Under Paul Lambert, Norwich City often scored late goals to secure crucial points. This happened in League One, the Championship and the Premier League as the now Aston Villa manager made telling substitutions and tactical changes late in a game.
This is a habit the Canaries appear to have lost under Chris Hughton though. Don’t get me wrong, Norwich have been very good at times this season – they went ten games unbeaten at one stage – but they do appear a bit lacking in ideas of late.
After the 5-0 drubbing at Fulham on the opening day, it took Hughton a few weeks to discover a winning formula and when he did, this is one he stuck with during Norwich’s unbeaten run.
A couple of negative results started to creep in though and there was a need to freshen things up. Norwich needed a different approach to getting positive results. After all, how often is it that the same personnel in the same formation can be successful all season long?
Hughton then perhaps waited slightly too long to change things and now he is struggling to find the right balance again. Against Liverpool last time out, he went with Jonny Howson in the Wes Hoolahan role behind Grant Holt and finally brought Elliot Bennett in from the start.
However, Howson never got on the ball enough and Bennett – a right winger – was used on the left-hand side. It all looked a bit messy from Norwich’s point of view and a woeful performance saw them lose 5-0 at Anfield.
It is now five defeats in six Premier League games and some people are including Norwich to go down in their football tips for the remainder of the season.
Hughton certainly has somewhat of a selection headache in all areas of the pitch. Mark Bunn has been deputising for the injured John Ruddy in goal, but the signing of Lee Camp from Nottingham Forest suggests he isn’t convinced by the former Blackburn keeper.
Ryan Bennett has then been rather shaky in central defence, while the central midfield duo of Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey – although successful on the whole – is beginning to look tired.
Then, up front, Holt has not got enough support. He worked hard during the defeat to Liverpool, but was left with too much to do. You can certainly see why Hughton is looking at bringing in a new striker this month.
Overall, Hughton doesn’t know what his best team is at the moment. Nor what the best formation is. This is not an ideal situation to be in at this stage of the season.
Ruddy, Sebastian Bassong, Holt and Robert Snodgrass are perhaps the only players guaranteed a starting place and with the exception of the latter – these have all had injury problems in the last few weeks. Ruddy is a particularly costly long-term absentee.
It seems fair to say that his substitutions have left a lot to be desired as well. It all seems a bit too obvious and although he is doing just fine on the whole, Hughton needs to earn his money with a bit more tactical nous and inventiveness.
A crucial few weeks lie ahead for the former Newcastle boss and his Norwich team.
By Thomas Rooney – A football writer for Footballtips.com