It was a demoralising weekend for the Under-18s and the Under-U21s, losing both of their games in high-scoring affairs. The U21s suffered a huge blow in their EPL Cup campaign, losing 3-2 to Bournemouth and missing the opportunity to go five points clear of third place. Instead, they are now in second, one point off third with three games left to play.
For the U18s it was a familiar feeling – losing 4-3 away to Arsenal. Jack Wilshere fielded a strong side, despite his star players, Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly, being away with England for the U17s World Cup.
But before I analyse the U18s match in greater detail, the U21s were in action for the final time this month, against Bournemouth.
As mentioned above, it was a brilliant opportunity for them to edge closer to Premier League Cup qualification but, unfortunately, they failed to capitalise on this opportunity mainly due to the tactical astuteness of the Cherries.
Bournemouth contained City for long spells of the game and placed a huge emphasis on hurting them through transitions. As the Cherries reached the middle third they opted to utilise the flanks as swiftly as possible, testing the Norwich back three on numerous occasions.
One player in particular who enjoyed a vast amount of space out wide was Nathan Moriah-Welsh – the attacking winger scoring on the night and showcasing why League Two Newport took him in on loan last season.
From a City perspective, the three centre-backs were exposed too often during the ninety minutes, especially in the second half. Norwich rarely had protective cover in the full-back areas, as they essentially played as wingers due to the team chasing the game for long periods.
All three of Bournemouth’s goals were avoidable, with City being caught overplaying as well as not tracking runners. Those scenarios happened early in the game – similar to the last PL2 game against Tottenham – and saw them go 2-0 down early on.
However, throughout the game City were slick in possession, formulating many passing patterns in midfield. The most pleasing element was the intensity of the passing, shifting the Bournemouth players from side to side with speed.
It took some time for Gabriel Forsyth to settle in and find his role in the U21s but he has performed to a good standard across the last two games as a left wing-back. Ultimately, Forsyth doesn’t foresee that as his permanent role but learning new positions is healthy for player development.
Gabriel Forsyth has impressed during November. Credit: @norwichcityfc
Forysth has lit up the left flank in recent games, shifting the team forward with powerful running and early crosses that test the opposition’s defence. The Scot was on set-piece duties at Bournemouth, highlighting the faith the coaches have in his technical ability. He also shares that confidence in his own ability, attempting many long-distance efforts across the ninety.
Continuing the trend of midfielders, Adian Manning also played an effective role in the second half, operating in a deeper role than normal. He operated as a number six, almost as a quarterback, spraying passes from deep to the flanks, which was a joy to watch, but the most impressive element was his ability to co-ordinate the play. The only disappointment was that he got to play in that position for 25 minutes.
Another player that deserves a mention is local lad, Joe Duffy. The 19-year-old midfielder sparked the Canaries into life against Bournemouth, scoring a brace in a matter of minutes, which lifted the team tremendously. But not only did he lift the team with his technical quality, as a substitute he added high levels of intent by pressing his opponents vigorously.
Unfortunately, despite Duffy’s two quickfire goals pulling City level, Bournemouth won the game 3-2 with a 73rd-minute winner.
Moving onto the U18s now, who were on the wrong end of a 4-3 defeat to Arsenal at London Colney. Despite City showing plenty of endeavour and work-rate, the scoreline flattered them due to their lack of attacking intent.
City played in an inverted 4-4-2 formation, with Alfie Pinyoun (RM) and Harrison Thompson (LM), playing as extra midfielders, creating a narrow midfield line alongside Miles Bracking and Uriah Djedje.
I understand the coaching team’s thought process of playing conservatively against a talented Arsenal side but the overreliance on holding positions compared to creating pressure was staggering.
The U18s showed no interest in causing the opposition problems in possession and allowed them to dictate territory in their half. You could argue that the opposition have a greater talent pool, so the game plan had some logic, but in truth, it was a similar story against Reading – a team Norwich should be picking up points against.
If Ben Knapper holds true to his word of wanting the senior, women, and academy teams to have a shared ethos of attacking play with them controlling games of football, then there needs to be a mentality switch among the U18s coaching staff.
However, there were still plenty of encouraging performances, with Errol Mundle-Smith taking the headlines this week. The energetic forward scored a brace, one of his goals being a lovely executed chip just outside the area to put Norwich ahead. His other goal was a tap-in, after showing good movement at the front post.
As mentioned in last week’s article, Errol’s play in the final third has been brilliant recently and his two goals last weekend were a good reward for his hard work.
A special mention also for Gabriel Keita who executed a wonderful long-range assist for Mundle-Smith to convert. The 17-year-old centre-back also scored and assisted for the U17s in a 3-0 East Anglian Derby win on Wednesday night.
Another player to impress last weekend was second-year scholar Alfie Pinyoun. With possession being a rarity, Pinyoun showed intelligence to manoeuvre into space, as well as pick up free-kicks to help the team get up the pitch. Furthermore,
Pinyoun’s most influential contribution was a free-kick routine where he played a clever, discreet pass down the line to Bracking who then played a pass into the box for EMS to score. Pinyoun’s performances over recent weeks have been good and it’s evident to see that he’s maturing as a player.
Alfie Pinyoun has been a key player for the U18s recently. Credit: @norwichcityfc
Sonny Rowland (CB), Finn Corke (ST), and Finn Oligbo (RB) made their U18s debuts at the weekend, coming off the bench and doing enough to suggest we will see them in the team in the second half of the U18s season. Congratulations to them all.
Another player to make his U18PL debut is England and Turkey fullback Vatan Ozcan, who grew into the match wonderfully, defending impressively in 1 v 1 situations as well as winning a fair proportion of his aerial and ground duels.
All in all, November has been a disappointing month from a results perspective but there have also been plenty of encouraging performances.
- Under-18s vs Leeds United (A). Saturday, November 25 @ 12:00.
- Under-21s vs Blackburn Rovers (H). Colney. Friday, December 1 @ 19:00.