Robin Sainty: Norwich City have building blocks in place - but they must add a cutting edge
PUBLISHED: 12:59 01 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:59 01 April 2018
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After the stunning success of the Canary Bond issue to fund the redevelopment of Colney that he recommended, it’s a good time to look at another aspect of Stuart Webber’s impact on the club.
Since arriving, as well as working on the necessary changes required to safeguard the Academy’s current status, he has also overseen a steady influx of promising youngsters to supplement those already coming through the club’s system.
Tristan Abrahams, Savvas Mourgos and Pierre Fonkeu have already made an impact for the Under 23s, while Adam Phillips had appeared destined for a bright future at Liverpool before a serious injury threatened his career and resulted in his release.
Simon Power is highly rated in his native Ireland and Adam Idah has already started to attract attention in the Under 18s and for the Republic of Ireland Under 17 team.
The club have also just announced that striker Mason Bloomfield will join in the summer from Dagenham & Redbridge, so there has clearly been a major upgrade to the scouting network, with a clear objective of spotting and signing young players with potential.
Of course, that hasn’t gone down well with everyone, with one supporter taking to Twitter to say that “Norwich should be embarrassed to be signing non-league players”, although perhaps Leicester and Crystal Palace fans had a similar reaction when their clubs plucked Jamie Vardy and Ian Wright from non-league Fleetwood and Greenwich respectively.
Of course, there is no guarantee that any of these youngsters will become first team stars, but compared to spending millions on a Ricky van Wolfswinkel or a Steven Naismith, this is a low cost, low risk strategy which could have huge benefits, and something that the club’s scouting system appeared incapable of doing before Webber’s overhaul.
However, while that strategy may pay dividends in the future, in the here and now City’s lack of cutting edge was on display once again as they lost to a Fulham side which for all their early possession created very little until the sort of opportunism that appears to be anathema to City’s strikers gave them a lead that they barely deserved, having endured a period in which the home side looked much more likely to break the deadlock.
The second goal, the result of a horrible defensive error, stemmed directly from the first as City struggled to clear their heads, and effectively killed the game as thereafter Fulham were happy to commit niggly fouls and manufacture confrontations in order to break up the game and run the clock down. I have no complaints about that sort of game management because it’s exactly what I would expect City to do in the same situation.
The game taught us very little that we don’t already know. City are well organised defensively and can put flowing moves together which tend to founder through bad decision-making or a poor final ball.
The lack of someone to feed off scraps in the box has been a problem all season and can’t be addressed until the summer, but there are clear signs of what could be achievable if the sound defence that has already been built can be matched by a cutting edge at the other end. This is a much better squad than it was in August.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as evidenced by Friday’s visitors. Slaviša Jokanovicć arrived in December 2015 and battled relegation in his first season but was given time and produced a top-six finish last year.
Of course, Fulham have a rich owner, but surely that makes the fact that Farke’s side matched them for much of the game a positive sign, rather than their ultimate defeat a negative one?
Frankly I don’t care about results now that the season is dead; it’s all about performances, and against the Championship’s form team I think that City’s was more than decent on Friday.