Q: The Canaries started pretty poorly this season, their form then spiked, but seems to have tailed off once again in the last few games with one win in nine – how can you sum up the season?
A: It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. Things came to a head when they lost 4-0 to Millwall at the end of August and they were right at the wrong end of the table. They then proceeded to go on a nine-game unbeaten run, including the cup win at Griffin Park, and that completely turned things around and it looked like they’d be in playoff contention. That preceded a downturn in form – they won at Ipswich in the derby and were five minutes away from beating Arsenal in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, before Eddie Nketiah scored twice and knocked them out and all of a sudden, the season completely turned on its head. Everything started going in the opposite direction and they’ve won one of the eight games that have followed.
Q: Daniel Farke’s men are among the lowest scorers in the Championship this season – what’s going wrong in the striking department?
A: Quite simply, they aren’t taking their chances. If you look at last weekend’s game at Leeds, they lost 1-0 but they could certainly have won that game. The week before, they finally kicked into gear a little bit and beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 having trailed 1-0 at home; the game before that at Cardiff, similarly they could quite comfortably have got at least a draw. Home form has been a struggle as well and that’s all come down to a lack of goals. Nelson Oliveira scored five goals in his first nine games this season, before picking up an injury that’s also kept him out of Portugal contention – he’s been trying really hard to get back to form, but is snatching at shots rather wildly because he wants to start scoring again. He’s got a World Cup place to try and win as well as maybe trying to get into the Premier League in January, he needs to find form and that’s not been happening for him. There are plenty of creative, playmaker types in the squad, but the problem hasn’t been creating chances, it’s been putting the ball in the net.
Q: Alex Pritchard is back terrorising defences after recovering from injury – how important is he going to be for the rest of the season?
A: He’s still trying to find his feet after being out for four months with ankle ligament damage but returned against Preston at the end of last month, ahead of schedule, and has started the last few games. He played a big part in Norwich coming from behind to beat Sheffield Wednesday and at Leeds he had a few chances that maybe he would’ve taken if he was fully match-fit, but he looks really hungry. Everyone knows what he’s capable of at this level, certainly Norwich and Brentford fans, and he’s basically trying to hit his stride as he’s the main man as far as the fans are concerned. The whole season is almost waiting to click into place and Norwich fans are banking on Pritchard being the man with the key.
Q: This game mark’s the halfway point in the regular season, so what’s the aim from hereon in?
A: The aim has got to be to push up the table; they wouldn’t have been expecting to be so far down the table as they are now, even with the big cut in resources they’ve had to make. Parachute payments come to an end at the end of the season for Norwich, so if they don’t go up, they are looking at having to cut their costs even further. Fans want to see the club pushing up the table, but it’s more that they need to see that Daniel Farke’s plans are coming together on the pitch, with a more definite style that suits the Championship so that they can win games more regularly than they have done. It’s really about trying to find consistency now that he’s got his players fit and available, it’s whether we now start to see the real plan come together.
Q: Will the Canaries be looking to strengthen in the January transfer market?
A: Plenty of fans would like to see a striker brought in – Cameron Jerome has had a few fitness issues and Oliveira hasn’t rediscovered his form since he’s returned from injury either. Another issue has been full-backs – Marco Stipermann isn’t really a left-back but has tried his best to fill in there, James Husband hasn’t really hit his stride but it is hoped that a young lad called Jamal Lewis could come into the team, kick on and do really well. At right-back they’ve basically only got Ivo Pinto and while Russell Martin is still club captain, he’s out of favour and probably hasn’t got the legs to play there anymore. Those are the positions they’ll most likely be looking at, but they aren’t going to be spending much money, unless they sell a prized asset like James Maddison.
Q: What should Dean Smith’s men expect in terms of the way Norwich set up?
A: It’s largely been 4-2-3-1 - Farke had initially wanted to play with a 4-1-4-1 formation which flits between 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3. He wanted to be very attack-heavy and that’s how he tended to play with Borussia Dortmund’s U23s, but he found that the Championship is a tough battle ground and that lack of cover for your defenders couldn’t really work. It’ll be interesting to see over the festive period if Alex Tettey and Tom Trybull start to play more, because they need to protect the defence. In terms of how they play, they want to dominate possession and there’s plenty of technique in the team, things just haven’t quite clicked and that’s what everyone’s waiting to happen.
Q: What is your score prediction for Friday night’s game?
A: Based on what I saw in the cup game, I think we could see some goals because I don’t think we saw the best of Brentford that night. A few players have kicked on since then so I think we could be in for a decent one, I’ll go for Norwich to win 3-2.