Norwich City boss Chris Hughton insists there is more to come from Ricky van Wolfswinkel
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Chris Hughton understands the unflattering comparison between Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Wilfried Bony, but the Norwich City boss is only too willing to launch a staunch defence of his striker.
Bony’s prolific debut season in England is in marked contrast to van Wolfswinkel’s enduring struggles in front of goal, which continued in last week’s Premier League win against Sunderland. Swansea’s 20-goal striker was on the Canaries’ transfer watch list, but ahead of their match-up in Wales this wekeend Hughton believes top tier football is littered with players who have struggled to maintain such a stratospheric rate of progress over the long haul.
“There is certainly more to come from Ricky,” said Hughton. “I can understand why people will look at that. You can compare him with individuals who have good seasons but now may struggle next season. You can have a difficult season one year and then everything goes right and goals come from every direction. That applies equally to a football team. Form fluctuates from one season to a next.
“What you want with a new player is for them to hit the ground running and three months out injured did not help Ricky to assert himself in this division. I am convinced it would have been different for him without the injury - how significantly different no one knows.”
Hughton conceded the way City’s club-record signing snatched at two excellent chances against the Black Cats was indicative of a striker searching for confidence.
“A really confident Ricky possibly puts those two away against Sunderland,” he said. “First and foremost we want him to get into those positions, to make the runs and show a good work ethic. He will continue to do that and you never see him shy away from any of those situations. The moment I felt he was shying away then that would be a concern. He just has to continue to work hard and get those little bits of fortune.”
Hughton pushed Johan Elmander forward in support against the Wearsiders, but the Norwich boss realises that formula may need to be revised against a Swansea side feted for their fluency through midfield areas.
The Canaries were second best at Everton when Hughton elected to pair van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper in tandem, although the City boss rejects the suggestion a repeat of that experiment would produce the same outcome.
“You can play two up top,” he said. “You know you have to play a certain way and stop them having the amount of possession they like to have. It is not just about the formation. We have a momentum from the last game and that is also a consideration when you come to pick the team.
“If I look at how we set up at Everton that day they ended up scoring two great goals, (Gareth) Barry from 25 yards and a free-kick from (Kevin) Mirallas. We ended up missing two great chances. If we score it’s a different game, a different outlook.”