I’m a big David Fox fan; from a basic short pass to keep the move flowing, or a delicious switch across the pitch to stretch the opposition’s defence and unleash a quick counter-attack. The Norwich City midfielder is an essential part of the team, except he may not be for long not as rumours have it he is most likely off to pastures new this summer.
An injury that he suffered during pre-season meant that he missed the opening part of the season, which is frustrating for any player but even more so when a new manager has just come into the club. After this, Fox struggled to retain his place back in the team apart from a number of bench appearances and looks to be out of favour with Chris Hughton.
In a football era where possession is an important part of the game, having a ball playing midfielder in your side is essential for being successful, with the likes of Pirlo and Xavi still being classed as the top players in this role in Europe despite their slightly older age, where they sit deep and dictate play. Before the 2012/13 season, David Fox was that player for Norwich.
The lack of David Fox was evident at times for Norwich last season as they struggled to keep hold of the ball, an average possession of 43% and pass success of 74%, which invited increased pressure onto the defence and get stuck in their own half – 29% of this season’s action was seen in Norwich’s defensive third.
Without an outlet coming deep from midfield to collect the ball, Norwich ended up just launching it up field in hope Grant Holt would get onto it. Quality is better than hope on the pitch though as the long passes (66 per match on average) made by Norwich only 16% were effective. The Canaries also saw their goalkeepers play a higher percentage of their passes long, at an alarming 91.4%, than any other team in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
The season before, 2011/12, the average possession was higher at 46.8%, and saw David Fox make more passes than any other Norwich player with 1457 – completing 83% of these. The only players who had a better passing accuracy than Fox were David Ayala and Jonathan Howson, although they only featured in 7 and 11 games respectively. Norwich also scored more goals than this season, and the amount of times that the team lost possession was a factor in this. Out of the number of touches made, 27% of these resulted in losing the ball compared to the 2012/12 season where it increased to 30%. Whilst this may seem small, it saw a decrease in the amount of shots and chances created by Norwich as they struggled with their passes in the final third.
There is a replacement already in the squad in Johnny Howson, who ended the season in very good form and with a pass accuracy of 80%. However, as seen during the majority of the season, Howson operates much better more advanced up the field rather than deeper where he struggled.
Previous rumoured replacements include Lucas Biglia, who Hughton tried to sign last summer. The deal for the Argentina international never materialised though and he is now on the verge of signing for Lazio.
If possible, a loan move for Nathaniel Chalobah would be a decent signing for both the club and player. Chalobah showed his quality when it came to linking the defence and attack together for Watford last season, and would benefit from playing every week now to continue his development. Mourinho has history of promoting younger players into his teams though, with Varane at Real Madrid and Balotelli at Inter Milan being the main examples, so he could yet be in the first team at Chelsea.
Other options include James McCarthy and Jonathan De Guzman, who have both played in this position for periods of this season and achieved passing completion percentages of 87% and 89% respectively. However these would be difficult to secure the signing of, with interest from clubs who can offer European football.
The ball winning midfielder is now in high demand in world football, and it is evident that of the positive effect they have on their sides. If Norwich want to continue their development as Premier League club and not face the same run of poor form they endured this season, obtaining a player of this mould is a key area that they need to look at over the summer.
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