Substance over style is Alex Neil’s mantra ahead of Norwich City’s Everton tussle

Lewis Grabban led the line in Norwich City's Capital One Cup trip to Everton. Picture by Paul Cheste

Lewis Grabban led the line in Norwich City's Capital One Cup trip to Everton. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil is not interested in winning a style contest against Roberto Martinez's Everton.

Norwich City's approach in the pursuit of Premier League points has lurched from attacking intent to defensive frustration, in stark contrast to the slick Toffees. Consistency remains an elusive commodity for Neil's men, but the Scot insists the path to sustained progress is obvious.

'The problems at the start of the season and the problems just now with two different styles are the same - individual mistakes,' he said. 'We tried to be aggressive and get on the front foot in those first few games, and we were playing well, but not getting results, so we took a different tack and we we're doing well but continuing to make individual errors. Look at the first Watford goal and we lost the ball. Regardless of performance we have been masters of our own downfall. If we can cut those out then you stand a better chance, whatever your approach. Every team in the Premier League is capable of playing well but the difference between the top and the bottom sides is consistency and being able to churn it out week in, week out. We managed to do that in the Championship but you are talking about a whole new level here. We have to grasp it and we are capable.'

Neil has been proactive in his personnel changes not just the set-up.

'In my time as a manager I have generally had a settled side but that has not been the case this season,' he said. 'We haven't had enough consistent performers to have a settled side. If I don't change it then it's, 'why not?' and if I do then I am doing it too much. That is football. It is a difficult balancing act. When you make changes you have to do it to make the team better, not weaker. We have to bear that in mind. It is never an easy decision. I have to pick the team with the best opportunity to beat Everton, that means some stay in and some don't, but the players have to do enough to keep their own slot.


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'Watford wasn't acceptable and the guys on the outside would have looked at that and felt they deserve a chance. It was probably the worst performance we have put in this season. I didn't really see it coming, if I am honest. '

Everton counterpart Martinez appears to have no such problems with the likes of internationals Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas unable to break into his side.

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'Everton like to be expansive, which should make it an open game. The question is can we defend better as a group and show quality at the top end of the pitch to hurt them, and it will be exactly the same for them,' said Neil. 'He has always been an offensive-minded coach. They want to make the pitch big, to control the ball, and he has a good side at Everton. The thing he has now, more so than at his previous clubs, is real top players at the sharp end of the pitch.'

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