Norwich's cause already looking hopeless after sixth consecutive defeat at start of season

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Abdoulaye Doucoure scored Everton's second goal - Getty Images
Abdoulaye Doucoure scored Everton's second goal - Getty Images

Norwich cannot defend, offer little threat up front, and lack pace and physicality in midfield. They are pretty hopeless at set-pieces in both penalty boxes, too.

If they can sort those issues out they might have a chance of Premier League survival. But after a sixth consecutive defeat at the start of this season their cause is already looking forlorn.

The Norwich coach, Daniel Farke, was in an experimental mood as his side suffered its latest setback, a 2-0 defeat against a depleted Everton team.

He tried to strengthen his defence with three centre-halves. You can admire the change of tack, but it did not make much sense on this particular day.

Rafael Benitez was bereft of his senior strikers, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. The one forward he could use, Salomon Rondon, is so short of match fitness he visibly catches breath after each sprint.

Deploying three centre-halves to deal with him for 69 minutes was bizarre. It was the runners from deep, Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend, who carried the threat.

Even accounting for Benitez’s encouraging start - he is the first Everton manager in 32 years to win the first three home league games of the season - if ever there was a time for a struggling club to come to Goodison, this seemed to be it.

True, Farke had cause to consider Everton’s opening goal contentious, former Liverpool loanee Ozan Kabak judged to have tripped Allan following video assistant referee consultation. To say the Brazilian fell in instalments is an understatement. He was challenged in the 26th minute and fell over in the 27th. Townsend converted the spot kick in the 28th.

“It was the wrong decision to overturn it,” said Farke. “I am disappointed the Var asked the referee to re-watch it. If you have the pressure of the whole stadium to give a penalty it is not easy. In a home game for us it is not given.”

A dejected Teemu Pukki of Norwich City reacts at full time - Getty Images
A dejected Teemu Pukki of Norwich City reacts at full time - Getty Images

That was a decisive moment, the German coach suggesting the gameplan to be ‘rock solid’ in the opening spell was working before the spot kick.

Everton had carried most of the threat prior to it without testing Tim Krul, although Gray shone again. There is still a little disquiet among some Evertonians that James Rodriguez was so willingly released, even though he was being paid a £250k a week contract to watch 50 percent of games last season.

They should have imagined their reaction if Rodriguez was still here and showing the fleet-footedness of Gray, who is such a delight in possession it is incomprehensible his fee was the equivalent of six weeks of the Colombian’s wages.

Gray has the capacity to get the crowd on its feet as Rodriguez would have. He was given a standing ovation when subbed late on, the runaway man-of-the-match.

Norwich’s Mathias Normann will testify to Gray’s powers of enchantment having been embarrassed by his trickery during one particularly memorable move which led to a whipped cross into the six-yard box.

Give it a month and Rondon - whose honesty despite his lack of match fitness deserves admiration more than criticism - will be on the end of such a delivery.

Normann forced Jordan Pickford into two saves from distance, but Norwich failing to take advantage of their set-pieces was symptomatic of an insipid attacking performance.

There was a hint of desperation when Farke ditched a centre-back and threw on a couple of attackers on 69 minutes in search of an equaliser.

All that did was make an Everton second more likely on the counter-attack. Abdoulaye Doucoure duly obliged after being freed in the penalty area by more excellence from Gray on 77 minutes.

That’s four wins in six for Benitez. “It means we are doing something right,” he said. “The best thing for a manager is the reaction of the players; not just winning, but giving everything. We are seeing players from different positions scoring.”

Benitez has not got anything like the team he envisages yet, but he tends to thrive on those tricky days when problems demand solutions.

Already in a desperate situation, Farke must show he can do likewise. “Hard work is the answer,” he said. “We are self-critical, yes. This fixture was not easy but we showed we are not far away. It feels like it is coming.”

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