All change as Norwich City enjoy their day out at Craven Cottage – for a change
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The fact that an overzealous goal celebration has formed a large part of what is usually a depressing post-mortem from Craven Cottage is a rather apt continuation of what has been a summer of transformation at Norwich City.
The reward may be the same, but the collective feeling after salvaging a much-deserved point at that west London bogey ground on Saturday is a far cry from the reaction after the 2-2 draw there last October.
Back then, an all-too familiar defensive lapse of concentration meant City squandered a two-goal lead and with it the Championship top spot. The contrast in the expectation levels nine months ago, though, was stark. A Premier League squad minus Nathan Redmond, and Alex Neil’s remit was promotion or failure.
Fast-forward to now and few of us know what we should expect from Daniel Farke and his much-changed charges. Pre-season friendlies can only indicate so much, and the transition that has followed last season’s disappointment has been so drastic that setting an end-of-season target seems a ridiculous exercise at this point.
All the travelling hordes from Norfolk could do on Saturday was hope for positivity at a ground that has so often been the setting for distinct misery. What they got was a creditable draw and battling point that even the most optimistic Norwich fan would have gleefully accepted prior to kick-off.
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Farke’s preferred formation of playing three centre-backs with James Husband and Yanic Wildschut deployed as wing-backs brings with it concerns over being exposed out wide, but it’s a system that will take longer to adjust to than a few pre-season friendlies allow. Wildschut’s attacking play created several opportunities that deserved better, an encouraging sign that he can overcome such a faltering start to his City career.
In a new look midfield, it was ironic that it proved to be an old faithful who was involved in the equaliser. Wes Hoolahan’s inch-perfect pass served as a reminder, as if Farke needed it, that the 35-year-old still has a crucial part to play this campaign.
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It’s a shame that Oliveira’s ill-judged actions in the aftermath of such a neat take and composed finish have threatened to overshadow the quality of the goal itself. Having to take his place on the bench as Farke favoured Cameron Jerome clearly angered him, as well as a fair percentage of Norwich supporters who questioned the same decision.
Wielding your shirt wildly and pointing to your own name on the back of it while sprinting towards the manager may not be the smartest move on the Portuguese’s part, but after a season when the desire and passion of many individuals brandishing the same jersey was called into question, it’s a welcome sight to see a player care that much.
Even more refreshing was Farke’s reaction and his post-match comments regarding Oliveira’s behaviour. To call it a good thing and compare it with the emotions he felt as a player when left out of the starting XI turned what could have been a much bigger story into an interesting side note.
Whether or not the German agrees privately is a different matter, but publicly it was important for him to come out in support of a player who had just earned his team a point. It wasn’t too long ago that poor man-management and public criticism of players helped contribute to the demise of Farke’s predecessor, after all.
Of course there is a lot of room for improvement but with time to bring in more additions – a centre-back being top priority you’d assume – plus injured players to come back into the fray, it’s a start we can all be pretty pleased with.