Alex Neil - Wes Hoolahan is having the time of his life at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil insists Norwich City talisman Wes Hoolahan is in the best form of his life after a stunning start to the Premier League season.
Hoolahan is the leading assist-maker across all the major European leagues, and Neil is in no doubt the Republic of Ireland international is at the top of his game ahead of Saturday's Carrow Road home test against Leicester.
'The impact he has had in the Premier League this season is much greater than in the past, so on that criteria I think it would be fair to say that,' he said.
'It's partly down to experience but also how the team is set up. The one thing about Wes is he works extremely hard without the ball as well – in terms of the ground he covers.
'It is not always about working hard but working smart. That is the message I try to give him. The key message is he has to conserve energy to hurt the opposition with the ball rather than trying to stop them without it, because once they bypass him his use, defensively, is pretty much null and void. I want him to use his energy when he is going forward.'
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Some of Neil's Norwich predecessors have not always shared the same view about the Irishman's unique talents during his long service to the Canaries.
'Wes has a specialised role but he is not alone in that respect and he has carried his out very, very well,' said Neil. 'The way we set-up gets the best out of him but he still has to show his talent and do the bits we know he is good at.
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'You have to make his role and responsibility relatively limited within the overall team. He still has to be part of that defensive structure, but you give him freedom to go and play and make sure the balance is right between him and the players around him. If you had someone similar in the team then that isn't going to work – him and Cameron (Jerome) are opposites.'