Six things we learned from Norwich City’s stylish victory over Bournemouth
11:50 14 September 2015
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With the Canaries getting back to winning ways in the Premier League with an impressive performance, David Freezer assesses how Alex Neil’s team can build on a strong start to their top-flight campaign.
1 – Like a fine wine, City’s midfield maestro Wes Hoolahan is getting better with age
Perhaps it is only when his time at Carrow Road comes to an end that the genius of Wes Hoolahan will be fully appreciated – but Canaries supporters know they are seeing the very best of ‘Wessi’ right now.
The Irishman looks as fit and happy as he ever has in his eight seasons with City.
Not only is he on top form with the ball at his feet but he is also a fully integrated part of Alex Neil’s team.
He realises the Scot has zero tolerance for players who do not chase and work hard without the ball.
That was proved in the 49th minute when he saw an attempted flick intercepted by Junior Stanislas – Hoolahan reacted instantly to his error and won the ball back.
That kind of attitude undoubtedly lifted the Carrow Road crowd as much as the stylish passing on show on Saturday.
The 33-year-old was playing his 258th game in a Norwich shirt and needs just six more appearances to pass Dale Gordon and John Polston in the club’s appearances list, moving into the all-time top 30.
If he keeps up his current form then Wes is on course to become just the 22nd City player to make 300 appearances – however his legendary status is already written in stone.
2 – Robbie Brady is already proving brilliant value for money
It was difficult to give the man of the match award to anyone but Wes Hoolahan – Robbie Brady pushed him very close though.
The duo started two vital Euro 2016 qualifying wins for the Republic of Ireland during the international break and both seemed full of confidence when they returned to club duty.
Brady was again deployed at left-back, with Martin Olsson returning to the bench after returning from shoulder surgery by playing two matches for Sweden during the break.
Olsson may struggle to win his place back on this performance though.
The summer signing from Hull arrived at the club with a greater reputation for his attacking play but his defensive work and tough tackling were exemplary.
His goal-saving block at 0-0 in the 29th minute was a huge moment in the game, lifting the crowd with his immaculate timing.
At 23 years of age and his ability to perform at full-back or in midfield, the reported £8million fee the Canaries paid is starting to look like a real bargain in the current transfer market.
Already proving to be a fans’ favourite.
3 – Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom is far from the finished product
If there was a weak point to pick at in City’s defensive display, it was down their right side.
Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom was handed his first City start due to Steven Whittaker’s suspension and made a fairly sluggish start to life at Carrow Road.
The 22-year-old definitely improved after the break and seemed to get a grip on proceedings once City were in front.
However, he looked off the pace in the early stages.
The understanding that Nathan Redmond enjoys with Whittaker was lacking early on, as the duo tried to get their balance between defence and attack correct on the right flank.
Wisdom seemed slow to react to attacks unfolding in front of him at times but proved that he was more than capable once he had found his feet.
He burst forward well and crossed nicely for Cameron Jerome in the 56th minute, and puffed out his chest defensively in the second half as well.
Clearly has ability, although he may well prove stronger as a centre-back in the long term.
Unfortunately has to drop out against his parent club at Anfield on Saturday, as he will need a run of games to properly establish himself in the top flight.
Potential is there though.
4 – Encouraging signs from new signing Dieumerci Mbokani in brief substitute appearance
Canaries fans had only 12 minutes to make their early assessments of new signing Dieumerci Mbokani but will probably have been encouraged by the early signs.
The Democratic Republic of Congo international is an imposing figure who is not going to find the hustle and bustle of the Premier League a problem.
He perhaps lacked a bit of match sharpness but looked to have a decent turn of pace and could well have got himself on the score-sheet late on in the match.
His nice one-two with Nathan Redmond just a minute after coming on saw him snatch at a shot with little room to manoeuvre.
Three minutes later the Dynamo Kiev loanee linked well with Robbie Brady but could not quite dig out a shot from close range under pressure – as the home supporters were poised to celebrate the icing on the cake of a debut goal for the striker.
Mbokani also got up well to win an aerial challenge ahead of Simon Francis in the closing stages.
That hold-up play will be integral to his role but with Cameron Jerome scoring, the pressure is at least off him to have to make an immediate impact.
5 – Kyle Lafferty’s chance will come – if he remains patient
The attitude on show from Kyle Lafferty deserves praise, even if he didn’t get the chance he so desperately wants.
An amusing sideshow emerged on the touchline with City 3-0 up, as Lafferty and Dieumerci Mbokani warmed up in front of an appreciative Snake Pit around the 80-minute mark.
Both wanted to get on the pitch but Alex Neil could only make one more substitution.
When Mbokani got the nod, Lafferty tried to hide his disappointment – but it is good that he was disappointed. He is making all the right noises but must appreciate he faces a big battle to prove he deserves to play up front in the top flight.
Scoring goals for Northern Ireland and displaying the right attitude is the minimum he needs if he is to get the game-time he yearns.
Next week’s Capital One Cup third round clash with West Brom at Carrow Road looks to be his best bet for that chance, even if it is from the substitutes bench.
The 27-year-old’s work rate and enthusiastic personality mean he is already popular with Canaries fans. All he can do now is keep his head down and wait for his chance.
6 – Bournemouth must brace themselves for some tough battles
Cherries boss Eddie Howe said that Saturday’s match would be a good indicator of how the two promoted sides have progressed over the summer.
He will perhaps be regretting that statement after the manner in which his team were beaten at Carrow Road.
The huge blows of long-term injuries to big-money summer signings Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings may have had something of a psychological effect on Howe’s team, so early in the campaign.
It is unfortunate for a club which is embarking on its first Premier League adventure but it is a reality they must accept quickly.
They were overwhelmed by a Canaries team which looked like they belong at English football’s top table.
Alex Neil’s side just need to be better than three other teams for this season to be a success and the club’s development to be back on track.
Sunderland looked to be the first, where City won 3-1, and the Cherries may well be the second.
They were not as bad as the Black Cats but if they were unable to withstand Norwich then they are unlikely to stand much chance against the bigger boys. There is still a long way to go of course but Howe looks to be facing a huge challenge.