Melissa Rudd: Cameron Jerome’s plight demonstrates the lack of depth in City’s squad
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It speaks volumes for the unforgiving nature of the Championship that confidence can flip 180 degrees in less than a fortnight.
From flying high at Portman Road, to being on the verge of something special following a magnificent performance at Arsenal, only to be back to the brink of despair again after losing to one of the league’s poorest sides at the Macron Stadium.
Those defeats in between against Derby and Wolves put Norwich’s progress firmly into perspective, and Saturday’s loss compounded what has been a miserable week for City fans.
Perhaps then what’s required is a more measured reaction to recent displays. Daniel Farke’s side were given a masterclass by a slick Wolves outfit that look destined for promotion. They were a class above in every department, and their ascent to the top of the table suggests they will school several other teams this season in a similar fashion.
While that was one to write off, Saturday’s trip to Bolton was likely to prove a much better barometer of where Norwich currently are. The answer? Exhausted, out-of-form and desperate for this international break to both recharge and regroup.
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The fact that with Nelson Oliveira injured, Cameron Jerome is City’s only fit striker shows how woefully short the club are in that department, especially at a time when those on the pitch have only mustered four goals in the last five league games.
Jerome is a player who often bears the brunt of criticism, especially after missing gilt-edged chances like the one with just the goalkeeper to beat in the ninth minute on Saturday. There are plenty of fans though who point to his work rate and lack of service as to reasons why he has only found the net once in the league all season.
When you look at his contribution this campaign though, it’s easy to see why Jerome frustrates. So far from 24 attempts at goal he has averaged one shot on target every 133 minutes played. Astonishing when you consider City play with a lone striker. Is it any wonder the team have struggled for goals when the player highest up the pitch hasn’t been able to test the goalkeeper at least once per match and two-thirds of his attempts miss the target?
It would be completely unfair to lay City’s goalscoring problems at the door of one player who has scored some crucial goals during his time here, while others are guilty of missing chances too in the past month. It’s more of a sad indictment of the lack of strength in depth Norwich have in the squad that Farke has little option but to play Jerome given that Marley Watkins provided very little threat when given a rare chance to start against Wolves.
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With the release of the club’s finances last week and the £25 million drop in income since Premier League relegation, it’s abundantly clear that cost cutting measures will tighten even more significantly should Farke not be able to achieve promotion.
In the short-term, it seems funds will only be available to buy players in January if others are offloaded. With that in mind it could be a perfect time to give players who have come through the youth ranks an opportunity and bring them into the first-team fold even if it is only to provide back up. Carlton Morris, scoring goals for League One table-toppers Shrewsbury is an obvious example. If balancing the books is going to be an ongoing priority then surely utilising City’s own developed talent is a frugal solution.
At the other end of the pitch Norwich’s defensive weaknesses have returned with a vengeance in the last three games having shipped six goals. Consistently keeping clean sheets was never going to be achievable in the longer term, but the manner in which some of those have been conceded has been particularly disappointing (let’s leave zonal marking to another day).
This imposed fortnight’s rest though couldn’t have come at a better time. Hopefully the injury list will have reduced by the time Farke has to select his team to face Barnsley at Carrow Road, and consecutive home defeats will be far enough back in the memory not to affect the team’s confidence going into a crucial game against a side just three points below City in the table.