Alex Neil weighs up the odds at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Risk and reward is rapidly emerging as the sub-text to Norwich City's early Championship work.
The headline numbers continue to look healthy, with 27 points from 13 games, and Saturday's challenge to seal a sixth consecutive Carrow Road league win at Preston's expense.
But the second-half surrender at Fulham, coming so soon after an even more unpalatable affair at Newcastle, temper some of the soaring optimism around Alex Neil's squad.
'When we are attacking that is when we are at our best so it is not easy to curb that side of our game,' said Neil. 'Look at some home matches recently and we have won those because we were so attacking. Cardiff is the one that sticks in my mind, they got one back, it was end-to-end, Josh Murphy comes on and sticks one in the bottom corner and it is 3-1 and then they get another back. If we hadn't had that attacking mindset it could have ended up 2-2. It is assessing when to take that gamble and risk and when not to.
'I got criticised at Newcastle for trying to be solid and it cost us so you can't have your cake and eat it. Do you want to go aggressive and get the next goal or try to be defensive and hold what you have got? Those are the calls you make but ultimately it is the players who ensure whether it works or doesn't. People don't remember Rotherham or Burton or Cardiff, when we go and get the winning goal. I can give you more examples when it has worked than when it hasn't but it's those people tend to remember.'
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Neil views Preston as a unique challenge, with the Lilywhites worthy of City's respect on the back of a six-match unbeaten run and beating Huddersfield in midweek.
'In their last three games they have adopted three different formations, so try preparing your team for that,' he said. 'We have seen a lot of them. Alan (Irvine) went and watched the Huddersfield game because it is up in his neck of the woods and they have put some good performances together, particularly at home. They were very good against Huddersfield and deserved to win and the same against Aston Villa. It is not going to be easy, by any means.
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'We know how they stopped Huddersfield and it will be something we will be prepared for. You can look at teams like Ipswich or Burton and they are not too dissimilar in terms of the shape, even if they tweak the formation. They are in your face, they are up and at you and they look to turn balls in behind quickly. They want to fight and scrap for second balls and it can be really effective if you don't deal with it. Preston will do that but with a bit of quality. They won't just pump balls forward. They feed it into the striker or down the sides very intelligently and squeeze the game.'