As City returned to competitive action against Luton Town, Norwich fans were expecting something new against Nathan Jones’ men, but did it come?
A first-round EFL Cup fixture without 17 first-team players, especially off the back of a humiliating end to life in the Premier League and a condensed pre-season, was never going to be the ideal first game back into competitive action for City.
However, this isn’t an article excusing the team for a below-par performance, even if it did include six debutants, four of whom were teenagers.
Instead, I want to focus on the tactical tweaks Daniel Farke has introduced during the closed season to gain a greater understanding of how the Canaries will approach this campaign.
The recruitment eludes to subtle adjustments. The introduction of experienced Championship target man Jordan Hugill and the hasty Polish winger, Przemyslaw Placheta, suggest City will introduce fresh patterns of play into their game.
The art of crossing has been highlighted as a potential area Norwich could not only improve in but utilise more effectively, especially with the introduction of the aforementioned Hugill and Placheta.
Norwich attempted 20 crosses against Luton, an increase on the 13.1 they averaged last season, suggesting this is an area Farke has demanded more productivity from to utilise the more physical forward line he now has at his disposal.
While Norwich’s 12 shots against Luton were not a massive increase on the 11.3 they averaged per game last campaign, there was a notable increase in the amount that were on target, rising from 50%, compared to the 30.2% they averaged in 2019/20.
While Lukas Rupp and Alex Tettey appeared more willing to fire efforts at Luton keeper James Shea, and Bali Mumba coming close with an effort early on, it was Norwich’s only goal of the game that got me intrigued me.
Kieran Dowell’s instinctive weaker-foot finish drew City level on the 81st minute and it immediately struck me as a goal that would have looked severely out of place last season.
While we all admire the intricate passing football where Norwich, to use an exhausted footballing cliché, ‘walk the ball in’, they can add a sense of unpredictability with an increase in the number of shots they attempt from outside of the box.
Another noticeable difference was the positioning of the midfield in build-up play. I’ve long believed a shift to a 4-1-4-1 would allow Norwich to create the passing triangles with far more ease, without the rotation in midfield which results in them being out of shape in transition, consequently exposing themselves to opposition counter attacks.
However, Farke stuck to his guns and deployed his usual 4-2-3-1 with the left-sided midfielder (in this case, Josh Martin) adding natural width to a congested midfield and the right-sided midfielder (Dowell) tucking in.
Little had changed in that regard, although Stiepermann and Hugill doesn’t appear to be a match made in heaven. This potentially could be down to the skillset they both have being somewhat similar in terms of physical dominance.
In the build-up, Tettey dropped between the two central defenders in almost a half-back position, allowing Lukas Rupp and Marco Stiepermann to find pockets of space in the half-spaces.
While there were moments when similar patterns were created last season, it appeared to occur more frequently. This benefits Tettey, who has a restricted passing range, but in theory, if (or when) Oliver Skipp and Jacob Sorensen fill this role, they should be afforded more freedom and expression in regards to their passing and technicality, potentially switching play to either wing-back or floating one over the top behind the opposition’s defence.
It is worth noting that I’ve only highlighted attacking areas that City are tweaking, improving or introducing. If they want to fulfil their expectations this season, they have to improve considerably in defence.
Improving their positioning when transitioning from attack to defence and addressing their vulnerability from set-pieces would go some way to making the Canaries more defensively resolute.
Time will tell if they have learned from the mistakes made in the last two campaigns, but one thing is for certain, this season won’t be as monotonous as the last.
Billy is ½ of NCFC podcast The Revere End. You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook @therevereend and listen to their podcast on Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts.