Here's the key learnings from Norwich City's draw with Fulham
It’s been a long summer, but finally the action on the football pitch is back with us. Norwich City faced a tough start to the season as Fulham are one of the better sides in the league. In addition to that, the Canaries do not usually fare well when they play the West London club.
Therefore, coming away from London with a 1-1 draw was a certainly a case of light relief. Everyone wants to win, but sometimes just not losing is the perfect way to start the new season. It’s expected that slow progress will be the order of the day under Daniel Farke, but the signs on the opening day were certainly encouraging.
So, let’s now get stuck into my observations…
1. Daniel Farke has imposed his way from the very first game
Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber has been keen to point out that fans will see a clear style behind Norwich’s play this season. It’s early days, but that has already been shown in the pre-season games and the trend continued against Fulham.
The style of attacking football that is based on possession is certainly well in evidence. Please note the stats I will be expanding on are at the time of writing, so things may change when you are reading this. Currently, Norwich are the fourth highest in the Championship for shots with the 19 they managed on the opening day.
However, the possession stats make even more interesting reading. The Canaries may only be ninth in the table for possession average, but that’s only part of the story. In terms of short passes, the 480 that they managed is currently the second highest in the league – and the passing accuracy of 86.7% is the best record in the Championship.
Daniel Farke also impressed with his ability to read the game, which involved altering his system throughout the match – and making subs that made an impact. The late equaliser from Nelson Oliveira is also an early result from all the fitness work that the German coach has implemented. Norwich fans may see the comparison with Paul Lambert here – and that is surely a good omen.
2. Russell Martin is still the weak link in the defence
One of the major concerns I have had about this season is Russell Martin. The fact that he remains the captain and will continue to enjoy regular stats concerns me. The hope is that in a three-man defence he will not be so exposed – but that didn’t prove to be the case in this match.
It really was a day for Martin to forget as he scored an own goal and received a 5.9 Who Scored rating for his performance. This is a new era though and there are going to be things to work out as we go along. The big hope is that Farke will be able to get a consistent performance out of Martin – but the player would have certainly been hoping for a better start from a personal view.
3. Christoph Zimmermann is quite a find
It’s not all bad news as far as the Norwich City defence is concerned and new signing Christoph Zimmermann is proof of that. The German defender was signed as someone that may struggle to make the step-up to Championship level. However, his performance against Fulham has proved that he is more than up for the task.
The early signs are certainly encouraging as Zimmermann put in an impressive performance in the Championship with an average rating of 7.26 – along with two tackles, four interceptions and nine clearances. The player also has great physicality to him – and on this evidence, could be one of the best defenders in the Championship this season.
4. Wes Hoolahan still has a vital part to play
As we saw from the very first game of the season, Wes Hoolahan may have to accept that starts are not going to be a regular thing for him. However, I highlighted his ability as one of the best players over 30 in a recent article – and his class is certainly permanent.
In fact, there is some logic to holding Hoolahan back to make an impact from the bench. Without getting too personal about the situation, at 35, Norwich must use their Irish wizard carefully. Wes came off the bench to set-up the equalising goal and that kind of role could be perfect for him if he is happy with it.
5. There is a role for both strikers to play
Cameron Jerome started the game and worked like we know he does – and that allowed Nelson Oliveira to come off the bench to score later on as those Fulham defenders were tired. I’m not going to talk about Nelson’s celebration afterwards – but let’s make sure that we respect both of our striking options – as they both have a part to play.
Jerome is an experienced Championship striker and has shown his ability to get goals at this level – and we know he has great work rate. A caller into Canary Call referred to him as a donkey, but I think most of us know that isn’t the case. Oliveira will be hoping to stay fit this season and be the club’s top scorer – but I don’t think we should be too quick to dismiss Jerome. The bottom line here is they both have a part to play.
6. Marley Watkins must prove he can replace Jacob Murphy
As I wrote in a recent article, Jacob Murphy was a player that could easily have been playing Championship football this season. The player had a superb debut season with Norwich City at this level last season, but the Canaries have to move on and find a player that can replace his goals and assists.
It’s hoped that Marley Watkins will be that man – and his stats from last season with Barnsley showed encouragement. At the moment, it’s not known what position he will play – but it appears the number 10 role is open while Alex Pritchard is injured. Watkins’ performance against Fulham was strong – but he should have done better with some of the chances he had.
In the game, he had three shots and will have been disappointed that he wasn’t able to find the back of the net. The essential point here is if you play in that position – then it’s paramount that you can produce in goals and assists. Therefore, there is still work for him to do to truly replace Jacob Murphy.
This completes the end of the content section for this article as we reviewed some key points from Norwich’s draw at Fulham. So, did we get it right? If there are other points that we should have made, then please let us know.
If you enjoy Championship content like this, then keep an eye on my profile page for all the latest updates. Shortly, I will be looking at some teams that may have relegation issues and players that must prove that they are good enough.