Not an ideal weekend for the Under-18s and the Under-21s, with both sides giving up leads. The U18s conceded two late goals away at Reading in a 2-1 defeat, while the U21s conceded twice in quick succession in their 2-2 home draw with Nottingham Forest.
While the two dropped points were disappointing, the U21s performed to a good level on Friday night, with exceptional intensity in possession, especially in the first half. Part of the reason for this additional control was a change in formation.
Norwich switched from their usual back four back to a back three on Friday night.
With a back three shape, City were able to push their wing-backs high, putting tremendous faith in the centre-backs, who were themselves in expansive positions with the distance between the back three wider than is traditional. By stretching the width of the pitch, Norwich were able to create fluid passing patterns but with the risk of being left vulnerable to counter-attacks. The intent was pleasing, especially after City had difficulties with building attacks in their opening game of the season.
In addition, central centre-back, Emmanuel Adegboyega was able to step into midfield on numerous occasions, to get touch-tight with dynamic Forest striker Alex Mighten. Adegboyega was exceptional at doing this across the entire game, and due to his physical capabilities was able to block Mighten making progress towards Craven’s goal. Due to Adegboyega winning the ball several times in midfield, it meant he had to recycle the ball well and did so tidily.
Continuing on the theme of the back line, Waylon Renecke is adapting nicely to U21s level. In the last game of pre-season, he struggled with the power of Macclesfield’s front line but in his first two matches of PL2 he has dealt with that aspect of the game well. Renecke has also shown bravery in dribbling out with the ball and advancing it into midfield. For a 17-year-old, to show that level of positive intent is encouraging.
In terms of Norwich in possession, the U21s had success in playing through Forest, with the East Midlands team failing to block the defensive midfielders accessing the ball. Harry Brooke and Regan Riley were tasked with finding the forward players, which they did quite well. If I was being overanalytical, I would ask for more forward progressive passes from the two but they still controlled the game to a good standard.
Also, Ellis Craven was excellent in goal on his PL2 debut, showcasing his excellent passing range as well as making two critical stops. Even the smaller details, such as creating acute angles for his defenders to make simple passes, were pleasing. His proactiveness in goal was evident for all to see and he deserves an opportunity to play at Carrow Road on Friday night.
The last player I must touch on is the scorer of one of City’s goals, Adian Manning. He has a wonderful left foot, which he demonstrated across the match, including one notable long diagonal and a beautifully venomous strike into the top left corner from inside the box. Manning was also instrumental in City’s second goal, whipping in a delicious cross for Aboh to score.
Having watched only a limited amount of Manning in action before he arrived at Norwich, I was unsure as to his best qualities but it’s clear that his technical ability is one of them. Therefore, Norwich need to play him in an advanced position so they can utilise his quality at the top end of the pitch.
It was a tough afternoon in Berkshire and they were deservedly beaten.
After loads of positive attacking moments at home to Leicester in their opener, Norwich U18s took a major step back in their general play.
They opted to play with a huge amount of caution, inviting Reading onto them while hoping to play on the counter but in truth the game lacked quality and intensity, especially in the first half. Reading were not technically astute in possession and looked like a Category 2 Level outfit on the ball yet Norwich persisted with only one player pressing their backline across the ninety minutes. With the tremendous running power of Alex Roberts and Pedro Amadou, as well as the current trialist, they had the resources to press effectively but chose not to do so.
However, there were plenty of encouraging performances across the back line, one in particular was the performance of Alfie Doy. It’s vitally important for the U18s, that the captain is back fit and available as he offers great athleticism and communication in the defence. Doy was brilliant against Reading, reading the play superbly, blocking various shots, as well as performing a few recovery challenges.
Alfie Doy (right) has recently returned from injury. Credit: @disstown
Another player who impressed was Kingston Simbai on his U18s PL debut. Simbai delivered a consistent performance on Saturday, containing the Reading left forward line and playing sensibly throughout. He performed an eye-catching slide tackle towards the 90th-minute mark, highlighting his strength in defending one-on-one as well as a tendency to be aggressive.
Despite the midfield’s lack of aggression throughout the game, Alfie Pinyoun and Uriah Djedje impressed on the ball. The latter has had a decent start to the season and in the first two games has impressed in possession – an area of his game that needed refinement last season. Djedje’s accuracy in playing forward passes from deep with immense accuracy was visible throughout on Saturday.
In addition, Pinyoun collected his first assist of the season with a nice through ball to Alex Roberts. his knowledge of when to release the correct pass was brilliant, which is understandable considering his favoured position is a central midfield.
Another positive to emerge from the game was Roberts getting on the scoresheet – a timely morale boost. Despite the keeper not making the expected save, it was good movement from Roberts to get himself into the position. Roberts needs to deliver more goals for the side this season.
Going into this Saturday’s game at home to West Brom, I want to see Norwich improve their aggression levels, as they’ve got some good athletes in that team who are capable of putting opponents on the back foot. Players like LaSean Sealey, Damari Daley, and Roberts are perfect examples.
It’s fair to conclude that the U18s lacked quality on Saturday and no doubt being without their best player, Elliot Myles, was a blow. He’s currently away on international duty with Wales U17s and had a successful week, scoring a penalty against Poland in the Syrenka Cup.
However, he’s not the only technically gifted player in the U18s side, as Toby Chilvers, Hugo Valencia Gomez, and Pinyoun are all fantastic technicians on their day. Seeing those players shine, will be critical if the U18s are to get a result at the weekend.
Under 18s v West Brom – Colney. Saturday, August 26. KO 11:00. [U18 Premier League].
Under 21s v Chelsea – Carrow Road, Friday, August 25. KO 7:00. [Premier League 2].