Six things we learned from Norwich City’s vital victory over Swansea
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After seeing Norwich City go back to basics to beat Swansea at Carrow Road, David Freezer assesses how Canaries boss Alex Neil can start to build on an encouraging return to winning ways in the top flight.
1 – Substance over style was just what the doctor ordered
It may not have been pretty but grinding out a 1-0 win was exactly what Norwich City needed.
The sense of satisfaction around Carrow Road after the match was palpable, after bringing an end to a frustrating four-match losing streak.
Alex Neil spoke about going back to basics and his team proved they are united as a squad to carry out his instructions precisely.
Winning 1-0 at home against a team struggling for goals is not something to get over-excited about but it gets the Canaries' survival plan back on track.
It can be compared to the approach of Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, where he is winning few friends for an unambitious approach to games, but the Dutchman has the Red Devils winning and keeping clean sheets once again.
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That is all that matters at this stage of the season, with plenty of cold and wet weather still to come to make matches even more difficult.
Twelve points and 15th place after 12 games puts Neil and his team in a solid position to build towards that magic mark of 40 points – and survival.
Get closer to that, then worry about winning with style. It is substance that the Canaries must now retain.
2 – Wisdom deserves time to prove his abilities further
The answer to City's worries at right-back may have been provided by Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom.
The strapping 22-year-old turned in his best performance yet in a Canaries shirt, dealing with the threat of Colombian winger Jefferson Montero – who went into the game having made more dribbles (73) than any other Premier League player.
Montero left Wisdom for dust in the eighth minute but had little more joy, with Wisdom using his strength to bump his tricky rival off the ball in the 52nd minute as he assumed control of their duel.
The former England Under-21 international now deserves a run of games to try and find the consistency which has eluded Steven Whittaker and Russell Martin at full-back so far this campaign.
Wisdom is no amateur in the top-flight either. He has 41 Premier League games on his CV – one less than Ryan Bennett and four less than Nathan Redmond.
His performance wasn't perfect but the Yorkshireman now has a solid base to build on and prove why he is a Liverpool player – and perhaps earn a future transfer to Norfolk.
3 – Experience of Gary O'Neil can steer City to calmer waters
Few City supporters will have expected to be talking about Gary O'Neil in such glowing terms after this vital victory.
The former Portsmouth midfielder has been reliable and steady during his time with City but has rarely been the main man.
On Saturday he proved that he is still more than capable of performing at the top level though.
His simple use of the ball, experienced decision making, hard work and link play with Wes Hoolahan and Jonny Howson made for an accomplished performance.
His communication with manager Alex Neil and his team-mates in the closing stages also ensured he was a key cog in the machine.
Can he be dropped for the tough trip to Chelsea following such an influential display?
With two weeks to rest his legs – although at 32 years old he is hardly a veteran – he should be fit for the fight.
There were several moments when his experience was obvious, none more so than when bailing out Dieumerci Mbokani soon after City had scored, bringing down Wayne Routledge to halt a Swansea break after a silly flick from the striker.
His booking for bringing down Ki Sung-Yueng deep in injury-time was crude – but necessary for his team.
4 – Battle for supremacy between Jerome and Mbokani is for the greater good
Comparing the performances of strikers Cameron Jerome and Dieumerci Mbokani was very interesting against Swansea.
Mbokani, returning after missing the trip to Manchester City through illness, replaced Jerome in the 68th minute and played a key role in Jonny Howson's decisive goal.
The DR of Congo international found space at the back post to nod down a Robbie Brady corner, to allow Howson to head home from close range.
It was his hold-up play which again impressed though, forcing the Swans onto the back foot.
Jerome had softened up the visiting defence with plenty of hard work and certainly played his part, but his glaring miss with a header from a Brady free-kick in the eighth minute could have been costly.
Mbokani came on and showed excellent control, bringing down a goal-kick from John Ruddy in the 84th minute and buying a free-kick in a style which resembled that of club legend Grant Holt.
The battle between Jerome and Mbokani is proving good for City, knowing that both will cause the opposition problems.
5 – Alex Neil has learned quickly to prove his class again
Sending his team out with a defensive approach may well have been a bitter pill to swallow for City boss Alex Neil – but he did what was needed.
Dominating teams and losing has been increasingly painful for the Canaries and Neil's inexperience in the Premier League was already being questioned by some.
The Scot continues to provide answers to any questions put before him though and has got his team back on track just when it was needed.
This could well prove a turning point for his squad – who have proved they can win as an attacking force and as a counter-attacking force in the top flight.
Proving they have a plan B will surely be a huge boost in confidence – as will shaking off the unwanted fact of having been the only team not to have kept a clean sheet in the Premier League yet this campaign.
With Gary O'Neil rising to the challenge, Alex Tettey in fine form and Youssouf Mulumbu fit again, City have a solid core to rely on and protect their back-line.
Keep picking up points steadily, add some quality in January and survival will be looking more achievable.
6 – Win has eased the pressure for clashes with vulnerable giants
Regardless of Chelsea's obvious recent struggles, Norwich will go to Stamford Bridge as underdogs in their next match following the international break.
The reigning Premier League champions are – quite amazingly – still below the recently promoted Canaries in the table after 12 matches.
Three successive league defeats mean there are no guarantees Mourinho will still be in charge when City arrive in west London.
Whether he is or not, City will still travel with little expectation of victory on their shoulders, having relieved some of their own pressure with victory over Swansea.
The win has not quite turned the match – and the following visit of Arsenal to Carrow Road – into free-hits but it allows Alex Neil's team to travel with no fear.
They are in a no-lose situation. Lose and few people will be surprised or worried. Win and they go home with a famous triumph.
They can arrive at Stamford Bridge and use their new-found defensive resilience to frustrate Chelsea and their anxious supporters.
Stay in the game until late on and they may even get their chance to win it – and end Mourinho's reign.