The Absence of Fantastic Mr Fox | Opta Stats

The Absence of Fantastic Mr Fox | Opta Stats

Firstly, apologies for the late writing of this blog but to be fair the game at Stoke City last weekend didn’t leave much to write about.  I didn’t make the journey to the Britannia Stadium but by all accounts it was a poor game so I won’t dwell too much on this but instead take a closer look at the team selections.

I wrote a blog recently about “tinker man” Lambert and how he changes the team for every game and more often than not I gasp at the team sheet in confusion, but generally he gets it right. However, the Stoke City game team selection left me feeling more bemused than usual. Whilst I think Kyle Naughton is a fantastic player, whenever he plays at left back I think he struggles, he is much more comfortable on the right side. But this selection was more down to injuries than a 1st choice from Lambert.  What really did surprise me was the absence of David Fox however, probably one of our best players of the season so far albeit under the radar, an old-fashioned midfielder who does a lot more work in games than he gets credit for.  A great play maker and reminds me somewhat of Ian Crook, I suspect David Fox doesn’t have a halftime drag on a cigarette like Crooky used to though. The other surprise for me was Jonny Howson’s first game for Norwich City, being let in straight from the word go seemed a little strange given the performance of Jackson, Wilbraham and Hoolahan recently.

Lastly, I was probably more baffled by a choice of midfield that had not been a starting formation for any other game this season – Bennett, Pilkington, Surman and Johnson. I checked through all the season stats and this formation have not started one game this season, for me that seems a strange decision when we don’t have injuries in this area and we have been grinding out some fantastic performances. Anyway, I’m no football manager and Mr Lambert knows far more than me but that’s my two pennies worth. I have looked at some stats below which analyse games where we have played a lone striker and when we have not played David Fox, some interesting insights here.

More on next page: Stats from Stoke Vs Norwich…

Firstly, let’s take a look at the stats from the Stoke City game, as you can see, not the most entertaining game of the season and Stoke did come out the better team and deserved the win. We did however have more possession, more crosses and better accuracy of crosses.  To be expected against a team that is not well-known for its entertaining football. What is interesting however is that we got very few crosses in, considering we were playing 3 players in midfield very capable of firing in quality crosses and Howson just in front of the midfield behind Grant Holt this seems strange. On paper, you would think this would work, but something clearly did not as we only had 9 crosses in the game and a well below par accuracy of 11%.

So, my first thought was that the lone striker doesn’t work and packing out the midfield simply makes it harder to play.  Lambert has played a lone striker in just over a third of our games this season so it hasn’t been an unusual formation. Of those games we won 3, drew 3 and lost 3, so it obviously does work in some cases.  If you look at the points gained aswell it is just over a 3rd of our points for the season so far so I’ll hold my hands up and say fair play, a lone striker can work. Interestingly, this is normally a formation you would expect for away ties but Lambert has used this formation at home as well.

So, next I thought I’d take a look at the games that David Fox did not start in. He has not made the starting line-up in 9 games, so just over a 3rd of the games this season. Most of these ties being away from home. Interestingly though, we lost 5 of those games and that accounts for half of the games we have lost all season. We’ve also conceded 43%of he total seasons goals conceded in the games that he didn’t start. This for me says that David Fox is an influential player in the midfield and I think we generally play better football with him in midfield as well. He is able to control a game from the middle of the park but also be an attacking force as well as a great defender. A true gem of this successful Norwich City team that tends to pass under the radar. If we play him tomorrow at Wigan I’ll go for a 2-0 win.