Paddy Davitt: Daniel Farke needs an alchemist’s touch if Norwich City is to rise again
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Some games defy logic. Some games have a depressing inevitability to the outcome.
Most inside Carrow Road on Good Friday would have feared the worst in the manner Fulham popped the ball around from kick-off.
The speed of thought, the quickness of tempo, the crispness of the passing.
Always with a purpose, always progressive were hallmarks of an accomplished set of players under the light touch of Slavisa Jokanovic, who extended their unbeaten Championship promotion surge to 17 games.
Daniel Farke felt the hosts deserved better. But in the key facets of this Bank Holiday tussle they were second best.
It was a meeting of two rivals who share the same footballing philosophy but who are on different trajectories this season.
Fulham are all end product. Norwich remain potential.
Farke sought to distil the essential elements of this game afterwards, and insisted in many areas City were even superior.
That felt a stretch, watching the way Fulham moved through the gears to punish two slack pieces of defensive work, when the black shirts flooded forward twice in four second half minutes without anyone in Norwich’s midfield sensing the danger quickly enough.
It may be unfair to suggest the visitors toyed with their prey at times but there was no coming back once Stefan Johansen pounced after Angus Gunn parried Aleksandar Mitrovic’s far post header.
Tom Cairney’s follow up, when Timm Klose could only divert Ryan Fredericks’ low cross into his path, embellished the final margin of victory.
It was as if Jokanovic’s promotion hopefuls had spent the first hour sizing up the threat in their midst before administering the medicine. It was clinical and ruthless, where Norwich flattered to deceive in the final third.
Farke may have argued the case for parity in many facets of a game with some high class technicians on either side, but there was a veritable gulf in the intent and the finishing prowess.
That is the challenge for the rest of Norwich’s season and into the summer transfer trading.
Facing such a well-drilled, disciplined opponent like Fulham brings things into sharper focus. Against lesser sides, such as Bolton or Burton or Nottingham Forest, City may have ground out another of those insipid draws.
But Fulham look a cut above the majority in the Championship.
There were parallels - not just the final scoreline - in the manner Wolves swooped in to claim three points earlier this season on Norfolk soil with a modicum of stress and maximum efficiency.
Norwich’s paltry tally of goals scored has been a cause for concern for many months.
But when you see the second half arrival of Fulham’s prodigiously gifted teenager, Ryan Sessegnon, who has notched 14 this term, it is not enough to make allowances for the youthful seam that Farke is trying to mould into the finished article.
City could be thankful Jokanovic opted to give the 17-year-old a breather, after his England U21 exploits, for the battles ahead, given only Christoph Zimmermann’s goal line clearance denied him one more to an impressive personal tally when Gunn betrayed a rare lack of composure in tangling with Jamal Lewis on the edge of his own penalty area.
That trait was painfully evident in any number of promising Norwich counters, especially during the first period, when City’s containment policy looked to have frustrated the visitors.
Mario Vrancic and Josh Murphy failed to deliver the telling pass at the right moment with Fulham’s backline exposed.
In Murphy’s defence there was also a cleanly-struck volley from just outside the area that had Bettinelli beaten but veered just wide.
The raw material exists in large enough quantities to retain an optimist outlook but it will take a degree of alchemy for Norwich to look as polished and well-honed as Fulham by this stage of next season. That presents a challenge and an opportunity.
Farke again hinted in his post-match media some of the answers lie in City’s ability to attract recruits during the close-season.
It is worth noting Jokanovic’s project has been almost two seasons in the making now, after a near miss in the play-offs 12 months ago.
For some Norwich supporters the rate of progress is too inconsistent or too slow, but the remaining games of this Championship campaign may afford Farke and his squad a chance to convince the doubters and to buy the time they need.
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