Six things we learned as Norwich City came back to Earth with a bump against Fulham
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After a chastening afternoon of seeing Fulham leave City for dust, DAVID FREEZER assesses where the Canaries go from here
1 – Webber has free rein to replace defence
Another game, another set of defensive disappointments to pick through.
Timm Klose got the ball rolling inside five minutes, losing possession to the impressive Floyd Ayite. City scrambled to try and react but a swift counter was finished by a piercing finish from Stefan Johansen that brought the home fans back down to earth with a bump – confirming the 7-1 win over Reading was a freak result.
Russell Martin got in on the act early in the second half when his loose pass saw Jonny Howson get booked in bringing down Ayite. From the resulting free-kick Ryan Bennett pulled down Tomas Kalas to concede a penalty and 10-man Fulham went 2-0 up.
Few City fans will object if Stuart Webber and the club’s new head coach replace the whole defence this summer.
Just Nottingham Forest and relegated Rotherham have now conceded more than City’s total of 73, from 42 games, an average of almost two per match.
2 – It’s not wise to mess with Dijks
One of the slightly brighter lights on a grey afternoon at Carrow Road was loan left-back Mitchell Dijks.
The towering Ajax defender again showed his strength and athleticism as he bounced Fulham players away from him and tried to get City on the front foot.
He saw his moment in the 10th minute when Wes Hoolahan failed to track Ryan Fredericks and cleaned the Fulham right-back out to the delight of the home fans – prompting more chants of “sign him up”.
The 24-year-old revealed last week that his agent is set to meet with Stuart Webber this week but Norwich are going to do well to keep hold of Dijks. With his height and aerial ability, he could be an asset to a Premier League club.
Made the most of Chris Martin’s elbow being wafted in his direction and was happy to exchange heated words with Fulham players after the red card was shown.
3 – Time is running out for Timm
Have we seen the last of Timm Klose in a Norwich City shirt? The extent of his injury could well dictate the answer to that question.
The former Wolfsburg centre-back looked in a fair bit of pain when he limped off just before half-time, landing awkwardly when going close to an equaliser, forcing a good save from Marcus Bettinelli with a strong header from a corner.
Klose looked to be holding his knee when getting treatment and would seem highly unlikely for the trip to Preston on Monday – leaving him facing potentially just three more games this season.
From being a player who was shaping up to be a talismanic figure after his £6.8m switch last January, the 28-year-old’s confidence levels are awfully low.
Still looks classy at times and a big embrace with Russell Martin before kick-off reminded fans of his enthusiastic personality, but he just isn’t stopping the goals going in.
4 – Patience is already wearing thin
Fans making the journey to Deepdale on Monday will presumably be the same people who have the patience to see out a Monopoly win at Christmas.
Sporting director Stuart Webber has asked for time as he starts reshaping the club but the problem is that patience is already running thin.
From the highs of the Paul Lambert years to two avoidable Premier League relegations and now a hugely disappointing Championship campaign which is really testing loyalties. Carrow Road was half empty within a couple of minutes of 10-man Fulham making it 3-1 despite over seven minutes of injury-time remaining.
The warmest reception a player received was Chris Martin after his red card, with sarcastic chants of ‘he’s one of our own’.
Russell Martin, Mitchell Dijks and Jacob Murphy all managed to put the ball straight out of play at one point and although it was far from the worst performance of the season, the sense of frustration was palpable.
5 – Jacob is running on empty
I’m a big fan of the Murphy twins and the threat they can offer but Jacob looks like his race is run. The 22-year-old winger scored the 10th goal of his breakthrough season against Barnsley in mid-March before the international break.
He then received a late call-up from England Under-21s coach Ady Boothroyd – who was watching from the directors’ box at Carrow Road on Friday – for friendlies in Germany and Denmark.
He started both but I thought he looked knackered from the start of the second game and hasn’t looked 100pc in his four club games since then.
Jacob has a big future ahead of him but has played in 41 matches already this season and may well be more effective from the bench in the final four games.
It may not be beneficial to the Canaries in the long run if he ends up going away to Poland for the European U21 Championships in the summer as well.
6 – Cottagers are on their way
After Cameron Jerome had halved the deficit in the 76th minute, I wondered if the lively away fans were about to regret their chants about Wembley after going 2-0 up.
‘The Whites are going up’ was one of the chants they were enjoying – but they could well be right.
Slavisa Jokanovic is doing a fine job and has created a team with an obvious way of playing and a set structure. It’s the ‘clear identity’ that Stuart Webber helped create at Huddersfield and is striving for again in Norfolk.
The former Chelsea midfielder would be a fine appointment as head coach for the Canaries if it was possible to poach him were the Cottagers to miss out on promotion – even more so because he was born in Novi Said in Serbia, a twin city of Norwich’s.
Yet if they keep playing with this determination and style Jokanovic’s team could enter the end-of-season lottery with the momentum which can prove so crucial.
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