Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 1-1 Championship draw against Fulham
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Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his snap verdict from Craven Cottage
1. Fighting spirit - Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber have both made it clear togetherness is a key strand of their new philosophy. City have a younger squad with fewer options to select, compounded by a current injury list that is testing the German’s resources to the limit. Norwich were pummelled for long spells at Craven Cottage by a slick home side. But they refused to buckle and hit back with Nelson Oliveira smashing home Wes Hoolahan’s exquisite pass. Oliveira’s celebration was perhaps a reminder to his boss this is a man who is not keen on warming the subs’ bench, but this was not a one-man salvage operation. Daniel Farke’s troops will find out much more about themselves and each other in the white hot heat of battle than in any number of pre-season friendlies or training drills. This is money in the bank.
2. Context is everything - Fulham looked like a team that has been developing over the past 12 months. Last season’s play-off contenders have kept their key men and added one or two signings to a group who all know their jobs and the demands placed on them by Slavisa Jokanovic. City were hanging on at times but given the huge turnover in players and staff, plus the injuries, this was a reminder how far they have to go to compete at the top end. Where you would expect the Whites to be.
3. Defensive concerns persist - Farke’s tactical switch midway through the first half was a tacit acceptance City’s back three had been woefully under-protected by the men in front of them. The regularity with which Fulham raided down the sides of the Norwich backline, capped by the soft nature of Fulham’s goal, brought back painful memories of similarly weak defensive displays on the road last season. This is a new start. This is a major change but the questions will linger about the Canaries’ capacity to resist.
4. Midfield mix - Part of the issue perhaps at Craven Cottage stemmed from a midfield brimming with creative intent. James Maddison instead of Alex Tettey was a bold selection call from Farke. Given he had included both Harrison Reed and Vrancic. The space afforded Fulham’s midfield in the most frenetic spells to roam forward was troubling. Norwich’s commitment to possession football and a clear identity is commendable but it will take more of these type of tests for Farke to hone his brand.
5. The phoney war is over - Unbeaten in pre-season is one thing. Back pedalling in the face of a Fulham storm in a breathless opening 20 minutes at Craven Cottage is quite something else. Mario Vrancic was visibly blowing as the white tide poured forward. He was not the only one in yellow. Farke was pains to stress he would not go ‘too deep’ with results in meaningless affairs designed to build fitness and understanding between a new look squad. Nor would he seek to hide behind an injury list that deprived him of Alex Pritchard and effectively Hoolahan and Ivo Pinto for the Championship opener. Nevertheless the tempo and the energy and the urgency were a complete transformation from the close season tussles. Yes, it will take time for things to gel. But City must get up to speed. Quickly.