Is Chris Hughton ready to modify his tactics and philosophy in search of vital Premier League survival points?Tue 19 Feb 13 by James Kent
I think we can all agree that Chris Hughton has stuck behind a certain strategy this season in the search of Premier League points. This was certain a strategy that had few complaints when the club were beating the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.
However, when results turn people start looking at what the manager is doing. I think the 4-2-3-1 system has served the club very well this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Hughton should stick religiously behind it.
There is certainly a time and place to keep faith in something and another time when minor or even major changes might be required. I certainly don’t think that the system is to blame for the recent downturn in results. In fact, the draws in the last three games have certainly shown an improvement.
But there is a worrying trend towards a lack of goals scored. Of course, this is largely due to the fairly cautious and defensive tactics that the Norwich City boss typically deploys. It’s been suggested that by some that the system is defensive at his core.
This is certainly not something that I concur with. In fact, it offers balance all over the pitch. The use of an extra defensive midfielder allows an attacking midfielder to be slotted in to the system in the shape of Wes Hoolahan.
It should also be noted that the 4-2-3-1 system is now the formation of choice across world football, and that’s for its attacking qualities as much as any defensive stability. Having said all that, there is a time and place to modify things. And having gone through a lengthy period without a league win it might be time to make such a change.
There is certainly a selection of the supporters base that would like to see a second striker used alongside Grant Holt. In the first half of the season that wasn’t really an option, because Steve Morison and Simeon Jackson lack the quality to play on a regular basis.
However, Hughton’s attacking options have changed somewhat now that Luciano Becchio and Kei Kamara have been added to the group during the January transfer window. I think it’s fair to say that both additions offer something different to what was previously at the club.
We know that Hughton had originally planned to partner Becchio with Holt against Fulham only for Holt’s back spasms to alter that view. However, it’s always hard to read the Norwich boss’ intentions, and I certainly don’t think he is ready to abandon his defensive stance as some fans are demanding.
The news that Bradley Johnson extended his contract last week to 2016 was certainly welcomed, but does show how vital he sees the midfielder to his plans. This is something that, perhaps, pours hot water on the idea that he would be prepared to sacrifice one of his defensive midfielders.
I am of the opinion that Johnson really needs Alex Tettey alongside him to maximise his potential. Therefore, I wouldn’t have thought Hughton has it in mind to drop Tettey either. Nevertheless, after watching the game against Fulham it was obvious that Becchio struggled to play on his own. And I don’t expect that he was acquired from Leeds United purely for a bench warming operation.
Kamara is still a bit of an unknown quantity, but he certainly has that sort of skills and abilities that can open up the opposition. Nevertheless, those qualities are likely to be used mainly from the bench to try to change the game. The statistics this season show that Norwich have scored the majority of their goals from set piece situations. However, the goal supply from this route has dried up lately, and that is a concern.
Nevertheless, performances over the last three games have generally been decent enough, but the fact that only one goal has been scored is a concern. This is especially true when the cup game against Luton Town is also taken into account, when the Canaries also failed to score. In fact, a really scary statistic is the fact that Norwich have only scored one goal in their last six games in all competitions.
All of this means that Hughton might need to find a way to get his team to score more goals. Adding a second striker into the mix seems the obvious solution. However, the problem is 4-4-2 has become a predictable formation. And if you add another striker then you, probably, have to lose Hoolahan.
Therefore, there is plenty for the Norwich boss to consider ahead of the next Premier League game against Everton. We all know that the all-important thing this season is to stay in the top-flight for another season. It doesn’t really matter how this is achieved as long as it is.
However, a significant selection of the supporters base are getting more than a little frustrated with this passive play. And with the gap between the relegation zone showing signs of getting wafer thin, fans will want to see their team play with a bit more flair to secure a priceless win.
Hughton has two of his next three games at home, offering an opportunity to be a bit more offensive. I have always thought that the onus is on the home side to provide most of the attacking play. There is something that feels wrong about a home side sitting back against their more illustrious opponents.
I think fans will forgive a cautious approach when Norwich travel to Manchester United in March. But the upcoming home games against Everton and Southampton offer a realistic chance of Premier League points. Therefore, four points should be targeted as a bare minimum from these two games.
Having said all that, fans will have to maintain an element of realism to what they can expect from Hughton over the coming games. He will not transform into an ultra-attacking manager overnight. Football managers tend to have their own specific tactical ideas and tend to stick pretty close to that.
It’s clear to see that Hughton values a solid defence as the most important thing, and although he might be prepared to add a second striker in the mix, he will not become a gung-ho manager. However, he will be worried about the lack of goals. Therefore, he may be prepared to be a bit more adventurous given the defence has held up well over the last three league games.
There is also the school of thought that he could operate a more offensive strategy in home games rather than away. This is largely because he will target those games to secure the last few wins required to ensure Premier League survival.
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