Norwich City playing for high stakes against Swansea City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil admits the stakes are so high that Saturday's Premier League duel may not be one for the purists.
Swansea have long since forged a reputation as one of the best passing sides in the country, and Neil is wedded to the same ambitious philosophy, but the desperation for a top flight win may limit that spirit of adventure at Carrow Road.
'I think their style of football is really pleasing on the eye and if done well can be really effective. It is a style I like to play,' said Neil. 'We are capable of going and dominating the ball and being expansive but, if you look at Manchester City - even though you don't perhaps don't need to go to that level of defensiveness - you can allow them to have the ball as well.
'If you watched Arsenal against Swansea (last weekend), who is another possession-based team, they certainly sat off in the first half, soaked up pressure and hit on the counter-attack and caused them real problems. In the Premier League this year a lot of counter-attacking teams are doing well so perhaps football has shifted in terms of how it is played. Teams like Swansea, ourselves and Bournemouth, who are all more expansive, are finding it harder.'
Garry Monk is an old team mate of Neil's from their Barnsley days, and another young British coach given a chance at the sharp end.
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'I have known Garry for a long time,' said Neil. 'I played with him over ten years ago now and I have been in contact with him in that time, in terms of players and things like that, but it has been few and far between. You're really talking on a football rather than a social basis; we don't go out for a beer or anything like that.
'He was a whole-hearted centre back and a good lad around the changing room and he has done really well with Swansea.
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'I wouldn't say he has surprised me how well he has done as a manager. He was always level-headed and knew what he wanted and he was a focused character. Credit to Swansea for the appointment; they are quite well known for that if you look at how they brought in (Roberto) Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and even Michael Laudrup who was relatively untried in this country before Garry got the job. I think they have been rewarded fully by all those managers who have taken the role.
'Like all managers he is going through a sticky spell but I am sure he will be fine, although hopefully after this weekend.'
Neil will make one enforced change, with captain Russell Martin suspended for his Manchester City sending-off, but the City boss is less concerned about shuffling personnel than cutting out the collective errors of recent times.
'As a team you have to accept that players will make mistakes. They are only human,' he said. 'The one thing I can guarantee is that in every game they are giving their very best, they are an honest bunch. There is no occasion this season when I can say it was a lack of effort or a lack of application or failing to follow my instructions.'