Over a month into the Premier League season and fans will already be looking at the table with either hope or dread of what the rest of the season will bring. One of those teams in particular will be Norwich City, who are continuing their poor form which dominated the second half of last season.
The problems facing Chris Hughton’s team last season was the poor creativity in the attacking third, which resulted in the side having to rely on the defensive side of the game to stay in the league. Norwich were successful and managed to retain their Premier League status, but it was too close for comfort and with only 23 points picked up in 26 games, pressure is growing against Chris Hughton.
After a summer of spending and recruiting some impressive players to East Anglia, especially in the form of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer, it looked likely that things would improve for Norwich this season. Yet, the same problems are still affecting the side and Saturday’s defeat to Aston Villa was another case in point.
Norwich had more of the ball during the game with 64% possession and their presence can be seen as they attempted an incredible 45 crosses, including corners, into the Aston Villa box – with just 10 being successful. However, this only just eclipsed the amount of crosses that were claimed by Guzan (9) – one of the Aston Villa goalkeeper’s strengths – yet Norwich continued to attack in the same manner; Robert Snodgrass attempted 21 crosses in total, to no avail.
The lack of imagination shown in the attacking third after Aston Villa had scored in the 29th minute was worrying, but all too similar for fans. Norwich created 12 chances on Saturday with only 2 shots on target. One coming from the early penalty and the other Hooper’s last minute chance. Villa managed to create 14 chances and get 4 of their shots on target, despite having so much less of the ball as they utilised their counter-attacking game plan perfectly. The failure to capture an attacking, creative player – to take over the reins from Wes Hoolahan, (who has been crucial to Norwich since their League 1 days) – in the summer transfer window could play a major part in the Canaries’ season with only 3 Premier League goals scored after 5 games.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel was brought in to improve the Norwich strike force that only scored 41 goals last season, but the Dutch striker is yet to be given good enough service to have a positive effect on the team. The excellent movement inside in the 18-yard box that he possesses hasn’t being taken advantage of by teammates thus far and van Wolfswinkel is having to feed off aerial balls into the box which is a waste of his talent.
Nevertheless, there have been signs of improvement. The striker had 3 chances on Saturday – a difficult volley that went just past the post, a blocked shot after other Norwich attackers played ‘hot potato’ with the ball, and a fast paced cross that hit his chest; unsurprisingly though, two of these chances were in the first half before Aston Villa had scored.
With Sunderland acting swiftly and getting rid of Di Caino already, this will be a concern for the Norwich board if Sunderland’s fortunes change, while they continue to struggle. Di Canio was a different case though, with the Italian’s background and treatment of his players being a problem since his appointment, and would have played a part in his departure. Chris Hughton should be gifted the extra time, as new players continue to gel with their teammates, but with chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ and booing from fans, solving the creative problems quickly will be important for Hughton’s future.