On the final stretch on this extravaganza of analysis, we arrive at the final third of the pitch. The players, who score goals, who become heroes and who fundamentally have the ability to win matches seemingly single-handedly.
With the departure of Jacob Murphy, Norwich will need to call upon other cannons in their arsenal to influence and win games for Norwich City.
The inverted winger
Touching once more upon the brilliant tactical analysis provided by Andy Head, the introduction of the inverted wingers will be a fascinating tactical concept. The inverting of the wingers allows a more fluid attacking style, with the wingers being centralised and allowed to roam. This means they have the licence to attack the space positivity and receive the ball in optimistic positions and hurt opponents.
The inverted winger has graced the turf of Carrow Road previously, with Chris Hughton deploying Robert Snodgrass on the right side of midfield despite being predominately and notoriously left footed. Evidently this tactic didn’t fit the system adopted under a more continental and expressive Daniel Farke.
In pre-season, we’ve seen Farke set up City in 3-4-3, 4-1-4-1 and 3-5-2 positions. Despite these frequent changes and tactical boards being erected between halves (or quarters), the inverted winger has been a prominent cog in Farke’s Canary clockwork.
In asking a player to fulfil this role, manager/coach is able to shoehorn players that are typically considered to be number 10s into the team without disrupting the formation. In terms of the defensive work, nothing changes dramatically whether you opt for a conventional winger or an inverted one, the shape is made compact and the press maintained.
Look at City’s assortment of attacking midfielders and what has become apparent is how this system could work. With the Wes Hoolahan’s, Steven Naismith’s and Josh Murphy’s present in a squad list inundated with number 10s, this role allows Norwich to embed a greater number of attacking talent, particularly in the 3-4-3 system.
What you’ll find is that these wingers will operate on the opposite wing to what you’d expect. So while Hoolahan is left-footed, he will most probably play on the right side. This allows him to take the ball central and play off the centralised striker in hope of creating more chances and to enhance combination play in the final third.
This tactic will undoubtedly enhance the technical qualities of the players at the club, but what about the team?
Evidently this introduction has the potential to make Norwich a very narrow outfit, thus the width of the full/wing backs is imperative to the success of Norwich when in control of the ball. It’s stopped them being one dimensional and predictable and leaves the player in control of the ball with multiple options.
Also, because of the technical players wanting to penetrate the opponent and be dangerous in key areas of the pitch, the congestion of the central phase of the pitch is almost inevitable. This is where Farke’s micro management and attention to detail will be evident; are Norwich’s players match intelligent? Can they use this intelligence to offer alternate angles or support the striker in a way that doesn’t congest the pitch?
That’s the aim of the inverted winger. To use game intelligence and the penetration of space in order to hurt the opposition. In order to participate in combination play with the central striker, the trio will need to play close in order to complete rapid and slick passing to pull defenders out of position.
The false nine
Gone are the days of your conventional Alan Shearer mould of striker who gets five or six chances in a game until he eventually converts. Now the role of the striker is more physically and mentally taxing. Despite conversion being the primary target of the striker, it isn’t the only target.
In 2011, Pep Guardiola resuscitated the role by implementing it to enhance Lionel Messi’s threat. Messi was fielded in what has become known as a “false-nine role”—far removed from the usual poacher’s role the likes of Michael Owen epitomised, but night and day when compared to the traditional, Duncan Ferguson-style battering ram of a centre-forward.
Firstly, what the role allows the occupant to do is evade all marking systems and remain potent and a constant goal threat. The role of the false nine moves away from having a conventional striker who occupies a single centre back when the ball is in possession of his team’s initial phase. This shows the seismic systematic shift in how strikers have been deployed.
In the ‘90s, for example, Alex Ferguson played a 4-4-2 formation with Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke and asked a simple question of the defenders… ‘Are you better than my strikers 1v1?’
Evidently the answer was no, but now strikers are more intricate and game intelligent and this was reinvented by Guardiola. The false nine is about the furthest forward central player – not a striker.
This role encourages the striker to drop off the centre -backs and occupy an altogether different attacking position. This encourages him to turn and combine with the inverted wingers of creative midfielders. It demands midfield runs from deep to allow the striker time on the ball.
If done well, it can be such a progressive and positive role in a possession based tactic.
If the centre-backs do step forward to mark the false nine, the wingers can penetrate in behind and with the pace possessed by Watkins and Murphy to name but two; this will leave Norwich licking their chops, especially with the technicians who patrol the game and deliver the killer ball.
Playing as the false nine is the toughest role to play in football. Period.
This role needs the full skill set: dribbling, passing, speed, centre of gravity, finishing (close and long-range), awareness and quickness.
The things you don’t need are aerial prowess and incredible core strength, which, if I’m being critical of Nelson Oliveira, are not his strengths anyway, and will only increase the success of the implementation of this role.
To summarise, what you will see is a more fluid and creative attacking force with not only plan B, but also C, D and E. It’s critical, with the rough and tumble of the division, that Cameron Jerome is understudy to enforce a more physical style.
The work in progress sign is still firmly attached to the core of Farke’s Norwich City. But it’s going to be fun.