Ryan Lowe’s Preston North End travel to Carrow Road tomorrow as the Canaries look to pick up another vital three points in their quest to turn their season around.
Buoyed by that late Adam Idah winner away at Bristol City, David Wagner’s side will be hoping to put in a positive performance to complement that result, as well as continuing the good form results-wise shown in recent weeks, which has included victories against Cardiff City, Queens Park Rangers and. of course, the Robins.
However, despite the recent improvement in results, fans have still been left wanting more from this City side in terms of performances, with results seemingly papering over the cracks of poor quality both in and out of possession – something I am sure tomorrow’s visitors will be well aware of.
Currently, City have adopted a ‘defence-first’ approach towards games as a result of the defensive fragility they have shown this season and the sheer volume of big chances they were conceding. They now tend to have between 30 and 40 per cent of possession in games and create minimal chances, yet are still somehow winning.
There were slight improvements in the win at Bristol, but had it not been for some magnificent goalkeeping from the returning Angus Gunn, Wagner’s side could have easily headed in at halftime three or four nil down.
Then across the second half, you got the feeling while watching that a point would have been more than enough for Wagner, and it was once again a moment of individual brilliance that bailed out Norwich. It brought on a massive feeling of relief and was encapsulated by Wagner’s celebrations after Idah slotted home the winner in added time.
Compared to what we were presented by this Norwich side early on in the season in terms of style, in terms of being the aggressors, playing at high octane, and being brave in possession, the last handful of games could not have drifted further from that. Despite three wins in four, this Norwich side feels like it is drifting through the motions and winning games through individual moments of quality.
But I feel Wagner has a real opportunity now with these next two fixtures, against Preston and Sheffield Wednesday, which will also be vital for his situation with the new sporting director Ben Knapper. He needs to show Knapper what his Norwich City side is capable of and what it will look like going forward, as currently, they are not performing like the protagonists Knapper described in his first interview.
It was also another big moment for Adam Idah, the Irishman getting his third late winner of the season, and fuelled the debate as to whether the 22-year-old is better as an impact sub or in the starting XI.
Of late, Idah is definitely changing the direction of travel in games, not just through his goals but his energy and presence at the top end of the pitch. His athleticism and physicality allow City to get higher up the pitch when they’re under pressure.
On the other hand, the next two home games in front of the fans could be great for him to start in, off the back of another great moment, and possibly force himself into leading the line in the East Anglian Derby in a week.
Switching back to the visitors, the Lilywhites currently sit a healthy eighth in the table, but head into the clash with the Canaries having lost their last three games in the league – against Cardiff City, Middlesbrough, and Queens Park Rangers.
A key area that Ryan Lowe will look to capitalise upon will be, bizarrely, between the 30th and 45th minutes, as these are currently prime periods in the game where Wagner’s side are at their most vulnerable defensively, conceding their goals in this period in their most recent fixtures.
One player City’s back line need to be wary of is forward Milutin Osmajic. With six goal contributions, the Montenegrin could cause Shane Duffy and, possibly, Kenny McLean problems with his physicality. Combine this with the fact he is their only scorer in the last couple of games… he needs to be watched closely.
Norwich still possess threats of their own in an attacking sense. Brazilian Gabriel Sara has been as creative as ever, chipping in with another couple of assists in the recent run of games, which took his attacking contributions for the season to 13 – five goals and eight assists.
Another boost for the Canaries will be Jonathan Rowe’s return against Bristol City, who looked as sharp as ever, beating players consistently and nearly picking up an assist for himself when he picked out Onel Hernandez on the edge of the box before the Cuban’s shot cannoned off the post.
It simply has to be another win for Wagner’s side, but it also would go a long way if it was a performance worthy of a victory and one that we can identify as a plan going forward.