The obvious conclusion to draw when a side isn't scoring enough goals is the strikers are misfiring. That may in part be true for City right now, but Jon Punt think's there's more to it. Let him tell you about it, while drawing on stupid Star Wars quotes.
“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. The truth is often what we make of it; you heard what you wanted to hear, believed what you wanted to believe.”
Not my words, but those of wise Jedi master Obi-wan Kenobi. For some unknown reason, they resonated with me when debating all things Norwich City on the last ACN podcast.
The question and subsequent argument being made was simplistic yet messy, why haven’t Norwich signed a third striker to bolster their goal scoring options this season? The answer for many is simple. We should have and it’s now affecting any hopes Norwich harbour of troubling the promotion spots this term.
Stuart Webber’s assessment of the situation is measured, forthright and straight to the point. City possess two forwards who would be snapped by the vast majority of the division were they put up for sale. Quality at the top end of the pitch (Jerome’s potential profligacy aside) isn’t really the point, it’s the alleged dearth of options which worries many. Again, Webber’s outlook is simple. Another goal-getter might be nice, but when they’re all fit it’s managing three players for one position which becomes problematic and possibly disruptive.
Nelson Oliveira’s untimely run of ongoing injuries has exacerbated the situation. The reliance on Jerome during a congested run of fixtures has perhaps become too much for him, yet he’s probably only a goal or two away from silencing his many doubters.
That’s where the angle around one’s point of view comes into play. City were the second highest scorers in the division last time out, ultimately relying on just two strikers (I have eradicated the anomaly that was Kyle Lafferty from my mind before you even think about mentioning him), both of whom are still at the club. So why the issue now? Conventional wisdom will often lead us to the conclusion that if a team isn’t scoring goals, sign more strikers and all will be well. It rarely works out like that though. Over the ages Big Kyle didn’t exactly set the world alight, Dean Coney was a disaster, Henrik Mortensen never bested his reserve team overhead kick, Keith Scott was Keith Scott like and Darren Beckford was average at best. All of these men struggled on the periphery while more talented forwards took on the lion’s share of the workload.
Chance creation has become the real root cause of City’s angst in the final third. While there are many fine attacking talents in the squad, Farke has yet to find a combination of players sitting behind the solitary striker which offer the fancy fluidity or purpose and potency many at Carrow Road had expected to see from the get go.
When the team clicked under Alex Neil, and later Irvine, the offensive choices were interchangeable and generally the individual’s strengths complemented their colleagues around them. Jacob Murphy was direct, purposeful and unafraid to take on a shot. Hoolahan’s composure and infinite ability to conjure up the unthinkable unlocked the door. Alex Pritchard not only created opportunities for those in front of him, but he was the scorer of goals too.
Howson and Josh Murphy also made cameos in that attacking midfield trio and even when it was going badly, there was a real sense that the chosen combination of players could make something happen out of nothing.
That spark of creation looks worryingly absent under Farke’s tutelage. City have issues to address and it starts not just with taking our chances, but creating more of them. Jerome has never been a forward who’ll thrive with a lack of regular service, yet increasingly people are looking to him to take the one of two chances that come his way. What better way to support him than offering up three or four every match?
That solution sounds simple, and it’s evidently too binary to hold too much weight. The challenge Norwich face is more nuanced, it’s about retaining the defensive prowess they’ve learned over the past few weeks whilst being altogether more expansive. Making that meaningful change is difficult and some would argue the team’s recent approach has seen them place too much emphasis on being tough to break down. Those who assert that might do well to remember the performances that preceded the change in philosophy. The Norwich of Villa Park and The Den were meek, mild mannered and wholly unfit for purpose.
Speak to many supporters up and down the country and many will bemoan their side’s lack of balance, City’s task is hardly unique in that respect.
What is does require however is for Farke is to find that aforementioned creative trio who’ll work in tandem, who’ll offer some urgency and purpose, and who’ll ultimately lay on a few more openings for their colleagues. The international break provides a real window of opportunity to find the blend Norwich require, if the coaching team’s efforts are as successful as their defensive surgery last time out there will be cause for optimism.
So maybe we don’t need a third striker after all. It’s much more complex than that, and remember…only a Sith deals in absolutes.
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