Time for Norwich City’s strikers to deliver

Norwich City striking duo Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper were paired together at Everton in the Premier League. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd Norwich City striking duo Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper were paired together at Everton in the Premier League. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Saturday, February 22, 2014
5:30 PM

The Canaries’ enduring struggles in front of goal look set to define the club’s Premier League season. Norwich City writer PADDY DAVITT argues the searing focus on two men in particular is inevitable.

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City’s 2013/14 Premier League goal tally

Gary Hooper 5

Leroy Fer 3

Jonny Howson 2

Bradley Johnson 2

Robert Snodgrass 2

Anthony Pilkington 1

Ryan Bennett 1

Ricky van Wolfswinkel 1

Steven Whittaker 1

Nathan Redmond 1

It does not take Sam Allardyce’s grasp of statistics to realise Norwich City’s current meagre goal output raises serious doubts about their Premier League survival prospects.

West Ham’s experienced boss crunches numbers with almost religious fervour, to the extent he took his players away after beating Norwich for a warm weather break to Dubai, justified on the grounds of historical data accrued from his managerial career extolling the virtues of improved performance for elite athletes. Allardyce’s side ground the Canaries into submission on the way to a 12th league clean sheet to soothe their own safety concerns.

Norwich’s style of play by comparison at Upton Park looked rooted in the cultural hothouse of ‘La Masia’ the cradle of Barcelona’s recent era of domination. Yet all the controlled possession and territory at the Boleyn brought no tangible relief in City’s quest to avoid a full-scale repeat of last season’s tense finale.

Hughton was routinely castigated for the drab approach that secured Norwich’s Premier League survival in his debut season; now he is in the firing line again because the desire to evolve universally applauded last summer is an experiment failing to deliver sustained benefits. Norwich spent record amounts in the close season transfer window designed to equip the squad with a level of firepower so painfully lacking, yet they appear no further forward in the potency of their overall efforts.

The football at Cardiff and West Ham was pleasing on the eye but lacking in punch. The games against Manchester City at home or even Chelsea’s earlier season visit to Carrow Road and a fearless trip to Arsenal the following week were notable for passages of play when you could justifiably argue Hughton’s side did not look deficient or worthy of unfavourable comparison in their ability to retain possession and carry an attacking threat against the very best.

But reasonable grounds for optimism have been sunk by the crushing reality they are embroiled in another relegation fight. Norwich’s spirit and battling qualities are entrenched in the DNA of a dressing room which retains a core element who well remember what it took to reach the Premier League.

That will form the basis of Norwich’s latest attempt to prevail, but ultimately City’s survival rests on unlocking the latent goal-scoring potential apparent in the previous career postings of Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel,

Bar Hooper’s productive burst just before Christmas the duo have flattered to deceive. That is not solely the fault of Hughton or his coaching staff who are often labelled tactically inflexible.

That does not stand up to closer inspection on recent evidence. The Canaries have lurched from playing both strikers up top with no discernible end product to one up top supported by the likes of Johan Elmander to the current incarnation of an aggressive midfield three anchored by two holding midfielders and Leroy Fer as the pivot behind Hooper.

Even allowing for unwelcome injury interruptions which have afflicted both, allied to the not inconsiderable issues of adjusting to a league vastly different in tone and texture to Portgual or Scotland, the pair have now experienced half a season of Premier League exposure.

To lambast Hughton for not playing to the pair’s strengths or for an unwillingness to abandon a commitment to defensive resolve in favour of all-out attack is to absolve Hooper and van Wolfswinkel of any culpability for Norwich’s current predicament. In such a polarised debate fuelled by an increasing sense of desperation as the games run away the truth settles somewhere between fact and fiction. Nor is it remiss to narrow the focus onto two players in a squad that have

collectively fallen short in the final third of the pitch.

Both Hooper and van Wolfswinkel are used to the pressure and the attention lauded on the leading men. That is why forwards cost the earth in the transfer market because they have an ability to score the goals which make the difference.

Hooper played in front of 60,000 Celtic supporters every other week, with their unyielding demands and expectations to be not simply the best in Scotland but in the city of Glasgow.

Van Wolfswinkel has plundered in such ratios in Dutch and Portuguese club football that he arrived at Carrow Road a fully-fledged international for a country who can call on the attacking talents of Robin van Persie. That is the pedigree of a talented young footballer who so far has failed to stamp his mark on the Canaries or the Premier League in the way everyone expected he would.

