and the emergence of James Maddison and Jamal Lewis has excited the fanbase. It's been a funny season for Norwich, an unforgettable one with facets of positivity.

Why haven’t Norwich been able to push towards the top six?

CS: In a word, inconsistency.

Last season, Norwich were substandard away from Carrow Road and defensively inept, leaking goals against everyone. That has flipped this season, Farke's Norwich are more pragmatic and balanced but lack the offensive nous to score enough goals in games with home form simply not good enough. Furthermore, the streaky nature of their results have seen them become midtable fodder relatively quickly.

Form at home hasn't been good enough, the goals scored column leaves a lot to be desired and the overreliance on a piece of magic from the boot of Maddison is pertinent. If Maddison isn't on form, often Norwich aren't either. A lot of the football played has been aesthetically pleasing but lacks the cutting edge and differentiation in the final third. They been unable to source a goalscorer at the top end of the pitch either, which has seen them suffer.

This year has felt like one which is experimental ad raw in many regards. If Norwich could have turned five of the stalemates at Carrow Road into victories, they would knocking on the door, but Farke's philosophy hasn't quite clicked yet. The emphasis is seemingly on next season.

Obviously everybody will judge Farke against David Wagner at Huddersfield, given the circumstances, but how has he done? What’s the general consensus among the fans?

CS: Personally, I think he's done a fairly decent job. What needs to be taken into consideration is the fact he has been operating within the constraints of a financial strait-jacket and has seen five senior players sold (Dorrans, Howson, Murphy, Pritchard and Jerome) which has forced Norwich to scour the lower leagues of Germany and look to pluck gems from abroad.

The entertainment factor is missing from his football, with supporters becoming frustrating with the lateral and often ineffective football. On the contrary, Farke has solved the leaky defence and improved the away from drastically. There is still some way to go, but with two losses since Boxing Day, the general consensus is he is the man for the job going forward.

Evidently, there are some who are beginning to turn due to the lack of ascent towards the playoffs, but Norwich were a club thinking purely in the short term without care for the implications long term, underlined with the signings of Steven Naismith and Matt Jarvis, with a younger squad and a clear pathway for young players, this season has been uninspiring but could be pivotal long term.

What needs to be done this summer to improve next season?

CS: Retain James Maddison, although that is a task which is becoming increasingly unlikely. The ideal situation is a big money move and then a loan back to Norfolk next season. All of Norwich's productivity offensively has come through the 21 year old and if Norwich can build a more balanced and efficient around him, they are good bets for playoff contenders next season.

Many supporters would like to see the loan moves of Moritz Leitner, Angus Gunn and Harrison Reed become permanent. Leitner has been excellent and looks some footballer but he may favour a move elsewhere as he has made Championship football look simple at times, Gunn will move on but Reed seems likely, his versatility and hardwork has adhered him to the Carrow Road faithful.

Beyond that, Norwich need more quality but also need to cut the cloth again. Players like Russell Martin, Matt Jarvis and Steven Naismith need shifting on to aid the financial pressure on the club at present.

It looks set to be another summer with a lot happening.

Player of the season candidates?
CS: They may as well begin to carve James Maddison's name into the trophy already, he is the deserving winner. I cannot begin to laud him highly enough, a player who Alex Neil didn't play has excelled under Farke's leadership. His attitude and application have been flawless and when he moves onto bigger things, all Norwich fans will wish him well because he's been utterly outstanding.

Every twist and turn in magical, his weight of pass and desire to effect games is great to watch. It has been a pleasure watching him this season and he is the biggest talent Norwich has had since Craig Bellamy, he really is that good. When he moves, I just hope it's the right move for him and somewhere where he will get game time, because he needs to play for his development.

Other honourable mentions, Angus Gunn has been brilliant. Obviously the narrative with his father was a pertinent one, but considering he hadn't played a senior game of football prior to this loan move, his positioning and quality of saves he has made has kept Norwich in games. Grant Hanley has been a colossus and if I were to pick a top three, it would could contain those aforementioned operators.
Weak links in the team?
CS: As a defensive unit, Norwich operate effectively and if they can retain Timm Klose and Grant Hanley this summer, that's the pairing going forward I would say. Offensively, Norwich need to discover an edge which allows them to create more chances and look more threatening consistently.

The newfound width provided by the ever improving Onel Hernandez and Josh Murphy has seen Norwich appear more effective going forwards but Murphy has had a poor season and Hernandez new to Championship football.

An equilibrium across the side is what is needed and if Norwich can operate all departments effectively, then next season has real potential. The key word is if, however.

What’s the financial situation – longer you’re out of the Premier League, lower the parachute payments get, tougher it gets as we know ourselves?

CS: I think most sides in this division operate at a loss and now the parachute payments have evaporated, it'll be no different for Norwich. That said however, big money signings haven't worked and Norwich find themselves in the same position they were a few years ago. Financially, the club have set up an innovative investment idea to raise money to develop the training facilities at the club which involves supporters.

Player trading is likely to be unspectacular with Norwich scouting abroad and in the lower divisions to find players who fit in with the ethos and are financially risk free. It remains to be seen whether this model will be good enough to challenge in this division, but it is more sustainable and more long termist, something the club have lacked for a multitude of years.

The Twitter @cjsouthwell1902, @TalkNorwichCity, @NorwichCityMFW, @loftforwords

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Myke added 20:44 - Apr 1
could be us they are talking about - except the solid defence bit!

TacticalR added 23:11 - Apr 1
Thanks to Connor.

I agree it sounds like us, although not as extreme, as Norwich had more continuity in the boardroom, and didn't spend as badly as us.

It also sounds like not all unshaven ex-Borussia Dortmund reserve managers are created equal.

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