Smith confident to make City goal pledge

Norwich City defender Dimitris Giannoulis has given Dean Smith a selection headache for Aston Villa

Norwich City defender Dimitris Giannoulis has given Dean Smith a selection headache for Aston Villa with Brandon Williams also back in the mix. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

Dean Smith can at least rest easy one part of his Norwich City backline is in rude health ahead of Aston Villa’s Premier League visit. 

Smith confirmed on Monday both captain Grant Hanley and fellow centre back Andrew Omobamidele are both set to miss out over the festive period through injury. 

Hanley is now awaiting the outcome of a scan to assess the degree of ligament damage in a left shoulder injury that will require the defender keeps his arm in a sling for the next 10 days. 

Omobamidele has a stress issue in his lower back, and with Ben Gibson missing out at the weekend with a tight thigh, Smith may need to rely on Jacob Sorensen’s famed versatility against Steven Gerrard's visitors. 

Gibson’s availability for Villa hinged on City’s final training session, but Smith has a different dilemma on the left-hand side of his defence with Brandon Williams back after being ineligible to face his parent club. 

Dimi Giannoulis grabbed his chance, and that leaves the Norwich boss with another poser. 

“I actually welcome a selection headache at the moment because we've got a few players missing,” he said. “I thought he came in and did really well, he gave us some really good balance, played good football and put in a good defensive performance as well. I was happy with him. 

Most Read

"Every time any player goes out on the pitch it is an opportunity to try and keep the shirt and impress myself and the coaching staff. He certainly didn't let himself down in that department or Ozan (Kabak), who went in and did really well.” 

Kabak and Sorensen were the unlikely double act at the heart of the Canaries’ backline for 70 minutes against Manchester United. 

“You have to deal with adversity. That is the nature of the business we are in and I said when I first came here I liked the depth of the squad,” said Smith. “Unfortunately it is not as healthy as it was but the players are giving me everything.

"Jacob is a good utility player, he can operate in a number of different positions. He is good on the ball, reads the game well and it was an accomplished performance.

"He came into a game played at a really strong pace and he got to the pace of it straight away. He never looked in any danger fitness-wise. What we're doing on the training ground shows we are keeping the lads who aren't playing ready to step in, when required.” 

Mathias Normann (pelvis), Christos Tzolis (Covid) and Milot Rashica (groin) are also absent for Villa, but Rashica is now targeting Arsenal’s Boxing Day visit. 

Smith hopes by then City’s points tally, and league position, reflect the level of performance in recent games. But to do that the City boss accepts he needs to address a chronic shortage of goals. 

“Sometimes you have to look at the teams that you're playing against,” he said. “We've just played Tottenham away and Manchester United at home and our performance levels have been really good.

"The difference in the Tottenham game was we never took our chances. Against Manchester United we came up against a very good goalkeeper on the day, and we lost to a poor decision for the penalty.

"We couldn't have done much more in that game to turn it around. But we need to make better decisions in the final third. If we do that, then we'll be fine. 

“Eight goals (all season) is not going to cut it and that's an area obviously we're only too aware of. All we can do is keep creating chances. The hardest thing to do is put the ball in the back of the net. The next hardest thing is to create chances, and we're creating them. And I'm sure the goals will come. 

“From what I've seen on the training ground, in the form of play that we've done, they're good finishers. There may be a psychological part to that. It's taking those big, big moments when they come on the biggest stage of all.”