Pre-Match Review | Norwich City (H)
Sheffield United vs Norwich City - 07/03/2020
English Premier League
Both sides will be hoping they have plenty in reserve after their midweek cup exploits. WIth this fixture being of huge importance at both ends of the table.
Last Time Out
Norwich City 1 (Tettey 27) - 2 (Stevens 49, Baldock 52) Sheffield United - 08/12/2019
English Premier League
A tidy finish from George Baldock gave Sheffield United the 3 points at Carrow Road, but they didn’t have it all their own way.
The Canaries were the better side in the 1st half with the majority of pressure coming from their full backs getting beyond the midfielders and the Blades had to defend a number of corner kicks.
United’s only real chance in the first half came from David McGoldrick who’s volleyed effort took a bounce into the path of Tim Krul.
Max Aarons had the better of Enda Stevens and was consistently finding space to move into. From the resulting corner United struggled to clear it with O’Connell and McGoldrick both contesting with Zimmermann. Alex Tettey took advantage of the space and his shot went into the bottom corner of the net.
Dean Henderson was adamant that there was a handball from Zimmerman and whilst it did look like it did slap the palm of the defender, there was very little that could have been done about it.
Things could’ve gone from bad to worse for the Blades not long after the goal when Baldock brought down Emi Buendia in the penalty area, but neither the referee or the VAR thought it was a penalty. It could’ve been a penalty in all fairness.
A relatively tame effort from distance by Onel Hernandez could have doubled Norwich’s lead just before half time. Luckily Henderson got there in time to parry it away. I remember wondering at the time why he didn’t catch it but from watching the game back it looks like he saw it fairly late as his view was obstructed by O’ Connell and Teemu Pukki.
There wasn’t a long wait for the game to be flipped on its head. McGoldrick was able to get on the ball more and orchestrate the Sheffield United attacks.
In the 49th minute this resulted in a Sheffield United throw-in. Baldock took it short and Lundstram gave it back to him with space down the right flank.
Baldock put in a cross and with the majority of Norwich’s defenders tracking Mousset, Enda Stevens was able to get on the end of it and equalise with a towering header.
Everything appeared to be going through the 2 wing backs in the second half, a diagonal ball from Stevens was intercepted only for the Blades to win it high up the pitch. Baldock moved inside and Basham and Lundstram played it between each other down the right flank once more. Lundstram would find Baldock who looked to go towards goal initially before heading in the opposite direction, turning, getting the ball out from under his feet again, continuously turning before firing home and putting United 2-1 up. Probably my goal of the season so far.
VAR and Chris Basham would then be the centre of attention. The Blades could have had a penalty when Hernandez brought down Basham but neither saw any wrongdoing (I suppose if the Norwich shout wasn’t a penalty in the first half then at least they were being consistent).
Basham was then shown a straight red card in the 74th minute for a rash challenge on Kenny McClean. I remember having a fairly decent view of it at the time and not having any complaints.
It looked dangerous from afar but VAR deemed there not to be sufficient contact for it to be a red card offence and Basham was allowed back onto the field of play, but did get a yellow card for his troubles.
McGoldrick had 2 golden opportunities to score near the end but both were narrow misses. Henderson also produced one of the saves of the season and the Blades made it 8 games unbeaten away from home.
What’s Changed Since the Last Time we Played Each Other?
Watford’s resurgence has made the chance of survival all the more slimmer for Daniel Farke’s side and it appears that some pundits and fans alike are resigned to Norwich being relegated. With many saying they’re the best bottom side in Premier League history.
After the game between the 2 sides at Carrow Road, Norwich were 19th with 11 points. Watford were 20th with 9.
12 league games later and Watford are out of the bottom 3 with 27 points (albeit on goal difference), whilst Norwich are bottom with 21.
After a quiet summer transfer window, Norwich did bolster the squad in January. Ondrej Duda was brought in from Hertha Berlin and has impressed in the handful of appearances made so far. Lukas Rupp moved to the club from TSG Hoffenheim and has provided competition in wide areas. Melvin Sitti and Sam McCallum were both signed with the future in mind and have gone back to Sochaux and Coventry respectively until the end of the season.
Whilst key players such as Jamal Lewis have been able to make a return, Norwich still have their injury problems. Sam Byram, Christoph Zimmermann and Onel Hernandez all played against Sheffield United in December and are all out for the foreseeable future.
