Over three thousand spectators watched Norwich Under-21s beat Chelsea Under-21s on a cool and picturesque night of thrilling end-to-end drama.
For those that don’t know, City won the game 3-2 on the night, with goals coming from Tom Dickson-Peters, Emmanuel Adegboyega and Adian Manning. The win leaves our U21s in 13th position in the early league table.
Meanwhile, the U18s were on the wrong side of a 4-1 home defeat by West Brom. Toby Chilvers scored the goal – his first for the U18s – with a lovely caressed strike into the top right corner from just outside the box. That result leaves Norwich U18s rock bottom of the table.
But I’ll start off with the U21s victory at Carrow Road.
A point to mention before I analyse the key performances was the volume of supporters who came to watch the match. The enthusiasm and curiosity of the young fans were admirable, and it made for a lovely evening with the U21s squad signing autographs at the end of the game.
One player who’s had a tremendous start to the season is Adian Manning. After showcasing his ability to play in deep and advanced roles in midfield, it’s clear the coaching team view him as a reliable option this season. His effectiveness has predominantly come from advanced areas of the pitch, scoring twice, and creating a goal against Nottingham Forest on Matchday 2.
During the Chelsea game, we witnessed another new trait to Manning’s game, which was making penetrative runs from midfield – something that the U21s need to do more to avoid the strikers being isolated. As well as him timing his runs fluently all game, his technical quality was also apparent as he demonstrated his wide variety of passes.
On the topic of goals, Tom Dickson-Peters continued his affiliation with PL2, by scoring his 24th goal in that competition. To see Flynn Clarke and Tom Dickson-Peters leading the line in a PL2 match this season is surprising as both are looking at first-team football at this stage of their careers. I don’t expect the duo to be playing PL2 regularly this season, as the club wants a younger U21s side across the 2023-24 campaign.
From a defensive perspective, two central defenders impressed with one of those players being new signing, Emmanuel Adegboyega.
I didn’t select Adegboyega in my team of the week picks for the last two games due to the high expectations I have of him, as well as other centre-backs performing well, but he has been instrumental in the U21s defence.
City utilise his power and communication by positioning him in the heart of the defence with two wide centre-backs playing alongside him. Those two support him when he pushes upfield to get touch-tight with the opposition attackers. Due to Adegboyega experiencing first-team football already with Irish side Drogheda United, his strength is apparent as he barely gets brushed aside. Chelsea’s highly regarded striker, Jimmy-Jay Morgan had difficulties getting comfortable in the game, due to Adegboyega’s physical presence. This was a similar story for Forest’s Alex Mighten in gameweek 2.
Another benefit of Adegboyega is that he makes his other central defenders better, with his encouraging and strong personality helping to guide his inexperienced wide centre-backs, especially highly-talented Waylon Renecke.
After having had a few reservations about Renecke’s effectiveness at this level this season, I need to rethink as Renecke has contributed with three steady performances so far. After the Macclesfield game, I questioned whether he could deal with the physical scenarios in a PL2 season but he’s exceeded my expectations so far. And let’s not forget that Renecke is only 17 years old.
Waylon Renecke featuring vs. Chelsea. Credit: @norwichcityfc
A consistent strength of Renecke’s game has been his effectiveness at playing out from the back, playing successful long diagonals, and steady lateral passes to his centre-back partner. He is also dominant in the air, which is especially effective in set-piece situations.
He has played every minute of PL2 so far and has looked increasingly more comfortable. As mentioned above, Adegboyega’s influence on him has been instrumental with the Irishman’s aggressive mindset allowing Renecke to play with more caution and control.
Vicente Reyes, in goal, has had a mixed start for the U21s with the balance tilting slightly towards disappointing. Despite him looking assured and confident on the ball against Chelsea, his influence and reliability in the Norwich goal has been inconsistent. He had a few difficult moments against Chelsea while being responsible for both goals in City’s PL2 opener against Sunderland.
When the U18s team news dropped on Saturday morning, I was encouraged by the prospect of Elliot Myles and Toby Chilvers returning to the team. Also, Tyler Williams was moved from left back to defensive midfield, while Uriah Djedje operated as a box-to-box midfield.
Despite a poor result for the U18s, the team played some fluent football in the middle third with many examples of combination play involving Chilvers, Djedje, and Alex Roberts. This was encouraging as the U18s lacked composure on the ball in game 2. However, that fluidity in the middle third didn’t translate into the attacking third with the U18s failing to produce much quality in that area.
But on a positive note, Djedje had a wonderful game in the box-to-box role and was the standout performer. Excluding the centre-backs and goalkeeper, Djedje had the second-best pass percentage of 86.8%, demonstrating high levels of maturity in midfield.
He was also excellent at regaining possession and intercepting the West Brom attacks. Despite the Baggies having success in the transition, Uriah managed to contain the flow of the counter-attacks well, and looked to play forward at any given opportunity.
Despite City conceding some poor goals, Lloyd Ofori-Mantaew contributed with a pleasing performance and demonstrated some moments of savviness. A moment that demonstrated this was when he was under severe pressure and cleverly won a foul in a dangerous area. Although a small thing, sparks of footballing intelligence like this demonstrate a defender’s decision-making under pressure.
To conclude, Chilvers scored a wonderful goal, curling his effort in from outside the box. Across the early stages of this season, many academy players have trained with the first team and the young King’s Lynn midfielder is one example (and is why he didn’t feature in game 2).
Chilvers is an exciting technical midfielder, capable of playing across the centre of midfield, and his re-introduction to the team was needed as the Canaries lacked technical quality last week against Reading.
Toby Chilvers is performing well this season. Credit: @norwichcityfc
In terms of upcoming fixtures, Norwich U18s travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon, at 1.00pm, whilst the U21s play Leicester away on the same day, with an earlier start time of 11.00am.
Under 18s v Nottingham Forest – Saturday, September 2. KO 1:00pm. [U18 Premier League].
Under 21s v Leicester City – Saturday, September 2. KO 11:00am. [Premier League 2].