Matt Howman: Soft touch tag has dogged Norwich City in the Premier League for too long

City's players look dejected after the disappointing 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. Picture: Paul Che

City's players look dejected after the disappointing 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

When Sean Dyche and Roy Hodgson sat down to prepare their tactics for Norwich (h) on the fixture schedule, the timing could not have been better for them.

To face a squad plagued by injuries without cover in key areas, both managers would have been furious with their team had they not picked up a result.

Our record away from home in the Premier League has been nothing short of dismal. In the 13/14 season we won just two games away all season, eventually relegated with an away goal difference of minus 33.

Similarly in the 15/16 season we won just three games, with an away goal difference of minus 24.

Performances at Carrow Road has left us in no doubt that the players have the drive and desire to disprove the doubts and questions around the quality of our squad, but in order to secure safety this season it is imperative we become harder to beat on the road.

It is difficult to place a finger on the crux of why we struggle so much away from home. It is easy to point to the wealth of talent in the squads we have faced; Burnley and Crystal Palace are sustainable Premier League outfits with quality across the pitch, however we have seen at home that our squad is more than up to the challenge to be competitive against these teams.

Looking back over the past few seasons there was always a similar theme. Norwich have arguably always been too soft in the middle of the pitch compared to mid-table and higher-end Premier League sides and have always been seen as an easy fixture out of the confines of Carrow Road.

Most Read

Some of our better away performances in previous years came from using Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson in the centre of the pitch to strengthen our midfield, which is an idea Farke may take inspiration from when we have two fit centre-backs that will allow Amadou to push further up the pitch alongside Tom Trybull.

The key difference that I see in this season compared with previous gone by is our ability to control longer spells in the game. Farke has instilled a sense of calm in possession we rarely saw under Alex Neil, never under Chris Hughton. The ability to maintain that away from home will bring us chances to win games and with Pukki on the pitch we have a proper finisher that could make all the difference.

It is still early in the season and although each fixture is worth the same amount of points the position Norwich is in is no different to our "comparatives".

Brighton, playing a similar style of football, absolutely dominated Newcastle last week away from home and couldn't find a winner, Aston Villa are also struggling to pick up points. Newcastle and Watford are both looking like they will be languishing towards the bottom this season.

A fully fit squad is going to give Farke more options in how he sets his team up away from home, he entered the season with a massive challenge, he is now being tasked with working miracles.

The league table is now beginning to take shape and the club must now start putting in the groundwork to bring in defensive reinforcements in January. Early days or not the first seven games have outlined what we already knew heading into the season that we needed a centre-back with Premier League experience.

The club maintain the finances haven't been there to make any big money moves so it will likely be a case of taking a chance on a player who is out of favour.

Our transfer successes in the past two seasons have been calculated rolls of the dice from lower European leagues but this time there is no time to bring a player up to speed, a return for Ryan Bennett from Wolves perhaps?

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter