Vital statistics: How the defensive partnerships of Norwich City have fared this season

Carlos Cuellar and Michael Turner of Norwich City bring down Andre Gray of Brentford and a penalty i

Carlos Cuellar and Michael Turner of Norwich City bring down Andre Gray of Brentford and a penalty is awarded by referee Nigel Miller during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Canaries legend Dave Stringer tells David Freezer about the importance of building a settled defence.

New manager Alex Neil is already facing plenty of questions following the first defeat of his Norwich City reign – with one name on the lips of many supporters: Sebastien Bassong.

Losing 2-1 to Brentford at Carrow Road was a painful setback for Neil and the Canaries faithful, with yet another central defensive pairing disappointing during the defeat.

Carlos Cuellar and Michael Turner are one of six centre-back partnerships to be tried this season and, arguably, the sixth pairing to fail to make a lasting impression.

With former captain Bassong set to play for City's under-21s at Carrow Road tonight, after recently returning from a three-month loan at Watford, it looks very possible a seventh combination will be given the chance to shine at Birmingham City on Saturday.


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With Dutch defender Jos Hooiveld also seeing his loan from Southampton cut short yesterday, Neil appears to be searching for some renewed defensive solidity.

Former Canaries manager Dave Stringer is confident Neil will be aware of the importance of having a defence he can trust.

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'You have to build a team with a good foundation and naturally a good defensive line at the back does that,' Stringer said.

'Being fairly reliable and solid in defence means the team can go forward and play with a little more freedom, and if people attack then you can deal with it.

'That's the foundation that the really good sides have. That resilience means that even playing sides who are perhaps better than them, they can get results when perhaps they do not look like they are going to.'

The Canaries arguably haven't had a settled central defensive partnership since Craig Fleming and Malky Mackay provided the platform for the likes of Darren Huckerby to lead City to promotion in the 2004/05 season (see above).

Stringer was once one half of a renowned City defensive pairing alongside Duncan Forbes in the 1970s and enjoyed plenty of defensive stability during his time as manager between 1987 and 1992.

'We knew each other's game and played together very well,' Stringer said of his partnership with Forbes.

'It helps you read each other's strengths and weaknesses so that you can complement each other. He was solid and uncompromising and I used to work around him and clear up anything he missed.'

The 70-year-old added of his time as manager: 'I had Ian Butterworth and Andy Linighan, two very solid players who missed very few games for me. The back line of Ian Culverhouse, Butterworth, Linighan and Mark Bowen, you look how many games they played together, that worked in our favour and worked well for us.

'Not only for my team as well but for Mike Walker as well, apart from Andy Linighan, they then brought John Polston in and it carried on.'

The most matches City have chose, the same central defensive pairing for so far this season is five, with Russell Martin and Michael Turner's partnership blown apart by the 4-0 thrashing at Middlesbrough.

Stringer believes changing that will be the key for City.

'I'm not going to criticise the current players because I'm sure they're working the best they can,' he continued. 'But if you look at the number of games with a settled side, they've not really gone three or four games with a settled back line. If you look at the results when that happened, then they did get good results.'

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