Has Alex Neil found Norwich’s best defence? Should Norwich give Lewis Grabban an extended run? Is our analysis better than Ian Wright’s? How do we push Piers Morgan in a hole? Jon Rogers and Dan Brigham on what they kinda learned from a rare draw against Arsenal
Brady has the sweetest left foot
If I ever had to die – like choosing a Dignitas assisted suicide – I think I’d like to be kicked full-pelt in the temple by Robbie Brady’s left foot.
That sweet, concluding kiss of leather would be an honorable way to go. JR
Grabban needs a run in the side
Lewis Grabban wasn’t very good in the first half. His passing was erratic, his movement predictable. Then he scored – a quick-footed, composed finish – and something clicked. From then on his touch was assured, he closed down well (without sacrificing the team's shape), his runs stretched the Arsenal defence and he linked play well.
After the match Neil said he picked Grabban for his ball retention. It’s almost certainly why he was Neil’s preferred striker when fit last season, and why he started the first game of this season. At Premier League level – especially when sitting back to hit teams on the break – you need a striker who’s comfortable on the ball, and Grabban offers that more than any of Norwich’s other strikers (it’s a bit of a myth you need a ‘big man’ up top to keep hold of the ball – far more important is someone who has a quality first touch. Both qualities would be nice though…).
Neil likes to pick horse-for-courses XIs – which is absolutely right when playing better-equipped sides most weeks – but perhaps it’s time to give one of the strikers a prolonged run instead of chopping and changing most games. Grabban’s the man in possession and, mostly for the sake of my bet with Jon that Grabban will score more Premier League goals than Cameron Jerome this season, I see no reason why he shouldn't start against Watford.
Oh, and we've all forgiven him, right? Everyone's clambered down from that high horse, yes? Even you over there with your misplaced seething sanctimony? Yes?
Norwich don’t need individual stars
Some of the best teams have a single player who has the ability to grab the game by the scruff, produce some magic and win the match for you. In recent years, Darren Huckerby had it, Grant Holt had it. But matchwinners are hard to come by.
They will always exist in the teams who sit towards the top of the league – turning deserved draws into jammy wins. For the teams at the bottom, the opposite seems to happen: turning deserved draws into jammy losses, with the Manchester City and Chelsea defeats being proof of that.
Against Arsenal, each player had a storming game. Each one. Andre Wisdom looks dangerous and solid; RyBen looked like he would happily push Tyson Fury into a pit; Grabban annoyed the defenders by dragging them wide all day, and Wes looked like he had actually dropped an inch from wearing his legs down.
January is coming so let’s no longer think of buying individuals, let’s think of buying another cog for our machine of team. I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about – but YAY! JR
The right right- and left-backs
Have Norwich got a good defence? They can’t have, can they? We’ve been slagging it off all season (and last season), so it’s just become an acceptable fact that whatever combination Alex Neil uses will be rubbish.
But maybe, just maybe, Neil has somehow managed to fit the right jigsaw pieces into the right spaces. While Norwich’s centre-backs have mistakes in them still – Ryan Bennett was lucky Mesut Özil fluffed a good chance early on after he inexplicably left him to wander free in the box – the full-backs are starting to mesh together stability with attacking flair in just the right amounts. Wisdom may lack killer pace, but he’s strong defensively and showed on Sunday that his wing play is improving – he deserves to keep his place ahead of Steven Whittaker and Russell Martin. After an injury-hit start to the season, Martin Olsson has been quietly terrific since the Capital One defeat at Everton – having him behind the outstanding Brady makes the left side Norwich’s strongest area of the pitch.
It’s a shame about John Ruddy though. Every time Arsenal got into the box he looked like a spotty nerd being approached by a girl. Norwich were very lucky his mistakes didn’t cost them the match: unless John remembers why people used to call him Big John (no sniggering please) a new goalkeeper in January is still a priority. DB
We’re better than in 2013-14
We’ve conceded four goals against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City this season. In the corresponding fixtures last time we were in the Premier, we conceded 10. So we are six goals better than we were.
That sort of analysis shits on Ian Wright. SHITS ON HIM. JR
Tettey was missed (again)
As brilliant as Norwich were in the second half, they were cut open way too easily through the middle for the first 30 minutes
There should be a caveat to this, obviously, as this is Arsenal: on their day they can gut any side. While Gary O’Neil was excellent, Graham Dorrans was often a passenger as Özil and Santi Cazorla all too often drifted past him. He was obviously picked to help keep things neat and tidy when Norwich had the ball, but he isn’t of much use when he can’t seem to win the ball back himself.
Tettey’s harrying and ball-winning was badly missed (which was why it was such a surprise not to see Youssouf Mulumbu start), and Norwich noticeably started playing wider in the second half to keep the ball away from Arsenal’s midfield ball-players. Tettey’s return can’t come quick enough. DB
Piers Morgan deserves to be pushed into a hole
We already knew Morgan was a wally, but after he faced Australian fast bowler Brett Lee chucking a leather ball at him at 90mph a couple of years ago, surely someone can arrange for Ryan Bennett to shove him into a photographer’s pit? Or any sort of pit? Preferably a really big pit. With crocodiles. And snakes. And Spurs fans. DB
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