Paul Lambert received a fresh injury blow, when it was revealed that new signing Daniel Ayala will be sidelined for a couple of months at least. Lambert is already coping without the services of James Vaughan and Elliott Ward, while other players are building up to full match fitness.
Wes Hoolahan also picked up a hamstring complaint in Tuesday’s game and could also be ruled out for a bit. On the other hand, Paul Lambert seems to be struggling to find his strongest team; so it’s not completely beyond the realms of possibility that the team could be found by default.
Unless Paul Lambert has some kind of secret formula up his sleeve Norwich basically has two ways of playing. Option one is a diamond 4-4-2, this formation is designed to get the best out of Hoolahan. The second option is a tradition 4-4-2 and is usually used when Hoolahan is not in the team.
Now pre-season, most football fans and commentators alike would list Hoolahan as Norwich’s most important player. Therefore it stands to reason that Norwich will usually use the diamond 4-4-2 system. However, Hoolahan is not necessarily the automatic choice that he is assumed to be.
In last week’s crucial Premier League game the Irishman was left out for tactical reasons. Now, that doesn’t mean to say that he isn’t seen as a regular starter, but it does tell us that he won’t necessarily start every game.
Saturday’s game pitches Norwich against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Now in the normal course of events Hoolahan may not be selected, if for instance Paul Lambert wanted to keep the midfield tight. However, Paul Lambert doesn’t have a difficult decision to make because Hoolahan is unlikely to be fit to start the game.
Now at the moment, the assumption has been made that the Irishman’s injury is a relatively minor. However, as we know with injuries sometimes they can linger on. If this was to happen Norwich will need to make sure they have an effective plan B.
Last season, Norwich didn’t really have the option of a traditional 4-4-2. But this summer, Lambert has managed to get hold of two traditional wingers in the shape of Antony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett.
The nice thing about the Norwich squad this season is there are differing options all over the pitch. The difficulty for the manager is finding the right balance in the team and finding players that complement each other. In particular, it is important to get those crucial partnerships right in central defence, central midfield, and up-front.
Injuries have dictated that the preferred central defensive partnership is likely to be Ritchie De Laet and Leon Barnett, and upfront it is likely to be Grant Holt and Steve Morison. To a certain extent, other positions are likely to be up for grabs, at least for the time being.
Possible preferred Norwich City team (4-4-2) for the time being:
GK: John Ruddy
LB: Paul Tierney
CB: Ritchie De Laet
CB: Leon Barnett
RB: Kyle Naughton
LW: Anthony Pilkington
CM: Bradley Johnson
CM: Andrew Crofts
RW: Elliott Bennett
ST: Grant Holt
ST: Steve Morison
Obviously, there are a few contentious decisions in that team with players like Andrew Surman and David Fox missing out. Clearly, it will be the task of Wes Hoolahan, Elliott Ward, James Vaughan and Daniel Ayala to get back into this team, once they recover from injury. It will also be the job of the other players in the squad to force their way into the manager’s plans.
Paul Lambert may well find a winning formula somewhat by default and the squad now looks strong enough to make changes as needed.