The next two games will tell us a lot about our beloved Norwich City.
The club’s ambition to become established in the top flight pitches us against the likes of Bournemouth, Watford and those perpetually around the Premier League relegation zone. We lost 1-0 away to both the Cherries and Hornets but are about to play them both at Carrow Road and it should be payback time.
These two opponents closely reflect the minimum standard required for next season in terms of tactics and individuals and are games where we can more accurately predict how effective Pukki, Todd, Emi and Dowell will be next season; how our fullbacks will defend against better wingers and how our centre backs will handle powerful strikers.
Bournemouth will probably mirror our 4-2-3-1 or play 4-3-3. The Cherries are also able to play a more traditional 4-2-3-1 in the guise in which it is coached on the continent; the same manner in which Daniel Farke originally wanted to apply it.
They use a play-maker from deep midfield and then have a physical but technically proficient #10. You will recall that Farke originally wanted to employ Tom Trybull or Mo Leitner in a deep play-maker role (Bournemouth use Jack Wilshere) and then he wanted Mario Vrancic or Marco Stiepermann as a #10 (Bournemouth use Philip Billings).
The continental model is then about fast and direct, wider players supporting Solanke, in Bournemouth’s case Danjuma and Stanislas (or Brooks). Farke has tinkered with his system to incorporate his best attacking players behind Pukki at the forfeit of raw pace.
I personally believe the Bournemouth model is the best application of the 4-2-3-1 concept and is what is required in the Premier League, especially the deep-lying playmaker. Earlier last season when we played Mo Leitner, we were at least able to get a few wins and some draws but when the more defensive model was used, wins were harder to come by. I wish we could turn back the clock and protected Leitner with Oliver Skipp.
Moritz Leitner… what a waste of a fantastic talent.
Next up after the Cherries will be Watford, who generally play 4-4-2.
Earlier in the season at Vicarage Road, City had the possession and shots that you’d expect but I don’t recall them working Ben Foster too much.
Another interesting aspect of this game will be to see Dimitris Giannoulis tested by Ismaila Sarr, which is the minimum standard the Greek can expect to face next season.
I’m yet to be totally convinced by Giannoulis. I simply believe that the Xavi Quintilla has a sensational dead-ball delivery and is the only player capable of delivering an open play cross from which Pukki will score. But this is a chance for Giannoulis to really prove himself.
The other battle will be between Ken Sema and Max Aarons. Max was reluctant to step forward into block tackles against the quick left winger earlier this season and was skinned accordingly – leading to the only goal – which is a rare thing indeed.
Brighton, Southampton, Burnley and Watford are the teams we will need to beat next season and they all play variations on 4-4-2. Last season, we lost every single match against those teams.
How Farke’s 4-2-3-1 compares against Premier League quality players in 4-4-2 will be critical to our survival next year, so the next two games will be real markers.
The results will be insignificant and will have no consequence on this fabulous, title-winning season, but will offer clues around our sustained top-flight ambitions.
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Colin B says
If we are to stay up next season we need to take a lot of points off the bottom teams. In the season in the Premier League under Lambert we took 12 points off the teams that came up with us. If we could do the same again that would be about a third of the points needed to stay up. It would also dent their chances of staying up. Whilst I understand the point you make I think what happens in the next two games will have little bearing on next season as we may lose some players and sign others.
Let’s hope that we get the points needed to confirm promotion. If we beat Watford that should guarantee the title.
Not to forget that in the away game at Bournemouth, neither Emi nor Todd played any part at all….silly boys!!
It will also be interesting to see how young Mr. Omobamidele copes against two of the better “forward” lines at this standard.
Personally, given our poor recent record against Watford, I’ll happily settle for two points from these 2 games!
O T B C
Chris S says
Norwich have the hardest run in of the promotion group. They play four of the top seven with only five games left. The points chase is getting harder. You are right that these games will define the season and earn the club the respect it deserves. 100 points is an ambitious target. I would take being champions and winning a medal over reaching the ton.
martin penney says
Count me in on that view too 🙂
I’m pretty certain that if you got 100 points, you would be champions and get a medal 😉
Chris S says
Fair point, Daniel!
Colin M says
Mike, brilliant analytical piece, really enjoyed it, thank you.
The point you make that these next two games present something of a P.L. test is spot on and not something I’d considered becoming perhaps too wrapped up in simply accumulating enough points.
I’m with you regarding Xavi Quintilla and can only think there’s more to that apparently deteriorating relationship than we know, not football related.
Next season will come down to results against the 14 teams excluding the big 5. as you suggest.