But to borrow from one of Hughton’s favourite truisms there is always another chance, always another game to respond. To answer the critics and temper the disappointments of West Ham and Cardiff and too many other similar episodes in a Premier League season which began full of optimism with van Wolfswinkel’s sublime improvised header against Everton on the opening day. Difficult as it to retain a sense of perspective, that is a crucial quality over the run-in.

Norwich may well find themselves in the bottom three come kick-off against Tottenham this weekend given they play a day after all their direct rivals.

The home fans witnessed last season Hughton has players with the courage and bravery to produce under the most intense pressure imaginable.

Those questions have already been answered. What hangs worryingly in the balance is whether they can address a shortfall in goalscoring output which will

ultimately decide their fate.

35 comments

  • Dubai Canary stay in Dubai. You cannot be real. I hope you enjoy the tolerant system there. Except you're probably living in Thetford. Near the bus station.

    Report this comment

    el dingo

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Both RVW and GH clearly lack confidence at the moment but they are both proven goal scorers - before they arrived at Carrow Road! RVW's goal came from a miscued shot that looked suspiciously like a cross from the right by a right footed player!? The most effective cross is one pulled back which is easier to strike and harder to defend. Those hit across from the 'wrong' foot can at best be no more than a less effective glancing header or shot and give defenders the easiest task to clear. To state what has been said many times before, if we want more goals we have to give the key strikers better service. Long range shots into a crowded penalty area are always likely to be less productive.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • As I've been saying for weeks and I think TK will back me up here. Play Redmond in behind Hooper! We haven't tried that combination. Lets go out with an attacking mind set from the first second and attack them with pace. Redmond running directly at their defence will cause defenders to double up and open up space for Hooper. It would also open up space for Fer playing in behind Redmond. Hopefully there's a few tired legs in the Spurs defence from their midweek game. The last 20mins bring on Josh for Hooper and hit them with a bit more direct pace.

    Report this comment

    Oz Canary

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • As ever PD has nothing to say and says it badly.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Domino Pizza are looking for someone, Elmander, RVW and Becchio should try there.

    Report this comment

    Canaries007

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Whatever RVWs CV says he is a very ordinary player. Today's game only verified the fact that he will never make the grade as a striker at this level.

    Report this comment

    VictorM

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • Spot on Oz, give Redmond a go behind the main striker, hopefully Hooper today. Likewise, I think the midfield as a whole are sadly lacking in goals and when you play one up top they have to chip in with their share. Fer is second highest scorer with a meager 3 goals, it really is embarrassing.

    Report this comment

    TrevorKeith

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • Are we talking about the post?

    Report this comment

    letsbavinu

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Every time I think I am being unfair to this creature he writes something like this. Big yawn. Results went well for us today. Do something decent before you leave CH. Let'S beat $ purs. No chance unfortunately.

    Report this comment

    el dingo

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • The title is a darn joke as its a bit late now PADDY DAVITT !!!!!!DERR.....

    Report this comment

    yarco

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Oh and another thing........what Dubai said is what every City fan should be hoping for. If you don't want to see RVW Score a hatrick and then feel the relief of 3 points (assuming Spurs don't score 4), you can only be an Ipswich fan. It may be a forlorn hope from Dubai, but hope is a good thing, forlorn or otherwise, and no one should try to stem it's eternal spring. So there.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Oh please malaga flier. Even if we had Messi and Iniesta, Hughton and his muppets would coach every inch of goal scoring and flair football out of them

    Report this comment

    oldtimer

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • City lack confidence in front of goal. Over anxious when the chances came at West Ham given the Cardiff result. Fernando Torres struggled after moving to Chelsea and missed many chances when he had time to think about where the goalie, defenders and frame of the goal were. Cardiff look doomed. West Brom could only draw with Fulham at home. I will take 17th place. Would Chris Hughton survive as City then outside the bottom three? May be. City have to do better than this. The Board demand it. Look at Hull. Survive on others weaknesses won't get Hughton a new contract. The frugal City Board may be looking for an alternative manager and coaching team anyway.

    Report this comment

    Capri

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Now we know you`re a troll, Dubai. Nobody, not even Walter Mitty himself, could be that simple. ;-)

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Every game RVW has ever played in would've been a good time for him to have scored his first hat-trick. Could someone please wake me up when he actually DOES it......?

