Paul Lambert’s formation switch allows Norwich to clip Swansea’s wings
On a weekend dominated by authentic canada goose jacket sale the subject of pre-match handshakes, the embrace between Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert before Norwich City’s 3-2 win at the Liberty Stadium was particularly warm. We weren’t just treated to a handshake but also a brief hug, a few jokes and a long discussion as they waited for the game to kick off. These are two managers with great respect for one other.
And understandably so: both have faced the challenge of adjusting to the Premier League and the performances by Swansea and Norwich throughout the season have been highly impressive. Both sit comfortably mid-table with one-third of the season remaining, and though a late-season collapse cannot be ruled out, it would be a great shame if either of these clubs were not competing in the top tier of English football next season.
But although they are in the same boat in terms of their challenge for the season, the two clubs have completely different styles of football. Swansea have won plaudits for their short passing game but Norwich play more direct, getting men wide and crossing the ball to the strikers. Swansea play broadly the same system every week, while Norwich change formation from game to game – and frequently within the game, too.
The contrast owes much to their managers’ football backgrounds. “My biggest influence has been Spanish and Dutch football, that Total Football idea,” says Rodgers, while Lambert obtained his coaching badges at the German FA, leading him into a more pragmatic style of play. Swansea have the fourth-highest average possession in the league, while Norwich’s is the third-lowest.
Limiting Swansea’s possession formed a key part of Lambert’s strategy at the Liberty Stadium – Swansea average 57.1% of the ball in home matches but on Saturday it dropped slightly to 55.3%. It felt like much more, because even when they did have the ball, they never looked completely comfortable. Lambert knows that passing out from the back is important to Swansea and Norwich pressed very high in the opening stages. Michel buying cheap canada goose outlet jacket online Vorm’s goal-kicks usually travel no further than the edge of the penalty box – against Norwich, they were thumped downfield towards Danny Graham and it was a 50-50 ball on the halfway line, rather than controlled possession in Swansea’s own half.
Pressing so intensely was a risk for Norwich in terms of the formations. Swansea’s 4-2-3-1 was countered with a narrow 4-4-2, which meant Norwich’s front six closed down Swansea’s six defensive-minded players – often.
When the home side had the ball in deep positions, Norwich would push those six forward into the opposition third of the pitch, happy to leave space in behind. Swansea had space to break into but weren’t used to moving the ball so quickly from back to front, and although the loanee Gylfi Sigurdsson, the central playmaker in the 4-2-3-1, enjoyed space between the lines, Swansea often couldn’t find him with an initial pass.
Despite playing well, Norwich went in at half-time 1-0 behind. Then Lambert, as he has done so many times this season, decided to change formation midway through the match. There were two important consistencies despite the switch, however. First, he kept the same 11 players on the pitch, recognising that Norwich had competed well despite the scoreline. Second, he didn’t abandon his initial gameplan – if anything, he simply authentic canada goose jacket sale reinforced it in a different system. Norwich continued to press well.
The 4-4-2 became a 4-3-1-2, and Rodgers seemed best click over here ideas about canada goose outlet online on pinterest to have difficulty working out precisely what Norwich canada goose coat 0f had done. The whole shape of the midfield best canada goose jacket for men changed – David Fox continued to hold but Anthony Pilkington went from the left wing to the right of the diamond, Andrew Surman moved from the centre out to the left, and the right-winger Elliott Bennett became the central attacking midfielder, providing the link between midfield and attack. His energy was crucial in Norwich’s closing down from the front but his real impact was in an attacking sense.
The midfield battle had now changed. Swansea were still 4-2-3-1 but now Fox was close to Sigurdsson, while Surman and Pilkington could occupy Leon Britton and Josh McEachran, the two players deep in midfield for Swansea. Bennett was completely unaccounted for, with neither Britton nor McEachran canada goose coat 1000 bulbs reviews dropping on to him, and the two centre-backs concerned with Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson upfront.
Norwich got back into the game from a Holt header following a set piece but the impressive thing about their comeback was that they didn’t rely on this approach. It would have been easy to do buy canada goose jacket uk that – Norwich have scored more headers than any team in the league, while Swansea win fewer aerial duels than anyone. In the first meeting between the sides, Norwich won 91% of aerial balls. Yet on Saturday they were more sophisticated – rather than throwing it in the mixer as soon as possible, they took four short corners, more than any other side in the league this weekend.
But Norwich didn’t go route one – they outplayed Swansea on the floor, with Bennett running free and using the ball brilliantly. He set up the second goal for Pilkington after finding himself free between the lines, then did the same thing for Holt, who made a run from an outside-right position to collect the ball in the box. His positioning there was a result of another tactical instruction from Lambert – now they were so narrow in midfield, Holt and Jackson were asked to play wider, and help block off the passing routes to the full-backs.
Norwich rode their luck late in the second half but the victory was fully deserved. They became only the second side to win at the Liberty Stadium this season, and whereas Manchester United’s win in November was gifted to them with an Angel Rangel error, Norwich outplayed Swansea for large periods.
Recalling Swansea’s defeat to Norwich at Carrow Road in October, Rodgers described it as his side’s worst display of the season. A second below-par performance against the Canaries indicates that Lambert has formulated an excellent plan for playing Swansea, and Rodgers would probably be the first to acknowledge that, at least privately.
Hopefully the mutual respect between the two will continue – we could do with less unsavoury bickering between managers of the biggest clubs in the country and when those coaches depart, Rodgers and Lambert should be regarded as contenders to replace them.
Ferguson keeps faith
In the 250 Premier League matches so far this season, only four times has a manager not made any substitutions. Sir Alex Ferguson took that approach in the home win against Liverpool on canada goose coat – kensington Saturday. This was despite wanting to reintroduce Tom Cleverley to first-team action and having a very strong bench overall. Liverpool got back in the game with a set piece but in open play United were excellent defensively and Ferguson’s reluctance to disturb that canada goose coat 1000 calorie a day meal plan understanding was logical.
Wolves lack teeth in the tackle
Mick McCarthy’s departure seemed inevitable after Wolves’ performance in the 5-1 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion. One of the peculiarities of their season is that, despite Wolves being presented as an old-fashioned, physical side who like a tackle, they make fewer tackles than any other side in the Premier League. That’s excusable if the side have a good defensive shape but too frequently Wolves were open between the lines and allowed the opposition too much space in dangerous areas.