Paddy Davitt: Bravo Alex Pritchard and James Maddison – but Alex Tettey is the key
PUBLISHED: 19:00 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:22 14 December 2017
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Given the paucity of good news around Norwich City since another East Anglian derby conquest it was inevitable Alex Pritchard’s return to the starting line up triggered so many headlines.
Pritchard was bright, inventive and a key figure in the comeback 3-1 league win over Sheffield Wednesday that offered some respite from the navel-gazing and introspection which drained the optimism in these parts.
Daniel Farke was spot on after the game.
City’s first three-goal haul in the Championship this season and Pritchard’s first start were anything but random events.
Norwich’s alarming lack of punch and creativity - even in that unbeaten spell when they ground opponents into submission rather than swatted them with a thrilling brand of entertaining football - was a persistent theme.
But there is another one. It concerns another Norwich midfielder who may, without being uncharitable, lack the smooth touch and sureness of Pritchard.
The clear parallel between Alex Tettey’s presence in central midfield and City’s inconsistent seam of results should not be dismissed as a quirk.
Norwich have yet to lose a game Tettey started this season.
Only Burton denied Farke’s men a victory, when the combative Norwegian was included from the first minute. His other senior appearance was a sour second half cameo at Millwall. Given he was introduced with Norwich 4-0 down he could hardly be held culpable for the outcome on that watershed afternoon at the Den.
Tettey’s defiance may well be required at Elland Road this coming weekend; a veritable bear pit of a stadium when the natives find their voice.
His return to full training last week from a calf injury was timely.
Tettey’s absence has robbed City’s backline of precious protection and the team that momentum which had started to build, once the 31-year-old was paired in tandem alongside Tom Trybull following such early season adversity.
For Tettey to be deemed surplus to requirements is one thing.
Farke went on record to state it was no reflection on the experienced campaigner but an indication of the type of midfielder he wanted at the start of his tenure.
Harrison Reed and James Maddison were tasked with ‘building the play’ but that policy was overwhelmed too often, particularly on the road at places like Villa Park and Millwall.
To the credit of Farke and his coaches,
Tettey’s exile was ended. Now the German faces the same dilemma for the trip to Leeds and beyond.
Trybull has had his own fitness concerns of late but returned for a late cameo in the mood-shifting win over the Owls.
Farke would be remiss not to tweak and refine his line up to counter the threat of Championship opponents.
But, equally, it was consistency of selection that underpinned Norwich’s most productive part of the season - that and the restoration of Tettey.
With Pritchard and Maddison suggesting last Saturday they can cause any side problems in this division there is a compelling case for Farke to construct his midfield around both.
Reed and Mario Vrancic have their attributes, but neither offer the same insurance as Trybull and Tettey.
Farke possesses a richness of resource in midfield lacking in any other part of his current squad. Add Wes Hoolahan and Steven Naismith to the equation, plus options in wide areas, and Farke will no longer need to worry about ‘fielding a team of centre backs’ - the flippant response to a debilitating injury list in the most testing periods.
Injury and suspension will buffet his squad again. Tettey is no stranger to both but while he is fit and available, Farke must use him.
These may well be the final months of the Norwegian’s Norwich City career, given he is out of contract in the summer and free to speak to interested parties from January.
Tettey was swift to downplay reports earlier this month he is already in talks with Rosenberg.
Time will tell.
But Farke’s longer term strategy is unlikely to include a player who has seen it all since his move from Rennes in 2012.
Make the most of him now.
The evidence so far this season indicates he is one of the few options at Farke’s disposal who can forge a bridge between a team that is defensively solid with latent attacking potential.
Tettey might not be as pleasing on the eye as others, but he remains effective.
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