Norwich City have plenty of room for improvement under Daniel Farke – but that’s a good thing following draw at Fulham
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First hurdle cleared, with plenty to be pleased about. That will be the mindset of Canaries head coach Daniel Farke as he reflects on his first competitive match in English football.
Drawing 1-1 at fellow Championship promotion hopefuls Fulham got the German’s reign off to a strong start and there was plenty of room for improvement – but that’s a good thing.
Make no mistake, this was a good Fulham side, building on their sixth-place finish in the previous campaign. The Cottagers flew out of the traps and gave City little time to pause for breath, playing at a rapid tempo and attacking with real intent.
Seven debutants, three of which were playing their first games in English football, made for a nervy start for the visitors.
Mario Vrancic looked shocked by the pace of the game despite having been a Bundesliga player last season but did eventually find his groove, demonstrating his range of passing.
Marcel Franke also looked taken aback by the intensity at Craven Cottage, but began to show his class as the game went on. Similarly to the experienced Russell Martin on the right of the back three, Franke looked rather exposed as James Husband and Yanic Wildschut struggled to find their feet as wing-backs in the initial 3-5-2 formation.
Husband was another to improve as City gained some control and looked more comfortable when the shape changed to 4-1-4-1 – but the return to fitness of Ivo Pinto is needed on the right. Wildschut looked decent going forward but his weak tackle ahead of Fulham’s goal showed he is not defensively strong enough for a wing-back position in the Championship.
Overall though, it was the Canaries who finished the game stronger, having arguably had the game’s best chances, with Marley Watkins, James Maddison and Vrancic all getting clear sights of goal.
They were also harshly denied a penalty for handball in the second half before Nelson Oliveira’s vital intervention thanks to some typical Wes Hoolahan creativity – two substitutes every club in the Championship would like to have.
This group, under Farke’s control, look capable of causing damage. Hoolahan, Pinto and Josh Murphy will soon be fully fit again, Steven Naismith will return from suspension next weekend, new midfield signing Tom Trybull is just getting up to speed and Timm Klose and Alex Pritchard are also still to return.
Add those players to the mix and teams not as impressive as Fulham will find this City side difficult to deal with – completing an impressive 86pc of their passes and edging possession (52pc) away from home in Farke’s first game.
Indeed, City’s boss is still yet to taste defeat in England, after an unbeaten pre-season campaign. Just another reason for the German, and his new fans, to feel optimistic about what is possible this season.