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View From The Town End: Norwich City

We spoke to Norwich journo Connor Southwell about the Canaries' start to the season.

Norwich City v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship - Carrow Road Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

If you'd said when the fixtures came out that this match would be a promotion six-pointer, few would have believed you. But, 11 games in, Reading have a chance to leapfrog Norwich City into second with a win.

Even so, things aren't going too badly for the Canaries. They sit just one point off league leaders Sheffield United, and will have solid expectations of returning to the Premier League.

To find out some more about the Canaries' campaign, we spoke to Connor Southwell. He's the chief Norwich City reporter for Pinkun, and can be found on Twitter here.

How’s the season gone for you so far?

It’s been really interesting. Look at the table, points return and you would conclude that Norwich have started brightly and that Dean Smith is doing a good job. Both of those statements are correct but there is also a lot of context to factor in.

I think a lot of Norwich supporters would make the argument that there has been a mismatch between the level of performances compared to the results they have been getting.

Norwich are eight unbeaten - including seven wins in that run - and yet still feel like they have a way to go and much to improve on. Given some of the tests they have this month, including this trip to Reading, it feels we are going to find out whether that misalignment between performances and results continue.

Norwich haven’t produced a 90-minute performance of real quality; maybe the argument is that they don’t need to. But fans still want to see a bit more from their side.

Is this Norwich side at the same level of previous promotion-winning teams? Or is there more to come?

Definitely the latter.

I would argue this team isn’t as instantly recognisable as Daniel Farke’s iterations in previous Championship-winning campaigns. Smith is a different type of coach. They have transitioned away from an ideologist to a more pragmatic, problem-solving coach. That alteration has proven quite jarring at times but it is with one eye on the Premier League.

Norwich have looked aesthetically pleasing at this level previously but then struggled to transfer that onto the brutal nature of the Premier League. Smith isn’t as wedded to a particular playing style and is more willing to change game to game.

Norwich City v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship - Carrow Road Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

That is probably what Norwich need in the top flight. But that means sacrificing a level of entertainment and philosophy at this level. If it doesn’t work and the wins dry up, Norwich are going to be quite unappealing to watch. But it still feels like there is evolution within this team and they should be performing at a higher level than they have been.

The fact it feels as though there are more gears to shift through whilst winning games is a compliment. But they need to prove they can do it.

Who are the danger men Reading should look out for?

Marcelino Nunez has been impressive since arriving from Chile in the summer. He’s slight in frame but ferocious, energetic and has a terrific range of passing.

Aaron Ramsey signed on loan from Aston Villa and has caught people by surprise with his creativity and technical quality. He is the conduit between City’s midfield and attack.

Norwich City v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship - Carrow Road Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

And there is Teemu Pukki. Still scoring goals, still a real threat and still shocking that he is playing at this level. He requires 17 more goals to become only the third player in Norwich history to score 100 goals for the club.

Those are the main three from an attacking sense. Andrew Omobamidele and Grant Hanley have forged a strong understanding at the back.

What weaknesses in this team can Reading get at?

Well, Norwich’s left side is inverted at present. They have three left backs out injured so Sam Byram has been performing there. Often, they have played Todd Cantwell, Onel Hernandez or Aaron Ramsey on the left. All are right-footed so it creates a narrowness on the left side of the team.

That is definitely an option. But, in truth, this Norwich side hasn’t conceded a high number of high-quality chances. They are still without a number six in midfield, so a physical and dynamic centre of the park could cause them issues.

How are you expecting Dean Smith to set his side up?

He has favoured a 4-2-3-1 in recent weeks. He likes to play with a six, an eight and a 10 in the midfield three but that shape has altered to a 4-3-3 out of possession.

The full backs, Max Aarons and Sam Byram, aren’t afforded the same attacking licence as was the case under Daniel Farke and Norwich are more comfortable playing without the ball or dropping passes behind defensive back lines.

Smith will want them to be adaptable to the problems that Reading will pose and has proven effective at making in-game switches.

Predicted XI: Krul; Aarons, Omobamidele, Hanley (C), Byram; McLean, Nunez; Sargent, Ramsey, Hernandez; Pukki

How will the game go and what will the score be?

Tough one. Norwich have only played two teams in the top half currently so this feels like a litmus test of sorts. They head into the game as favourites and, on the evidence of recent matches, will wait for an error before pouncing into the lead. I can see this being a relatively high-scoring affair.

Norwich to nick it 3-2.