City will be aiming to make it seven consecutive Championship victories ahead of the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Carrow Road tomorrow.
After a tough opening three fixtures, Dean Smith’s men have hit a much-needed positive patch of form. However, despite winning six on the bounce, scoring 13, and conceding 4, a fair portion of fans are still voicing ongoing concerns regarding Smith’s style of play as well as the collective performances.
During this period some players have come to the forefront of fans’ minds through their positive performances, with nobody better at representing this than American forward, Josh Sargent.
‘Captain America’, as some have labelled him, has seemingly reignited his Norwich career over this period, contributing with six goals, accompanied by some fine individual performances – most notably in the 2-0 home win against Gary Rowett’s Millwall when he notched a brace.
The 22-year-old has become something of a talismanic figure for Smith’s side, leading the line with energy and a physical presence while offering a real outlet for the midfield creators around him.
However, in the recent wins against Coventry and Bristol City, we’ve seen Smith accommodate both Sargent and Teemu Pukki, with the American operating out on the right-hand side. Previously we’ve seen this can limit Sargent’s game quite significantly, however, in the last two he’s been able to still make a positive impact.
Another who’s caught the eye with his recent performances is on-loan attacking midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The Aston Villa academy graduate took a while to find his rhythm and faced criticism from supporters who questioned the thinking behind the signing.
But he responded with a productive substitute appearance against Sunderland and provided a pinpoint assist for the winning goal, followed by another in the 3-0 home win against Coventry.
As a result, the 19-year-old has been able to cement a starting role in Dean Smith’s XI, and rewarded his manager with a third assist in as many games on Wednesday evening; sliding an inch-perfect through ball to the in-form Teemu Pukki to slot past Daniel Bentley to double City’s lead.
Moving onto the Finn, he looks back to his best after a difficult summer and start to the season. Three goals in his last two have put to bed any reservations about his performance levels ahead of the rest of this Championship campaign. Both finishes were reminiscent of his ever-composed self in front of goal.
Shifting to the latest visitors to Carrow Road, West Brom, the Baggies have struggled to get some early season momentum under Steve Bruce, resulting in a toxic atmosphere developing at the Hawthorns.
Winless across all competitions in their last five, Bruce has had a difficult time converting draws into wins, leaving his side sat in 20th position heading into the fixture. Their only win came via a 5-2 drubbing of Hull City in August.
Despite the overall disappointment, there have been sparkling individual performances, including from new signing Brandon Thomas-Asante who has hit the ground running since his arrival from Salford City. His late equaliser against Vincent Kompany’s Burnley on debut sent Baggies’ fans into raptures.
Summer signings John Swift and Jed Wallace have also carried on their good form since their arrivals from Reading and Millwall respectively – pitching in with five goals and two assists between them so far.
However, for all their offensive individual threats, the main concern is in defence, where it’s been a season littered with conceding poor goals from individual errors. Free agent Erik Pieters was recently acquired to help aid Bruce’s defensive woes following his release from Burnley in the summer.
This presents a real opportunity for Dean Smith’s forwards to create and carve out some opportunities. Ever since the defeat by Hull, goals haven’t necessarily been hard to come by even though this City side hasn’t necessarily yet hit top gear.
One area though which has been concerning me of late is the manner in which we seem to drift out of contests after getting in front – the prime example being that 25-minute spell in the first half of Wednesday’s win against Bristol City.
Conceding the goal was disappointing in itself, but equally frustrating were the poor habits exhibited by the players during that period; the lethargic nature of the pressing, the lack of energy in movements around the pitch, and the sloppiness in possession.
Despite those six wins out of six, there are still elements of fragility in this City side that good teams can capitalise on, but I believe once again we have more than enough attacking threat to hurt Steve Bruce’s men defensively.
Hopefully, we’ll make it seven out of seven.