Your idea of Skipp protecting Leitner is something I wish we could have witnessed.
Graham Jermyn says
I agree entirely with comment about Mo Leitner. As good a player as I have seen at Norwich. Just a shame that he didn’t fit the team setup.
Gary Gowers says
Good point Graham (and Mike)… technically one of the finest of that type we’ve had for a very long time; such a shame we didn’t have the players around him and a system that enabled him to be the Pirlo-type of which he’s capable.
(Hope you’re well).
General Melchett says
I too liked Mo as a player, but for me the reality is it’s the weaknesses in his own game and maybe his head, that rendered his City career over. I think we tried to set up to get the best of him, but his limitations were easily identified and exploited by the oppo.
If he was truly that good, how did his career slide to the point of going to a 2nd tier English club with a then uncertain future? After a period of success for us, why did it go wrong? Why now when frozen out is there not a queue of ‘bigger’ clubs wanting to build their team around him?
I think his weaknesses outweight his strengths and he is a luxury few sides can afford.
Pirlo like!?! More like Pirlo lite, very lite!
Gary Gowers says
Obviously you’re right “General” … were he not deficient in all the ways you describe, he’d have been persevered with. Was talking in terms of his ability to pick a pass, which (I thought) was up there with the best we’ve seen at Carrow Road.
martin penney says
Give me Ian Crook any day.
Good to see you back, General.
“Midfield Mike” says
100% about Leitner.
Before the last promotion I’d already said that those 4 wouldn’t be able to impose themselves in the Prem and so it proved…. and clearly Leitner’s head is in the wrong place entirely, such a shame. I was proven right last season when the persistence of 4-2-3-1 unravelled in rather meek circumstances but so much of that was down to poor recruitment but it was also down to DF trying maintain his tactical philosophy rather than trying a different formula.
DF is so loyal to his players. With the greatest respect to one of my favourite players, Kenny McLean, he is not at the standard of Skipp or someone like Conor Hourihane, or indeed Alex Mowatt whom I’ve mentioned before, but he’s such a talent. The trouble is, his strengths are not harnessed and might even be stifled?
The same could be argued for even our Dereham Deco….. Danjuma plays the same role but has scored 13 goals and had more assists too. That’s not a slight on Todd, it is a simple reality check that in 4-2-3-1, we keep our best players on the pitch but not necessarily in their best roles….. Emi and Todd should be more central, our fullbacks are better wingbacks than fullbacks, and our holding midfielders are both on a leash when they sit rather than express themselves as box to box midfielders.
The positional discipline needed next season is going to leave Pukki isolated (again).
I do worry about where the goals will come from….. 1 goal all season from our CBs so that proves we are not a threat from set pieces including corners, long throws or freekicks. That’s a weird one given the trickery of Emi and Todd and the number of free kicks they can win…. I would love to see Sean Morrison here, flanked with Hanley and Gibson, but i suspect that’s too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
I’ve mentioned the goals from Mowatt as a deep lying playmaker before, and the goals from either deep or the #10 role that Hourihane continues to score…. as opposed to the 3 goal tally of Skipp, McLean and Rupp combined.. Our fullbacks are heavily involved in goals but ultimately have barely 2 assists all season…. they do lack the final ball but with a lone striker, they also lack targets to cross to!
Hugill and Idah will surprise me if they manage 3 or 4 goals between them next season, nominally from the subs bench…. and if Pukki gets injured in the summer then…. wow…. the goals won’t come from anywhere. Keep Emi out of the game and even with Todd and Dowell on the pitch, we look impotent.
But that’s my worry about how loyal DF is to his players. If we get Skipp back, I could name the starting 11 now for next season and even if we signed sensational players, we wouldn’t see them until the current lads let themselves down or get injured,,,, and we we certainly won’t see a different base formation.
But DF and these lads have earned the right to prove themselves and they should be given their chance…. but if `McClean was approached by Rangers for Champs League football, we should let him go.
Kev Hicks says
Max might feel well enough supported with Omodabile beside him.
I’m not worried whether we play Quintilla or Giannoulis against Bournemouth, they’re both a threat going forward – hope we keep them both – assets in the Prem.
Oooh, Ian Crook, there’s a good blast from the past, ranks alongside Colin Suggett and Tommy Bryceland for me…. and yes, its a shame about Leitner he contributed well at times but seemed to lose the drive we needed.
Bournemouth and Watford are going to want to hit us fast and hard over the next two games, but I think we’ll do them both.
Carrow Road might be an empty stadium but there will be plenty of yellow and green fans willing them on, 180 minutes to be Champions.