More to Baggies trip than just a Vine special
So there is plenty of spirit left in the Norwich City dressing room after all. After the mauling at the hands of Liverpool I think many of us travelled to the Black Country with little in the way of expectations other than that the indoor Indian barbecue at the Vine, the Rolls-Royce of away pubs, would be as superb as ever.
However, from the moment that the attacking line-up was announced it was obvious that City meant business and the eagerness to get forward was a very welcome sight, rewarded early on with a classy finish from Gary Hooper. While there has been plenty of praise for Leroy Fer's through ball, Hooper's movement was outstanding, the arc of his run ensuring that neither Diego Lugano or the covering fullback could challenge without conceding a penalty. What was even more noteworthy was the fact that the striker was released in the channel by a short pass from a midfielder, something we have barely seen this season.
There was an energy and self belief about the side that has been seen much too seldom away from Carrow Road, as well as a tactical flexibility that allowed the midfield players much more latitude to interchange. Certainly City were getting the ball into dangerous areas more quickly, giving Nathan Redmond plenty of scope to torment the West Brom full-backs. Indeed, with a better end product from Redmond City could have been out of sight well before the end. However, his psychological impact could clearly be seen in the build-up to the second goal as he attracted the attentions of no less than three defenders, leaving Fer unmarked inside him.
Of course, there was plenty of defending to be done, and a little luck was needed, but unlike in previous away games City didn't simply retreat into their own half but looked to break whenever possible and looked much more potent as a result. There was always a strong likelihood of a second City goal as West Brom threw more and more players forward.
Three wins from the last five games represents pretty good form, but the results have been needed as the league continues to prove to be highly competitive with only Sunderland adrift at the bottom. Ironically managerial pressure is now shifting to the likes of Steve Clarke and Sam Allardyce, both, like Chris Hughton, seen as pragmatic in their approach. It's interesting that bosses who are perceived as more adventurous, such as Paul Lambert and Michael Laudrup, seem to attract less speculation despite neither having a markedly better league record than the other three.
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Laudrup's Swansea seem to be succumbing to the curse of the Europa League. Against Hull on Monday they were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession and lacked spark in attack. Overall their recent form, particularly away from home, has been patchy at best.
Nevertheless, they will provide a stern test, although the tendency of both full-backs to push forward at every opportunity will present opportunities to unleash Redmond's pace, and the suspension of Chico Flores will necessitate some central defensive reshuffling. City will certainly hope that Michu, a major thorn in their side in the past, performs as innocuously as he did against Hull.
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- 3 Man put hidden camera in bedroom to spy on wife
- 4 Driver taken to hospital after four-car crash on key road into Norwich
- 5 Man in critical condition after being stabbed in Thetford
- 6 Machinery sale marks end of family's 100-year farming history
- 7 Robbers knock out boy, 14, and steal trainers from his feet
- 8 Unlikely new use for city's Samson and Hercules building
- 9 'Pray for Paul today' - wife's plea as gallbladder op victim faces surgery
- 10 Woman taken to hospital following crash on A146
There is no doubt patience is needed. Sides that hunt the ball too eagerly against Swansea can get picked off, but they struggle with teams who take the game to them and don't look the most secure unit defensively. On Monday they looked edgy and a Europa League trip to Switzerland on Thursday will hardly have aided their preparations.
City are yet to lose to Swansea since both sides were promoted and everything points to the likelihood that they will carry on that impressive record tomorrow.