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Melissa Rudd: New manager but same old story for Norwich City away from home

PUBLISHED: 20:01 20 August 2017 | UPDATED: 20:01 20 August 2017

It was the same old story for Russell Martin and Co. away from home at Villa Park. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

It was the same old story for Russell Martin and Co. away from home at Villa Park. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Whereas Wednesday night’s win against QPR felt like it could have been the start of the Daniel Farke revolution, Saturday’s performance at Villa Park was instead achingly similar to any number of away defeats suffered last season.

Norwich’s form outside of Carrow Road makes for dismal reading. In the last 19 Championship matches on the road they have lost 11 times and conceded 40 goals in the process.

The rot set in long before the new manager arrived in Norfolk, but he has to start adding to just two wins in that sequence if City are to even mount a challenge for a play-off spot this campaign.

While much was made about Farke’s team selection before and during the game, it was only afterwards that we learned of Nelson Oliveira’s pre-match pool workout to help ease a niggle that allowed him to take up a place on the bench. Being forced to change a back four that had kept a clean sheet three days’ previous was hardly ideal either, and Ivo Pinto’s absence was felt massively too.

As has become the norm after a poor defensive showing, Russell Martin was singled out for his display. While there is no doubt the captain endured a miserable game, Christoph Zimmermann and Marcel Franke hardly covered themselves in glory as Villa scored more than two goals in a league match for the first time in 31 fixtures.

The problem is that for all of Martin’s qualities off the pitch, which Farke was keen to point out after he needed injections to be fit to play at Craven Cottage, his shortcomings on it have become increasingly apparent over the past two seasons.

While his commitment to the club cannot be questioned, in a results business it’s not enough to shield him from criticism over woeful performances. Personnel has changed around him, but Martin has been the mainstay of a back line which has been consistent at only one thing - shipping goals. Coming back into a side who shut out QPR midweek hardly helped his cause this time.

More concerning was the fact that Farke simply had no option but to field Martin at right back with no one else available, realisation that the squad is still terribly short in some areas.

It’s far too soon to write off the new signings around the stalwart defender, but James Husband has struggled more than any other. Time and again City have been exposed on the left hand side while he has offered little going forward. The lack of support he received from City’s disjointed midfield made a long afternoon more difficult, but the 23-year-old has already played four times as many games as he did last season and it’s showing.

In attack, Oliveira made an instant difference when he was brought on at 3-1 down. Within five minutes he’d attempted an audacious chip from distance that landed on the roof of the net and then brought City back into the game after finishing Josh Murphy’s pinpoint pass. That was his 14th goal in 23 Championship appearances having started only 16 of those games, a record that proves his prowess in front of goal.

Villa’s urgency and pace in attack was a far cry to anything Norwich could offer in the first half especially, until Murphy could work some magic and run at the hosts’ defence. His performance, making and scoring a goal, was a shining light on what was otherwise a forgettable afternoon.

Farke showed in midweek that he is not afraid of making changes after a defeat, but does he know Norwich City’s best XI? Four matches in and he is yet to name the same team. With an EFL Cup game against Charlton on Tuesday it’s likely the German will rotate again to save energy for Saturday’s trip to Millwall, another team desperate for their first league win at City’s expense.

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