Match Review Bolton 1 - 2 Norwich

Match Review Bolton 1 - 2 Norwich

It took five matches, but Norwich finally celebrated their first win of the season in the 2-1 victory over Bolton.  With goals from Anthony Pilkington and Bradley Johnson (and aided in part by an Ivan Klasnic red card before the half) the Canaries managed to stay on pace to avoid the drop with five points from the first five matches.

Using the 4-5-1 formation that has become the standard tactics to start an away match, having been used in the most recent away match at Chelsea, Norwich was still unable to retain the majority of possession but they did achieve two other goals.  With the additional midfield player Norwich were successful with 75% of their passes while limiting Bolton to 9 shots (with just 4 on target).  Had they not conceded a penalty for the 5 consecutive EPL match, it is likely they would not have conceded in this match.

Another interesting note from this fixture was that both of their goal assists came from set pieces.  While it is unlikely that Norwich will be able to count on consistent goal production as a direct result of set pieces, this statistic provides a bit of hope that they can continue to cede the majority of possession and still take points from a match through deliberate attacking when they’re provided the chance.

Match Stats

From the chart at the left we can see that Norwich was more successful in the attacking 1/3 of the field than the home side.  This appears to have been an deliberate tactical decision on the part of Paul Lambert.  While Norwich did not attempt (or was not successful in their attempt) to limit Bolton’s passing in the defensive 2/3 of the field, in the final 1/3 they played more rigid defense.  Despite there being a near 20% difference in possession, the two sides played to even results in the final 1/3 with respect to entries and passing.  Norwich’s concerted defensive effort is illustrated by their higher clearance rate (50 clearances to Bolton’s 37) and by the fact that they limited Bolton to just 83 final 1/3 entries.  The fact that they held just 2/5 of the possession the game and still managed 7% more final 1/3 entries points to a tactical decision on the part of the manager.  In this match, Norwich were successful in earning the 3 points, 3 points they well deserved. However, this match also illustrates the danger in playing this system as a more skilled (or perhaps even a full strength) side would put that 20% possession advantage to good use.

In the Chelsea match this same system was deployed and Chelsea held a 69.6% to 30.1% possession advantage that they converted into 18(7) to 11(6) shots advantage. Of course, in that fixture Chelsea won 3-1, but the numbers that were more concerning there were the 85% pass success rate Chelsea enjoyed to Norwich’s 68%. In this match the Canaries were able to keep those numbers even.  Further, Chelsea attempted 181 final 1/3 passes to Norwich’s 98.  Clearly, the tactics that won this day for Norwich were not up to the task of defending Chelsea’s attack.  Chelsea turned this into a 3-2 advantage in clear cut chances, scoring two goals. While the more effective implementation of these tactics in the Bolton match are a step in the right direction, Lambert’s men still have room for improvement if they’re to continue to take points away from home.

Numbers in their favour; decisions go against them

One negative from this match was their very poor use of throw-ins.  The Canaries had 28 throw-ins in this match but were accurate with just 15 of them. To compound the trouble, their opponent had 25 throw-ins of which 21 were accurate.  That they were both wasteful with their own opportunity and unsuccessful at defending their opposition illustrates

Another problem that Norwich had was their inability to successfully clear the ball.  While they attempted 50 clearances they were successful with just 27. That 54% rate was made more noticeable by Bolton’s successful clearance of 24 out of 37 (65%).  While this ultimately did not cause them to lose points in this fixture, it is an indication of work that needs to be done if they’re to continue to employ a ‘bend, don’t break’ philosophy on their travels this season.

Despite a rather negative tone to the last two paragraphs, this was a good win for Norwich, and one which the players had earned several times over with their displays earlier in the season. Paul Lambert clearly has two sets of tactics, two separate formations, and two different goals in mind when he sets out his side away from Carrow Road.  If the squad is able to replicate their success against Bolton, limiting their opponents attacking chances while using their own limited possession to attack efficiently, the traveling Yellow Army supporters should have many more away points to celebrate.