Back to earth for Norwich City - now it’s over to you, Mr Webber

Floyd Ayite celebrates scoring Fulham's decisive third goal against the Canaries at Carrow Road on G

Floyd Ayite celebrates scoring Fulham's decisive third goal against the Canaries at Carrow Road on Good Friday. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

If there were ever two performances to compare and contrast the very best and worst of Norwich City, then the last two have been prime examples.

It was a harsh bump back to reality after a free-scoring romp against a Reading side that crumbled under the slightest hint of pressure.

On Friday afternoon Fulham were too astute tactically and too good on the ball and off it to succumb to City's drastically reduced attacking threat.

Those cracks that were temporarily papered over seven days previously were ripped open by Slavisa Jovanovic's side, but as has so often been the tale for this set of City players they were masters of their own downfall.

If the 7-1 win showcased the very best of the talent City possess when it all clicks going forward then the 3-1 defeat showed how fragile Norwich's defensive unit continues to be. This may have been a meaningless defeat in terms of the context of this season, but it was a telling yardstick that measured just how far Norwich are off being genuine play-off contenders.

Fulham's time-wasting tactics may have been unbelievably frustrating but perhaps City could learn a few tips. While it's up to match officials to stamp that out, perhaps results like that 4-3 defeat at St James' Park back in September would have been a different story if Norwich had just a touch of that same nous to see games out.

It was apt that Stuart Webber's portrait adorned the match day programme in a week where he began to wield the axe in the corridors of Colney.

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The roles of Ricky Martin, Lee Darnborough and Tony Spearing may have been obvious casualties in Webber's expected shake-up, but the fact that they have departed so quickly is a positive sign that the ex-Huddersfield man is wasting no time. In the case of Martin in particular, who had served the club since 2001, it's an encouraging hint that there will be no room for sentiment in the months to come.

That same approach must be taken towards a squad of players which has become littered with individuals whose worth to the club has become increasingly questionable. City's central defenders, no matter what the partnership, have made frequent mistakes for the best part of two seasons.

It will be interesting to see who, if any, of Saturday's back four will start the next campaign in yellow and green.

Undoubtedly the best football we've been treated to in the last decade came under Paul Lambert's stewardship.

His teams were never known for their ability to defend, but what they rarely failed to do was create a host of chances, going forward with pace and attempting to beat teams on the counter-attack. Friday's display, against a far better organised defence than Reading's, was hampered by build-up play that was often far too slow to threaten.

In that sense this Norwich side is one that has lost its identity. Performances like the one against Reading suggest City are a swashbuckling attacking outfit; defeats like Friday's prove they aren't good enough to rely on conceding while outscoring the opposition.

Webber's intriguing programme interview reveals just how brutal he plans to be this summer in making sure the club has a clear direction and restores that lost identity.

'When it comes to it, you're as good as your players,' he says. A simple statement preceded by the fact that he puts Huddersfield's success down to the purchase of 15 new players this season.

Of course, what Lambert also did was get the very best out of a group of players who, on paper, were punching well above their weight.

If the next head coach can similarly inspire a rejuvenated squad that includes new recruits hand picked for success then there could well be exciting times ahead.

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