While a playoff finish is not necessarily that unimpressive by itself, the lack of long-term improvement of North has got to be a concern to fans of the organization. Their previous showings at this very event show no signs of improvement and an unexpected victory at DreamHack Masters Stockholm all the way back last September is the only real top-tier performance from a side that somehow still fails to make use of both the personnel and the world-class structures available to them.
The numbers don’t lie: going 0-3 at a major and then missing out on the next one completely, finishing joint last at the ESL Pro League finals, losing to LDLC at IEM Chicago between the two don’t exactly inspire confidence. Every time it feels like there’s a bit of an improvement, it always turns out to be a mirage. It’s been a long time since Kjaerbye bailed from Astralis to join this particular project: for him, it must have felt like an eternity. Worse yet, he feels like a square peg in a round hole on this side.
Of course, you could argue that the situation is not as bad as that collapse on Inferno would indicate: Fnatic have done quite well at StarSeries and North fought back from the 0-2 bracket in impressive fashion, taking out both FaZe Clan and MiBR. Still, there’s a point where the issues and excuses stack up to such a degree that their sheer volume renders them useless: the North project has not lived up to expectations at any point, and it’s clear they’ve failed to pin down the reasons behind their chronic inconsistency.
No matter the lineup change, the incremental adjustment, the solid background – supposedly on par with Astralis’ off-server endeavors if reports are to be believed –, this team is simply not going anywhere. It may seem like a simple handwave-y sort of explanation to pin it on a mental block – Lord knows that’s a classic favorite of the commentariat whenever they can’t articulate anything specific missing from a side –, but the complete and total nature of their collapse on Inferno doesn’t allow for many different explanations, and one has to wonder who could be the TaZ-esque hype man for the Danish side when things are going down and they feel like they’re collapsing.
How can this possibly be fixed then? Historically, such intangible issues required a massive roster shakeup – usually at least in the form of a different IGL –, but the terrifying part is that North have already gone through that as well. The firepower is clearly there, but they can’t seem to find a way to apply it in a consistent way. If you consider the resources behind the North project – paging FC Copenhagen! –, this cannot be considered an acceptable set of results.