Six things we learned from the 1-1 Premier League draw between Norwich City and Stoke City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Sports reporter GAVIN CANEY casts his eye over what we discovered during Norwich City's latest top-flight encounter.
1. Set piece gifts must stop if Norwich want to secure survival
It's hard enough as it is for a promoted side to stay in the Premier League.
So the last thing Norwich City need to do is start handing out gifts like Christmas has arrived four months early. Which, unfortunately, they have.
While four points out of a possible nine is a decent stat – three goals out of five conceded via set pieces does not make for great reading. It simply cannot continue to happen.
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City will get punished by the better sides that they haven't yet played if they keep giving themselves a mountain to climb.
Alex Neil needs to ensure his ideas are taken on board immediately because to the naked eye it looks like some players, such as Alex Tettey, are not sure whether to be touch tight or mark zonally. Perhaps it was just an individual error from the Norwegian against Stoke, but it doesn't hide the fact that panic currently sets in whenever the opposition get a free-kick near City's area.
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2. Skipper looks the part at the heart of City's back four
While Russell Martin is clearly respected by all connected with the yellows, he has had his doubters.
Much of that debate has raged over the defender's clear desire to operate at centre-back – a position he has gone on to regularly occupy alongside Seb Bassong.
Those critics suggest Martin would get found out at the heart of the City defence following promotion.
Yet so far, he hasn't. In open play, Norwich's skipper has excelled with his reading of the game and pulled others into the right position regularly.
What Martin lacks in pace he makes up for in heart. Alex Neil is clearly a fan of the leader of men who inspires those around him.
City's captain loves proving people wrong. It's why, when challenged by Neil to start finding the net more, Martin has responded immediately.
Two goals in three Premier League matches is a great return. Time will tell how crucial the equaliser against Stoke was too.
3. Tettey needs to work even harder to improve his distribution
Holding midfielder Alex Tettey has many, many excellent attributes that make him a powerful force in Norwich's midfield engine room.
While Graham Dorrans, Jonny Howson, Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond continue to provide the creativity and attacking thrust, Tettey's fire-fighting role in front of the back four is hugely pivotal to City's operation.
The problem comes when other teams, like Stoke, realise the 29-year-old's biggest weakness is when he's presented with too much time on the ball.
For spells of Saturday's match, the Potters worked hard to cut out a direct route to Dorrans, forcing City's back four to play into the Norwegian.
Try as he might, Tettey is never going to be able to use the ball as expertly as Dorrans and company.
Breaking up play and shifting the ball quickly is what makes Tettey an influential figure. It's how City get the best out of him.
So they'll either have to find another way to play out from defence if Dorrans is marked – or work hard to improve the anchorman's distribution.
4. Brady is already proving to be an excellent summer acquisition
Plenty of supporters are now starting to realise what all the fuss was about regarding Robbie Brady.
The lengthy summer transfer saga must have left many wondering just how good the versatile Hull City operator was. And already we're starting to find out just why Alex Neil was so keen to add the Irishman to his ranks following promotion.
The current full-back has improved week on week and has created plenty of competition for places down the left-hand side of the Canaries' starting XI. While his final ball needs to be more threatening, the fact Brady was getting in attacking positions was encouraging enough. His forward-thinking instincts also suggest that when Martin Olsson is fit, the man occupying his position will be moved into an advanced position.
Two left-footed players down the flank will help add more width and balance to City's side, if Neil decides he wants to start with both.
5. Attacking the Premier League, with lots of common sense
Alex Neil has got Norwich playing on the front foot from the moment he landed in England.
City have been urged to attack, press and destroy teams with their free-flowing and high-tempo ethos. It's helped Neil win over the fans and earn his new club promotion.
Upon Norwich's arrival to the top-flight, the Scot made it clear he was not willing to turn his back on those principles.
Against Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Stoke he didn't. However, City's boss showed he's far from reckless either during Saturday's draw.
A gung-ho or naive manager may well have thrown on strikers in the search of a winner. Yet Neil probably realised a frustrating point was better than taking nothing home at all.
City didn't shut up shop. Neil stayed true to the formation that continues to serve him so well and introduced Bradley Johnson and Gary O'Neil rather than throwing on Gary Hooper or Lewis Grabban.
At 1-1, going for the glory was a risk that could have completely backfired.
6. Financial gulf proved by glittering host of Potters players
Supporters are growing increasingly desperate for the Canaries to sign a frontman.
David McNally is being urged to open up the chequebook and buy big with strikers like Charlie Austin seemingly available for purchase before the close of the transfer window. Yet it's worth remembering that the big-money arrival of Ricky van Wolfswinkel hasn't worked out. And you only needed to look at Stoke's squad on Saturday to see the difference between the haves and the have nots in English football.
Far from being complete paupers, City couldn't even compete with a mediocre mid-table outfit like the Potters in the transfer market if both went for the same player.
Club-record signing Xherdan Shaqiri made his debut in Norfolk and cost Mark Hughes £12million. That's £4m more than City paid for RvW.
Shaqiri isn't alone in being snapped up by the Potters – who include a host of glittering names like Bojan in their ranks – as they throw oodles of cash about that some others seemingly do not have.