Wednesday night’s opposition, Norwich City, have had something of a slow start to the season, sitting in 16th ahead of the upcoming round of mid-week fixtures. To work out why that’s happened, and to get a detailed look at what we should expect from the Canaries, TTE spoke to Connor Southwell who writes for various Norwich City sites.
How’s the season gone for you so far?
It’s been a steady start, to say the least. Supporters were certainly excited that the excuses from last season weren’t going to get carried over into this campaign and there was a cautious optimism as we ascended towards the opening day.
That’s been tamed due to a slow start, although the performance and result against Middlesbrough has set a bar for that squad. That must act as a foundation for building a run or developing some sort of momentum otherwise it becomes redundant.
There’s been pressure on Daniel Farke, especially seeing as he is in the final year of his contract. Supporters are expecting a better return than 14th, thus far, they’ve been underwhelmed by the German’s approach and progression hasn’t been as visible as they’d have hoped.
Tactically, how do Norwich City set up?
Conventionally, Norwich operate in a 4-2-3-1 with a possession-based ethos at the heart of all the work they do. This has often been a bit paint-by-numbers and they’ve played without the spontaneity that can be critical to offensive rhythms and phases, particularly in this division.
Farke’s approach is perhaps best explained by stating it’s an emphasis on logically pragmatic repetitions. For example, if you have several shots, and keep doing that, then eventually you’ll score. If you keep the ball, and keep retaining possession, eventually you’ll work a breakthrough.
This style, theoretically, should deliver results. Yet the ignorance of emotion is a major factor. Norwich don’t pick up many cards, yes that’s a positive, but it’s yet to fully prove it can work within the rigours of this division.
Supporters have found it difficult to consume, particularly at Carrow Road due to the slow nature of it, although players such as Emi Buendia and Onel Hernandez have certainly provided Norwich with another dimension since the beginning of the season.
Former Reading target Teemu Pukki is your top-scorer, how important has he been for you?
Teemu Pukki’s unveiling was free from any fanfare, mainly because it was unexpected, but also because supporters were waiting for the unveiling of Ben Marshall. The striker arrived with a great record in Denmark, but also plenty of negative comments from Celtic supporters regarding his ability. He was expected to arrive in NR1 as a back-up to Jordan Rhodes.
He has a technical ability which is superb, but it’s his work off the ball that is special. The manner in which he locates space in order to operate or the way he gains a yard when in possession in order to unleash a shot is excellent. There is a common misconception that he is a number nine, but he’s not. The way to extract the best out of Pukki is by deploying him either as a number ten, or as a false nine.
He loves exploiting spaces and playing in pockets, but also possesses a cutting edge in front of goal and has a devastating finish on him. Pukki is everything Steven Naismith should have been when Norwich brought him to Carrow Road. He’s an impressive footballer, and by his own admission, he’s got plenty more to give.
Any fond memories of games against the Royals? Any you’d rather forget?
In honesty, I had to look this up because nothing immediately sprang to my mind. Reading have beaten Norwich in three of the last nine fixtures and haven’t recorded a win in the last three.
That bizarre 7-1 victory at Carrow Road is a stand-out however. Considering the respective league positions at the time, Norwich blew the Royals away with real vibrant offensive football and quality in front of goal.
It was an emotional day because long-standing staff member Peter Oldfield passed away prior to this game, and Russell Martin paid tribute to a man who was Norwich City through-and-through in an emotional and fitting way. That was a special game, and won’t be forgotten for a while, particularly that first half display whereby Pritchard seemingly dismantled the defensive structure of Reading.
A game to be forgotten was the infamous 3-3 draw where Grant Holt was wrongfully dismissed for his tackle on Ian Harte, who Norwich fans took a particular and intense dislike to after that game. Funnily enough, that red card was rescinded, but had the decision been upheld, Holt would have been suspended for the East Anglian Derby in which he scored a hat trick.
Norwich were 1-3 up at the Mad Stad and in typical Norwich fashion threw it away from a comfortable position. Michael Oliver was your best player that day!
What are the weaknesses in your side Reading should try to exploit?
Norwich struggle against teams who lack technique but offer a physicality and press high to restrict how Norwich move the ball. Particularly last season, Norwich really couldn’t compete with sides who possessed more physical operators, see Millwall whereby they received a 4-0 drubbing, or QPR who beat them 4-1 because of the size of striker Matt Smith.
That’s how to beat Norwich. Be physical and look to press high because Norwich need to grow into games and gain confidence on the ball. Although that said, they have just overcome a Tony Pulis side…
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
This fixture stinks of a draw. Two teams who will be looking to build after positive results but both of which struggle defensively. I’m going to go for a score draw of 2-2. (Pukki, Hernandez; Meyler, Baldock).