After three defeats in four in the league, City welcome Birmingham to Carrow Road in the hope of returning to the form that saw them fly out of the traps and surprise the entire division with their free-flowing, relentless style of play, which saw them collect ten points from an available 12.
However, the Canaries head into the clash with the Blues in a vein of form that’s the complete opposite of those opening games of the season. In just the last ten days, a disappointing 2-0 defeat against Enzo Marescas’ Premier League-bound Leicester City was followed up with that truly humiliating 6-2 away defeat to newly-promoted Plymouth Argyle.
Tomorrow’s visitors currently sit 10th in the table and are heading into the fixture with some struggles of their own, making the trip to Norfolk without a win in their last five fixtures in all competitions despite a positive summer transfer window and start to the season.
They are hoping to end a run of seven years against the Canaries without a win; their last success coming back in 2016 with a 3-0 home win over Alex Neil’s recently relegated side.
Tomorrow is shaping up to be another big opportunity for new loanee Ui-Jo Hwang and academy graduate Adam Idah, who will both be entrusted to lead the line again in the absence of Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes after both sustained serious injuries against Huddersfield and Leicester respectively.
Hwang was unable to make much of an impact in his first start in yellow in the mauling at Plymouth as Wagner and his side was unable to live with the Pilgrims’ high-energy, high-octane pressing. On the other hand, Irishman Idah was able to walk away with his head held high, bagging himself a brace with a well-converted penalty kick and a smart low finish.
With all the eyes on Sargent and Barnes this season, people seem to have forgotten that it has been a quietly positive season for the now 23-year-old Idah, contributing with four goals and an assist in eight Championship games, with the majority of those being cameos off the bench as a support act.
As frustrating as it is that we will be without Sargent and Barnes for the foreseeable future, it now provides the perfect opportunity for Idah to get the proper run of games he’s been craving his whole Norwich City career. He now has the chance to finally be the main man and nail down that number 9 spot.
I just hope this won’t coincide with a dropoff in the overall performances of the squad, which means he will be unable to succeed in the way we know he’s capable of.
Now switching the focus to his probable striking partner, Hwang, the Korean also has a great opportunity to finally prove he can cut it in England, after little to no opportunity at Nottingham Forest since his move there last summer. If he can start contributing regularly at the top end of the pitch in the Championship then it will only serve him positively in both regards to either earning himself a move elsewhere or playing a supporting role to an ever-developing and exciting Nottingham Forest side.
Turning attention back to the visitors, Birmingham will also be looking to kickstart their campaign once again after a disappointing run of results.
A key man for the Blues since his arrival in the summer on a season-long loan move from Fulham is Jay Stansfield. The Englishman has three goals in five Championship appearances and has already become a fan favourite among the Blues’ fanbase, announcing himself in heroic fashion by rifling home a 95th-minute winner against Plymouth Argyle on his debut.
Norwich will need to do a much better job containing Stansfield than they did with Morgan Whittaker – the Plymouth man netting a hattrick against a hapless Canaries defence last weekend.
It is also worth noting that the visitors will have a slight advantage over the hosts as the Canaries played (and narrowly lost) in the Carabao Cup third round at Fulham on Wednesday night. As a result, the Blues will have some extra preparation time for this fixture.
It feels like an extremely vital one for Wagners’ Canaries, after a truly horrifying result and performance in Plymouth. The reaction from fans was one of shock and sadness at the nature of the performance, and that feeling cannot be exacerbated or stewed upon any further.
It is imperative that Norwich collect maximum points from a fixture they historically have had lots of success in.