Marginal gains is Alex Neil’s mantra at Norwich City

Norwich City midfielder Alexander Tettey is an injury doubt for Cardiff City's visit. Picture by Pau

Norwich City midfielder Alexander Tettey is an injury doubt for Cardiff City's visit. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil has spent his first full week telling Norwich City's players how good they are. Now he wants them to prove him right on his Carrow Road debut against Cardiff City.

Neil's presence on the touchline for the defining moments at Bournemouth had the desired effect and the Scot is confident he has not taken on a major re-building job.

'The sense I get from the squad is they are looking for direction. They want me to tell them what I want and what my demands are so I don't think wholesale changes are needed,' he said. 'We are seventh so the season has not been a bad one but there are things we need to improve on. They are a great set of lads, really professional and the way they went about their work this week has been very focused. They are very receptive to information in terms of the points I have put across and what I am looking for, but I haven't been filling the players' heads with too much information. That can sometimes be an issue. I have given them clear guidelines and I have told them the picture will become clearer as the weeks go on.'

Neil has found time to do his homework on why City flattered to deceive in recent months after a positive Championship start.

'Sometimes it comes down to personal performance or maybe the shape wasn't quite suited or people weren't doing their jobs properly,' he said. 'There is a whole host of reasons why that could be the case, but it has not been a horrendous season. We are sitting a point out of the play-offs, eight points off the top. It's not like we have been cut adrift so we are not that far away from going on a good run. At times I think we have been unfortunate. I've watched a lot of the recent games back and for the vast majority we probably controlled most of them and were the better side and not taken chances when they have arisen or left ourselves vulnerable at the back and been punished.'

Neil may be new to his Norfolk surroundings but Cardiff will not have the element of surprise.

'A huge part of my week is spent breaking down the game we've played and working out what went right and what went wrong and analysing the new opposition. They will be fully prepared,' he said. 'They know what is coming. I think Cardiff are very direct, whether it is (Alex) Revell or Kenwyne Jones up top. They like to bang it from back to front and squeeze the game and look for second balls. We have to make sure first of all we fight for that first ball and then make sure we pick up the second balls. If we do that then I am hopeful our quality, in terms of moving the ball, will be good enough to go and break them down. I expect that to be the case.'

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