There are no stats for Norwich, up until last weekend. It’s been that long since they graced the EPL, yet it doesn’t feel like yesterday I was enjoying some Darren Huckerby on Match of the Day. After an opening weekend draw at Wigan, and some exceptional performances in the Championship last season, Norwich look to be more the capable of mounting a challenge to stay up this season.
Stoke continue their season after two good results this past week, a draw against Chelsea and then a very good away win in the Europa League against FC Thun, with a tough away tie against the Canaries. With a selection nightmare of sort at centre back, and Etherington looking to have recovered quickly from his injury; Stoke fans are hopeful that an away win is on the cards.
Norwich took some promising stats from their first game back in the EPL, including a 51% possession rate and a 77% pass completion rate, compared to Stokes opening day stats of 34% possession and a poor 51% pass completion rate. Of course, Chelsea and Wigan are hardly comparable teams, and as I always mention – stats are only half the story.
By all accounts, Norwich played well, if not spectacularly, but Lambert is a Scottish manager, and they do build solid teams. So what can Stoke do to beat them? Well, in their last games Norwich outshot Stoke 11-4, while Norwich tallied over 100 more accurate passes than Stoke – 291 to 144. Where Stoke shined though, was in the defensive areas – they won more possession duels (64-49), won more aerial duels (14-12), winning more tackles and making more interceptions than Norwich.
If Stoke can keep their defence tight – and you wouldn’t expect anything else from Pulis, and the strikers, whether it be Jones, Walters or Fuller can turn on the charm, then you wouldn’t expect anything apart from an away win. The question is, can those strikers do it, or will it fall to Etherington, should he start, and Pennant to provide the magic?
This will be the first ‘real’ test for Stoke this season, where they can prove whether the top 10 should be the aim, or if it will be another mid table campaign. It will definitely prove, to me at least, that Stoke need a decent striker – and that Jones isn’t the man for the job.