Paddy Davitt, Norwich City Writer
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Victory over West Brom was a highlight of Chris Hughton’s tenure at Norwich City, but a more recent history lesson is pertinent in the battle for Premier League survival.
Hughton’s side overwhelmed Sunderland at Carrow Road last time out in a raw match-up against another relegation rival. Beating the Baggies to seal their top flight status 12 months ago remains a sweet moment for Hughton, but repeating the recent Black Cats’ win was his guiding principle this week.
“I must admit we haven’t spoken about that last West Brom game. We are on the back of a good one at home and that perhaps is the one you want to stick in your mind,” he said. “The performance against West Brom was an excellent one at a vital stage of the season. For us, if we can get anywhere near the level of that game we’ll be happy. We did well enough that day to alleviate a bit of the pressure, but we need another Sunderland performance.
“We are not underestimating how big the game is. It is a home match against a team very close to us in the Premier League. We have been very good at home this calendar year, we are in really good form at Carrow Road and this is a difficult place to come.”
Hughton’s tactics and starting formation in a losing cause at Swansea City came in for close scrutiny and the Norwich boss admits the planning process to nullify Pepe Mel’s side brings its own unique difficulties.
“I think they have changed, certainly tactically since the new manager has come in and they have utilised different formations. They have gone three at the back and four in recent games so at the moment he seems willing to adapt to the situations,” said Hughton. “Ultimately it is about what we do and getting the result. What we have been able to do in our period of time here, and this season in particular, against the biggest clubs, is produce a good level of performance. West Brom is the first of six games left to achieve what we want.”
Gary Hooper underlined his predatory instincts in the corresponding Premier League 2-0 win at The Hawthorns before Christmas, but the former Celtic marksman has had to bide his time behind Johan Elmander and Ricky van Wolfswinkel in recent Norwich outings.
“At Swansea we went with Johan and Ricky because they play an expansive game and I wanted to try and go with an approach that we felt would work,” said Hughton. “Gary is very much in the frame. When you look at those three, along with Luciano (Becchio), they are all different types of player but they are close calls and he is very much in my thoughts. He had that spell when he scored goals alongside Johan but in the Sunderland game, which was arguably one of our better home performances, it was Ricky and Johan who started up top. Gary is a strong individual on the ball and a good finisher, but it is difficult to play two out-and-out strikers and Johan has generally been the one to give us a little more playing off the front. Ricky is capable of running in behind and it is about trying to share that load.”