Connor Southwell: How do City build on defensive base against Brighton?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
With Norwich City still searching for their first Premier League victory of the season, Connor Southwell takes a look at the areas that require improvement ahead of this weekend's clash against Brighton.
1 - Injecting an attacking threat
For all the praise of their defensive efforts against Burnley at Turf Moor, that arrived without City ever really looking like scoring.
The mission for Daniel Farke now is to add to that defensive base in the weeks and games to come. One solution could be moving to a 3-4-3 formation to incorporate Milot Rashica, Todd Cantwell and/or Christos Tzolis into the starting XI.
Farke will likely make any changes cautiously as he looks to preserve the newfound defensive structure that will be pivotal to picking up points this season.
Thus far this season, Max Aarons leads the way for shot-creating actions with 14. The right-back has constructed the most shooting opportunities for his colleagues in the opening seven matches, followed by Pierre Lees-Melou on 13.
Cantwell's return after an absence for personal reasons could provide an attacking spark that City require. If they persist with this shape, there will be an onus placed on their wing-backs to become more creative outlets, something Aarons' data suggests he can achieve.
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2 - Finding a role for Billy Gilmour
Nobody can deny the talent of the Scottish international midfielder.
There may be a debate to be had about whether the holding role he started the season in was his most comfortable, but his progressive passing ability could be an essential tool for City if they could unlock it without compromising their defensive structure.
Israel is a different level to competing regularly in the Premier League, but Gilmour has already proven his capability on the ball. During the Canaries' most profitable spell in the League Cup tie against Liverpool, it was the 20-year-old who provided the thrust and quality to give them a foothold back in the contest.
Now Mathias Normann has arrived and has made that defensive midfield position his own; City could find a role in their engine room that extracts the best of Gilmour regularly.
If he can reach a level similar to what he produces on the international stage, Norwich could have a potential match-winner on their hands.
3 - Adding goals from elsewhere
Norwich have scored two goals this season, both netted by Teemu Pukki.
That is alarmingly similar to how their last season at this level unfolded. The Finn eventually burnt himself out, and City struggled to maintain the same level of attacking output.
Normann will seemingly chip in with a few midfield strikes, but City appear to be somewhat blunt in their attacking efforts so far. For all of Josh Sargent's positive work and endeavour, a goal has eluded him.
Rashica is yet to show what he can bring to the party from a goalscoring perspective. Behind Pukki, Ben Gibson has provided the most goal threat but failed to score from excellent positions against Liverpool and Everton.
Solving their attacking problems and adding goals from elsewhere will be somewhat interlinked, but both will be crucial in turning their form around and remaining in this division.
4 - Finding a balance
Sean Dyche articulated it at his pre-match press conference perfectly, balance in the Premier League is the hardest thing to achieve in any side.
When you seek to open up and attack, that can leave you exposed at the back, but a sole focus on defence and offensive productivity can be seriously reduced. Farke has admitted that his side lack efficiency in either box, something that needs to be remedied quickly.
Instead of vast and swift changes to inject an attacking edge into their game, City's head coach will likely take a more cautious approach at attempting to add creativity into this side.
Farke tends to wait a few matches to assess whether a change or tweak has worked, and it seems unlikely he will be willing to ditch the 3-5-2 and release the shackles immediately.
When confidence is low and the squad fragile, maintaining that defensive structure will be the name of the game in the next few weeks; from there, Farke may look to add some attacking elements.
5 - Keeping Mathias Normann fit
The Norwegian has added some much-needed quality and ballast into City's midfield.
But beyond his defensive talents, he has the technical ability to set City away on attacks and dictate the tempo of their spells of possession. Burnley was the first time he played 90 minutes since joining the club, but then he withdrew from the Norway squad due to an abdominal complaint.
Normann sniffed out danger at Turf Moor and was a pivotal cog in the defensive machinery that ensured the Canaries left the north west with their first point on the board.
The 25-year-old, along with fellow loanee Ozan Kabak, seems to pull players up to his level and has improved this City side substantially. If they are to get their season back on track, Normann will be at the heart of their efforts.
He has also added a set-piece threat, something Norwich could do with improving - particularly in low margin matches.
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