    Report this comment

    Timbo

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Dingo and Brewer having a go at Dubai, CanaryWest sticking the boot into Brewer. In fighting wont help our cause. Where's the love?

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • No sheet Sherlock!

    Report this comment

    Chris69

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Well said Dingo. Quality postings from you every time. I don't want to keep mentioning Lambo, but it's hard not to as a City fan. The football was quicker, more attacking + better value for money back then. I always want us to win every game,but realistically that happens so rarely under the Country Vicar that one tends to hark back to the good old days ! OTBC.

    Report this comment

    Timbo

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • I`m not sure that the Wolfswinkel in the picture even resembles the Wolfswinkel we signed. Is it really him? Looks so gaunt. Is this a `Man in the iron mask` trick, Machianalli? Nice little earner? Perhaps that top scorer guy at Derby - Martin? - is the real RvW?

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • My love left with Lambert, in a funny kind of way. It is so sad just now. .. and I pay £500 al year to watch it! If anyone here thinks any of us Hughton Out faction wants our team to lose they are delusional. OTBC

    Report this comment

    el dingo

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • I didn't know City had any strikers? Nobody told me, when did this happen? I thought Hoots had phased this option out of our game?

    Report this comment

    A fine city

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • Elmanders not scored yet and doesnt look like he will so why does he get game time?CH knew we had a problem scoring and should have brought in an attacking midfielder and striker instead of another wide player who was injured!might as well give Becchio or young morris a chance.

    Report this comment

    tonyb

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • Oh, please Paddy! How can you compare our game with that of Barca!? It is quite ridiculous. The difference, in case you hadn't noticed, is that when Barca pass the ball it often ends up in the net whereas when we pass the ball it inevitably ends up anywhere but. If only we had a Messi or Iniesta!

    Report this comment

    malaga flier

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Is a Canary posting on your behalf, Parrot West?

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • Its not the strikers that is the problem its the providers and the tactical set up. 20 shots on goal are usually from clueless midfielders going for glory rather than the killer pass

    Report this comment

    AC Canary

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • Oddly enough Old Timer that was exactly what I was going to add to the end of my message! But I thought it would be stating the obvious!!!! Hughton would probably drop Messi for not playing deep enough and helping out his defence!

    Report this comment

    malaga flier

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • People say that Hooper and RVW were proven goal scorers, but the Premier is tougher than the Scottish or Dutch League, but the goals return from these two is still below par. If there wages were based on goals scored, they would be skint.

    Report this comment

    Derek McDonald

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • we keep knocking the strikers,but i would like to see johnson and redmond get at least one shot on target.

    Report this comment

    bluelight

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Todays results combined with the postponement of next week's Sunderland v WBA fixture means we can lose two more games and still remain outside the relegation zone. So would the board and their CE still take no action regarding the manager because "We are not in the bottom three hence Chris is meeting his brief"?

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • I'm visiting from Auz, father's family is from Naarwich and went to my first game when I was 3 yrs old (30yrs ago!). Last time I made a bet at Carra Rud was when I went to UEA for a year and me and 3 mates scraped together 7 quid to bet on a 2-0 win v Birmingham, with Bellamy to score. We were sat 4th row back behind the lower barclay goal when Bellamy, the shortest player on the pitch, headed a goal to make it 2-0 in the 88th minute. 160 quid was a fortune back then for us poor students. I'll be blindly supporting from the heart with me Dad tomorrow in the upper barclay, and I may just put a fiver on a RvW hattrick! Can't hurt can it? ;)

    Report this comment

    danpez

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • Didn`t Russell Martin get more than that in the Lambo season, TK? I know Pilkington got 8.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

  • 2011 season 52 goals scored, 2012 season 41 goals scored and that includes those two games Chris Hughton had no control over which produced 7 goals to add to the tally. This season 19 so far, 19 rare moments of excitement for the money spent. Still I bet the shareholders dividends are good this year..

    Report this comment

    Gruff

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Tomorrow's game against Spurs would be the perfect time for RVW to score his first hat-trick for City - what a boost and a relief that would bring ! OTBC

    Report this comment

    Dubai Canary

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • "What utter tripe this creature trots out. What a narcissist.". Come on Brewer, looked in the mirror lately? Pots.....kettles......black?

    Report this comment

    CanaryWest

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Haha ..and Barking Wise acting as a peacemaker! Such fun ;-)

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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