Slick winning machine is looking unstoppable
Neil AdamsWith Darel Russell being available for selection again tomorrow after completing a ridiculously harsh three-match ban, it means that Paul Lambert has the kind of problem that all managers would give their right arm for.Neil Adams
With Darel Russell being available for selection again tomorrow after completing a ridiculously harsh three-match ban, it means that Paul Lambert has the kind of problem that all managers would give their right arm for.
With a virtually fully-fit squad for him to choose from, the options are vast for the City boss.
Does he stick with the 4-4-2 formation that has seen the Canaries win their last three matches and also put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack in the race for automatic promotion?
Does he select any of the other systems that he has toyed with in various games, but which too have invariably kept the points tally ticking over nicely?
Or does he revert to the diamond midfield formation that played such a massive part in Norwich occupying their current position at the top of the table?
A difficult decision for sure, seeing as all of the players that have been selected for duty have played their part and done their bit in this magnificent 2009-10 campaign to date.
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But considering the situation that many previous City bosses have found themselves in in recent seasons of desperately trying to piece together a winning formula, it's a luxurious one by comparison. Saying that, I wonder if it really matters all that much anyway? Because as we have seen, while all the rest of the teams around them have stuttered and allowed precious points to slip through their fingers, Norwich have continued to win games and strengthen their position as league leaders no matter how they have been deployed in games.
If truth be known, this current group of players are more than good enough to win matches in this division regardless of the formation they are asked to play in. There is enough talent in the squad to overcome the opposition anyway, be it 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or a diamond midfield on a matchday. Of course there is a relevance and huge importance attached to making tactical decisions, but when you've got a goalkeeper and defenders who are measly with the amount of goals they concede, midfield players who can run and tackle as well as create and drive the team forward, forwards who simply can't stop scoring goals plus all the motivation you need from the sidelines, it's the opposition teams who should be more worried about tactics. And more to the point, finding the answers as to how they go about trying to stop the relentless winning machine that is the Canaries this season.
t HOT SHOTS
The Canaries have now hit 90 goals so far this season in all competitions, and two thirds of those goals have arrived via the feet or heads of Norwich's 'Holy Trinity' of Grant Holt, Chris Martin and Wes Hoolahan. Football is indeed a team game insomuch as no-one individual or group of individuals can achieve without the support of their team-mates, and you can be sure that each of the aforementioned players will openly acknowledge that their success in front of goal has only been facilitated on account of the superb work that has been produced behind them. That said, it has been a fantastic effort from the front three, and it's a good bet that one of them will fire City to their century in these last 11 matches.
t ONE-SIDED ENCOUNTER ALMOST GOT BORING
There were signs of City getting back to their best last Saturday.
Insomuch as winning a game of football is concerned, Norwich's 3-0 win over Yeovil was just about as emphatic as it gets.
The visitors hardly troubled Fraser Forster and the City defence all afternoon, which was little surprise given that they had their hands full trying to stave off wave after wave of Norwich attacks.
The manner in which City were able to sweep the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and patiently pick their passes until an opening manifested made it seem as though they were enjoying a two-man advantage.
Yeovil just couldn't get the ball off City, and the longer the game wore on the only concern from a Canaries viewpoint being the amount of time it took for the second goal to arrive after Wes Hoolahan had opened the scoring after just two minutes.
It almost got boring at one point, because never for one minute was the result ever in doubt.
You have to hand it to City. As other teams have faltered they have simply kept their nerve and continued to grind out results.
There are still many points to play for of course.
But with Leeds having seemingly been doing their level best to force themselves out of the automatic places before they finally found their feet again at Tranmere in midweek, and Charlton, Colchester, Swindon, Millwall and Huddersfield all missing out on golden opportunities to strengthen their own positions in the table, only a fool would bet against the Canaries relinquishing their position at the top of the tree let alone slipping out of the top two.
Everyone has identified these next three fixtures as being pivotal in shaping City's season.
Not necessarily so.
They are three big games without a doubt, but Norwich have put themselves in such a healthy position that they don't necessarily have to win them all, because there will still be another eight games left after Leeds visit Carrow Road in two weeks time.
Nothing is set in stone just yet, but it's looking good.
t TOP MARKS FOR THE OLDHAM HOSTS
It might be one of the coldest places on earth and their stadium unfortunately now looks more like a Non-League ground than one that used to host Premiership matches not so long ago, but I've heard nothing but good reports from everyone that went to Oldham a couple of weeks ago.
Of course every man and his dog has given me stick for somehow managing to get myself locked out of the stadium at half time!
But as for offering a friendly welcome and then doing everything possible to be as accommodating as they could, the people of Oldham get top marks. Finally, for once, the home ground stewards treated the travelling City fans with the respect they deserve.
When I go back up there next month for the 20th anniversary reunion of the League Cup final and championship-winning team, I'll make sure that they know.