Norwich City boss Chris Hughton will not give up on his striking dilemma
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Chris Hughton is not immune to the criticism he has failed to embellish Norwich City’s defensive resolve with a genuine attacking edge.
But the Canaries’ boss is adamant he will find the elusive answer to try and unlock the undoubted goalscoring pedigree of Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Both have been paired together in recent weeks with limited success and with Luciano Becchio and Johan Elmander yet to open their league account Hughton knows that is a worrying trend which threatens the club’s passage to a fourth successive season of top flight football.
“The only good formation is a winning one, it is as simple as that,” he said. “We have four strikers and, yes, we need to address how we score more goals. You can focus on those individuals or the team as a whole who have to provide the service.
“It is certainly not a lack of ability because they are all proven players, but it is not only us. There will be other clubs and other forwards in this really tough division who have found it more difficult to get that end result. We know there are areas of our game that we need to improve.
“I think you are always trying to get the right balances in the team and we have tried to address the goalscoring issue on a lot of occasions by playing two up front; we have certainly done that more regularly than last season. If you don’t play 4-4-2 then you get criticised for not looking for goals but if you do play the two strikers sometimes you get over-run in midfield. It is about a contribution from everybody – not just goals but in assists.”
Hughton remains convinced Hooper and van Wolfswinkel can work in harness.
“Gary went through a really good period scoring goals but it is difficult to play two high up,” he said. “There has to be a responsibility at times from one or both to drop in and give us a little more strength in the higher areas of midfield and that can take a little bit of energy away in those key moments in the final third. I want them to play smart and play sensible football, but I’m aware of the criticisms with that shape up top. To play two out-and-out strikers and two wingers is difficult in the modern era.
“I have been happy with the two strikers, but it is not just about them, it the team and the whole staff. We are all conscious of the facts. It is about better quality finishing, maybe a touch of fortune, possibly we need to be more ruthless as well and making sure as a team we continue to create chances. What I do know is we have hard-working team players in those forward positions.”
City’s opponents on Saturday have tended to play with one recognised forward up front this season under both Malky Mackay and his successor Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
“The new manager will have his own ideas on how he wants to go about things,” said Hughton. “They have brought in new players the last few weeks so we don’t know for certain how they will set up. I have an awful lot of respect for Malky. He did a fantastic job there. He gave that club a lot, but that is the game.”