Norwich City’s Recent Form
Norwich are ranked 17th based on current form in the last 5 games, they’re also ranked 17th in the form table since our last game against them. Leicester City have only picked up 2 points more than them in that period and are somehow still 3rd. Which says a lot about how topsy-turvy this Premier League campaign is.
Last Friday’s 1-0 win over Leicester City was the first time the Canaries had won since beating Bournemouth on the 18th of January. The only other point they have picked up in that period was away to Newcastle United.
Winter breaks and the FA Cup have been a mitigating factor in this low points total of course, with Norwich now in the Quarter Finals after Wednesday night’s penalty victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
Of the 3 opponents they have faced in the competition so far, 2 of them have been Premier League opposition which may give them a confidence boost in the run in between now and the end of the season.
“I don’t know where the team can take us this season. It’s been great watching them. They just roll on to the next challenge. We are eighth in the Premier League and now in the quarter-final of the FA Cup. The players won’t back off now, and I won’t let them. They have this huge desire and attitude to keep attacking the next game.” - On this seasons ambitions
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Daniel and his work. We have had some great battles with their team over the past couple of years. Always been tight games. He has had his best players missing through injury but a couple of wins and their season isn’t over for them. I have been there before, look at Nigel Pearson at Watford and what that can do. Everyone wants to play in the Premier League, two wins for them and they are right in that mix again.” - On Daniel Farke and Norwich City
“I'm full of respect for what Sheffield United and Chris Wilder have done. They do an outstanding job, but you can't compare them with us because we have a different approach and philosophy.
They were already solid in defending last season and Chris has stuck to those players. I'm not jealous but he's a bit lucky they have always been available. He's stuck with the same back three and wing backs, so they're used to playing with each other.- On Chris Wilder and Sheffield United
“We're realistic and know we're bottom of the league. We have to earn the right to play here next season, so we're not carried away. I don't want to stop the feel-good factor we have, but I don't see any danger of us being over confident or losing the ground beneath our feet.” - On Current Form
Opposition Style of Play
I wrote a brief summary of Farke’s playing style for the last time we played each other which can be read here.
This week, I thought it’d be a good idea to talk about the importance of Norwich City’s full backs Jamal Lewis (lb) and Max Aarons (rb) to the way that they play.
In last Friday’s win over Leicester City, Lewis and Aarons had 113 touches between them with the majority of them inside Leicester City’s half with Aarons staying very wide.
Full Backs being the hub of a team's creativity appears to be a new tactical trend in Football when you look at Liverpool’s full backs and how Trent Alexander-Arnold seems to be Liverpool’s most creative player. Not to mention how influential Sheffield United’s wing backs were last time against Norwich.
For this to be successful, Norwich needed their 2 central midfielders, Alex Tettey and Kenny McClean needed to cover the space that Aarons and Lewis leave behind when going forward or drifting into wider areas when they link up with the attacking midfielders who also drift inside from wider areas.
What seems quite fitting is that Aarons set up Lewis for the goal, Saturday could again see the full backs and wing backs both playing a huge part.
Player to Watch - Todd Cantwell
Another Premier League trend appearing seems to be that sides have a player with floppy hair, can be a bit of a shithouse, perennially linked with the bigger sides and primarily operates in a wide or central attacking position. Aston Villa have Jack Grealish and Norwich City have Todd Cantwell.
They’re completely different players, but comparisons can be made to that of John Lundstram in terms of not necessarily being first choice in the Championship but is one of the first names on the team sheet this season despite being in a higher division (it is still worth noting that Cantwell played almost 4 times as many minutes as Lundstram in the Championship). It could just be that the way teams set up and the pace of the Premier League suits some players more.
In Norwich’s promotion season Cantwell made a total of 24 appearances in the Championship, playing 1598 minutes (approximately 66 minutes per game). This season he has already surpassed that amount of appearances with 28 and has amassed 2035 minutes (approximately 72 minutes per game).
Furthermore, his minutes to goals ratio has improved. Last season he only scored 1 league goal whilst this season he has 6, averaging one every 339 minutes.
Hopefully that extra day of rest gives us the edge. I’ll go with 2-1 to Sheffield United.
A goal in each half & 5+ corners in each half at 10/3 (SkyBet); Over 2.5 Goals, Over 10.5 Corners, Over 35 Booking Points at 11/2 (SkyBet)
I can see Sharp and McBurnie returning to the starting line up on Saturday. Would also play Lundstram over Berge.