And so it beginning......
For some strange reason unknown to myself i have always had a soft spot for the canaries’, maybe it’s the yellow kits, maybe Delia’s drunken words at half time, or the recent resurgence of the club to the top flight who knows. I took over with the self made predictions of a tough first season, opted for the avoid relegation expectations as with next to no finances to spend and a less the generous kitty for wages I thought it’s best to play it safe, but i didn’t take over to buy in big names or to acquire some well known “FM legends”, I wanted to see what could do tactically with what I had and scrape to find, even if it meant torturous defeats and at times the mind baffling match engine leading to me wanting to break my screen. I threw away any usual habits this time around as I would start a new way of playing, no importing shortlists, no sticking to old tactics, no buying players I don’t need and the same players every game and picking players that suit the side rather than “ah he is unreal and cheap I gotta sign him”.First thing was to reshuffle the backroom doing the usual mutual termination of contracts and in coming of coaches to ensure at least 3 and half star rating in each training category, scouts to develop a vase network of knowledge to help bring in the right players and physios to correctly treat and predict length of injuries.
Delia and her men
A pre season tour of the US would see the shaping of the tactics, with a solid all-rounder team but maybe of insufficient calibre to really take it to the competition the first thought was a simple yet robust 442 with the key focus on defence, another option was a wide diamond midfield or a 41212, it soon became apparent that neither was working for the squad available as holes were being shown. After much testing and tinkering a defensive 4411 would be the tactic of choice which later towards the end of this segment would see one center mid drop back further to fill the gap between defence and midfield. With the key being defence a deep line was employed, maybe not as deep as you may expect but just enough not to be caught on the break, although it aloud the opposition to play the ball around the midfield it did see very few clear or half chances created by them yet plenty of shots from range out of frustration which our keeper Ruddy was handling with ease. A standoff approach would be the way of the defending as the new season approached, often over looked as thought to be too risky and defensive but I have found the pressing game and also the high line to be far more dangerous as it comes with being caught out of position too often and unless you are a team of top stars it simply would be football suicide for a side like Norwich in the standard of league that is the Premiership holds. Sounds so far good but yes it lacks that bite in attack and you are really hoping on a cleansheet and the odd goal to win, concede early and where do u go from there, well that’s the plan to work from defence and balance the attack as we go along, we all saw Blackpool’s admiral passing football and attacking play see no reward due to leaking defences and you rarely see a side go down due to being too defensive in comparison to being complacent at the back.
Will it work?
Usually I would splash out and try rebuild a team bringing in ten or more faces at the start of a new club, maybe it’s the Harry Redknapp wheeler dealer in me but most signings never get a look in and are not as calculated as they should be and which cash and wages low it’s not something i wish to be throwing around. This time it would not be the same, £6m spent and £6.5m received, to balance the books is always good but to have released the deadwood to cover the cost of replacements was not planned it just happened, I could pretend I did but why lie. The majority of the fees taken in were for Russel Martin, a right back who can also play center back, Although regarded as one of the best players at the club after seeing Reading accepted my counter offer of £5.5m I couldn’t say no and after finding a free replacement in Anthony Vanden Borre a highly tipped player in his early youth and versatile Belgian how could I. Another Free signing was Royston Drenthe, the Dutch flyer was brought in to add speed to a slow squad but in later weeks would show similarity to another well known Dutchman but for the wrong reasons. Highly rated Will Hughes, 17 year old from Derby was exchanged for David Fox plus £500k, Fox in my opinion was below the level needed and I would taken any price for a club to take his services, so to use him to get Hughes at a knocked down price was a ideal move for both parties. Hughes is sure to be the key to the side in years to come and a great future replacement for the aging Hoolahan. Also leaving was George Francomb, Simon Lappin and Chris Martin for a fraction of their supposed value. Youngsters Smith, Rudd and Steer were sent out on loan to grow as players.
Will Hughes the future
Now to the big signings, Firstly with Holt on the wrong side of 30, Morrison ability at this level questionable and Jackson looking like a championship player a striker was wanted, one to lead the line who could play up top alone. Many were looked at but finding a player who could finish, head, and have some pace was hard for the funds available, I wanted a real physical presence but not just a tower to aim at, a tower that could play and I found him. Nicklas Helenius, 6 ft 5 of pure power signed from AaB for £2.6m, he seems to have it all and so far has shown himself as a great signing and at 21 has years ahead. Lastly was a defender to accompany Bassong as Turner’s lack of pace can be a worry in the fast pace of the English league. Senegal’s and formerly Anderlecht defender and defensive midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate, a powerhouse of a man, 6 ft 4 and a physical specimen, for £3m seems the ideal man to partner Bassong in what on paper looks a mean duo for any striker to face.
A giant of a man
The initial quarter of the season was not kind to Norwich fixture wise with games against the stronger of the sides that could be faced. The opening game against Fulham at Caven Cottage ended 1-0 in favour of the home side but we looked good and Berba was the decider, was hoping for a draw but didn’t feel to dishearten by the defeat. The next game would be the first home game of the season facing the former Norwich manager Lambert and his return was not a nice one for him and his side as we got our first victory with a 3-1 scoreline and thats when the run began...
Barnet, League Cup 2nd round, Away, 3-0 win.
West Brom, Away, 0-0 draw.
Man City, Away, 1-1 draw.
Man Utd, Home, 1-1 draw.
Chelsea, League Cup 3rd Rnd, Away, 1-0 win.
Newcastle, Home, 1-0 win.
Sunderland, Away, 1-0 win.
An eight match unbeaten run against sides of that level, what a start to the season! The defensive approach was paying off with narrow wins, Man City nearly lost but for a last minute goal saved them a point, as for the other Manchester side if not for a Baines freekick they may had been pointless and not the good pointless with Alexander Armstrong the bad Fergie hairdryer pointless. But like all runs it had to come to an end, Rodgers Liverpool passed us to pieces running away 3-1 winners, next a loss to Everton 1-0, United got revenge in the League Cup winning 5-2 and lastly Spurs 5-2 also. Against Spurs and United it seemed that the defence were handing the ball to the attackers, misplaced back passes, poor clearances, poor marking. Having said that the last four games were deserved defeats and emphatic ones, does it mean change tactics? Not necessarily, it seemed tactics may have been lost in translation and some unneeded teaks made that unbeaten run crumble to a halt, but at the quarter point I can be happy. 10th in the league with most of the tougher games out of the way, what is important is that hopefully it wasn’t the case that the side rose to the big sides and will fail to gain motivation when facing the less glamorous sides, only time will tell but so far life looks good at Carrow Road, Only thing that is causing distress in Drenthe thinking he is Robben cutting inside everytime and shooting, it’s ok with Robben he bangs them in but Drenthe hits it on his weaker foot and flumps it, unless he is aiming for the corner flag he should be shot for his accuracy, hopefully I will see him start to listen to instruction as he changes to an old fashioned winger I’m looking for, but without a doubt a frustrating figure. Next time the half way mark, thanks for reading, please remember to like, rate and comment.