Norwich City must solve the puzzle to overcome Watford
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil's tactical nous could tip the balance in another huge Championship tussle against Watford.
Norwich 2-0 league win against Wolves at Carrow Road owed much to Neil's decision to deploy Alex Tettey in a screening role, but the Scot realises the free-scoring Hornets present a different set of problems.
'They are a little bit unique in the British game in the sense of how they set up, but they play it well,' said Neil. 'We are going have our work cut out tactically to adapt to that and exploit their weaknesses and draw out their strengths. They can play 3-5-2 or a 4-4-2 in a diamond, but certainly in the three that is a shape in Britain you don't come across all that often. Perhaps only Livingston is the team who really played that way in Scotland and we always did quite well against them (with Hamilton) so I hope that continues. The challenge is they try and flood the middle of the park with five players and then have two strikers with plenty of goals in them in (Troy) Deeney and (Odion) Ighalo. They have some really good technical players in the middle of the park who want to drop off and make the pitch big.'
Neil had a typically bullish response to how Norwich deal with the Hornets' prolific loan striker Ighalo, who has plundered 12 goals in his last eight league games.
'Let's see how well he does against us,' he said. 'Regardless of what other teams are doing I base my view on what they do against us. I am hoping with the guys I have available we can exploit those weaknesses. Generally teams that go forward with the intensity they do and technical ability tend to have a vulnerability somewhere and if that is defensively we need to test that.
'In a lot of respects this is the same as the (Wolves) previous game where you had two teams next to each other in the league. All these matches between now and the end will be huge and this is no different. If Watford win they give themselves a cushion and if we win then we claw back another three points on a team above us. We know what is at stake but we are in good form and we are confident.'
Bradley Johnson is set for a key role at Vicarage Road fresh from agreeing a new long term deal.
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'He has done fantastically well,' said Neil. 'He deserves his new contract and the main thing for me is that he wanted to stay here. He didn't want to go elsewhere, there was interest from other parties, but that speaks volumes.
'He is a proper man the way he gets around the pitch and the aggressiveness he shows and those are attributes I look for in my midfield players. You get players who might be technically good and others who want to get into the heat of the battle and those are few and far between. You have to have that power, resilience and strength. He did well even before I came but since I have been here he has been excellent.'