Fulham have gotten through their rough patch playing better. Now is the time when they have to take those better performances and get some results. Anything less than 7 or 8 points in the next four league fixtures has to be seen as a disappointment.
CC: Norwich spent a lot of money bringing in forwards this year, but have not scored many goals at all. In hindsight what do you think of the deals that brought in Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper? Do you still expect big things from them, or would the team have been better off spending elsewhere and just keeping someone like Kei Kamara around?
Michael Bailey: I don’t think there’s any doubt Ricky and Gary represent a better class of striker than what City had at their disposal last season. Gary Hooper has started to prove that, while Ricky hasn’t really had the games to do so himself due to injury. I do think the next few weeks could be his chance to do just that, and the prospect of the two playing together is definitely an exciting one.
You can’t say they were too much money, because the fact is the new TV deal means every Premier League club has spent a fortune. That;s just the market. But I am convinced Norwich will have scored more goals come the end of the season than they managed last time.
CC: Speaking of spending elsewhere, Norwich's defense has been particularly leaky this year. What do you think is plaguing them and is it something that might be fixed in the January window?
MB: There has been a bit of pressure on Christ Hughton to make his side more expansive, and I honestly believe that hasn’t worked out well against the bigger teams where City just haven’t got it right – and ultimately got hammered. Form has also been an issue. Individual mistakes. The good news for Norwich is that the likes of Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner look like they are getting back to their best. All it needs it John Ruddy to hit his best levels and City will be back to their secure best. City could possibly do with an extra defensive body – something they tried to do in August. But I’m not sure they will make the plunge in January.
CC: Finally, what are your expectations for the rest of the season? Is just avoiding relegation enough, or do you feel like the team should achieve more.
MB: Well, avoiding relegation is essential – it’s as simple as that. It would also be a superb achievement given City would have never spent so long in the Premier League during one stint. They did very well to finish 11th last year, so in truth being safe from relegation as early as possible has to be the big aim – especially with City’s final five fixtures. If they can then keep the squad together, they should then look to push on next year. But the aims need to be realistic for this season.
Projected lineup, and score prediction
MB: I don’t expect any changes for City, which would mean a 4-4-2 –
Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Olsson
Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Redmond
I do expect Ricky to be involved at some point though. I’ve gone for a 3-1 Norwich win – but in many ways, I guess it depends on what sort of Fulham performance we get…