Adam Idah had played just 57 minutes of Premier League football this season before the departure of Daniel Farke and was never truly given the chance to stake his claim in the side.
He would often be left to play out the last few minutes of games where Norwich were more often than not already dead and buried with no real chance of a meaningful impact.
The resurgence of Idah and his progression in the side is down to Dean Smith’s willingness to experiment and his faith in the young striker’s ability.
Idah has played almost 500 minutes of Premier League football since Smith’s arrival at Carrow Road and has played a big part in two big away wins in the FA Cup.
His hat-trick in the third round of the FA Cup two years ago provided high expectations of Idah, but until recently he has failed to break through to the potential that fans believe he can reach.
Smith’s 4-4-2 formation is far more favourable for Idah than the prospect of playing as a lone striker. His recent strike partnership with Teemu Pukki has allowed him to have more freedom to run off the ball and to get in behind in comparison to the previous 4-2-3-1
The lone striker was often isolated and found themselves with their back to goal with no options in behind, but with a supporting striker alongside him, as well as wide players in support, Idah finds himself with more options to help develop an attack.
The hard work of Pukki partnered with the physical presence of Idah means that a long ball forward now no longer necessarily means a loss of possession for City but provides another option for an opportunity to move forwards effectively instead of isolating the attacking player.
Canaries defender Ben Gibson revealed in a recent interview that Dean Smith takes a more tactical approach to match preparation than previous manager Farke. This would have no doubt helped to improve the know-how and awareness of Idah’s changeable role which is being reflected in recent performances.
Of course, some credit for Idah’s recent resurgence in the side must be given to Farke. At times during the title-winning 2020/21 season, Idah was played as a winger down either the left or the right-hand side rather than in his natural striker position.
This has given him the ability to switch between a wider role in possession and his natural striker’s instincts when necessary, something that has become vital in recent weeks as Josh Sargent’s attacking threat is beginning to emerge from the right-hand side.
An example of how Idah’s threat from the wing has been utilised is in Norwich’s recent dominant win at Vicarage Road. Sargent understandably takes a more direct approach later on in the game after scoring a brace and Idah’s role is switched to that of a wide player rather than an out and out striker.
Idah drifts wide late on and flashes a ball across the box to force an own goal, which shows how his impact on the current side is more than just an intended goalscorer but to create and provide assists.
This, along with his first Premier League goal against Everton will be a motivator for Idah to kick on and contribute to Norwich City’s ultimate aim of remaining in the Premier League this season.
Rumours of a loan move for Idah have circulated in both the summer transfer window and more recently in the January window. Promotion chasers Nottingham Forest were heavily linked with Idah last month.
A loan move for Idah seemed like a beneficial outcome for all parties at the start of the season, it would allow him to attain some valuable game time that he was not getting under Farke and develop as a striker while leaving room for other talents to progress at the club. However, since the arrival of Smith, Idah’s presence in the side has changed the way that Norwich line up and operate.
It is to his testament that he has persevered to fight his way into the side, particularly after the despicable abuse that he and others suffered online and on social media after the away loss at tonight’s visitors, Crystal Palace.
The recent tactical nous of the side is reliant on the co-operation and fluidity of the front line, and Idah’s role in this makes any rumours circulating of a loan move to the championship last summer a lucky escape.
The momentum of the current City side as well as the guidance to Idah being provided on the pitch from strike partner Teemu Pukki has helped to kickstart his resurgence in the side going into some big games for Dean Smith’s side.