Snow may have prevented Norwich City travelling north to face Barnsley on Saturday, but the season rapidly continues as the Canaries prepare to face Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.
Ahead of that fixture, Daniel Farke will be keen to address his side’s toothless edge which has persisted to hinder the progression of his side throughout this campaign. Upon arrival, Farke was inheriting a side which was offensively competent whilst having a porous defensive outfit.
For the incoming German, the offensive side of Norwich’s game didn’t require major surgery. This was a Norwich side who were the joint highest scorers in the division last season; you can’t blame Farke for taking an eye off of his offensive arsenal as he sought to discover a formula for defensive resolution.
Eight months later however, and despite Norwich’s head coach addressing the defensive fragilities, that profligacy at the top end of the pitch still persists. The reality is simple, had of Norwich converted more goals, and won half of those stalemates at Carrow Road, they would be flirting with the top six in the division.
Yet, Norwich have overcomplicated and overplayed in offensive areas. This restricts the spaces available to probe with any real intent.
Nelson Oliveira often obtains positive, intelligent positions and that sweeping reverse pass against Bolton, opening up the defence by dragging a centre half away, highlights this. Service into the Portuguese striker has been varied.
What Oliveira thrives upon is getting the ball to feet; he enjoys being involved in the offensive sequences.
He isn’t an instinctive goalscorer cut from the same cloth as players like Harry Kane, who can smell goals. His presence in the penalty area has often been in vain, but Norwich as a side doesn’t contain much width. Oliveira is a more rounded and complete forward as oppose to the physically dominant target man or the goal thirsty poacher.
He is a player who mixes and matches the flair required to operate in a false nine position with that of the physical strength to wrestle with defenders. What he isn’t however, is a prolific header of the ball nor is he someone who possesses an abundance of pace.
Oliveira has found himself hugely isolated at times.
Prior to the Wolves thunderbolt, Oliveira was a character devoid of any confidence. Yet he kept grafting, taking up good positions and being involved in key parts of combination play, for that, he must be applauded. Oliveira has struggled with his finishing; this was a player whom Norwich was unfamiliar with.
This was not the player who was taking on men at will nor was he as extravagant on the ball. This was a man who wanted to play with simplicity and ease.
His season has been frustrating. He hasn’t scored the goals to propel Norwich up the table despite having more shots per game than anybody else in the division. Oliveira must be more profitable in order for Norwich to progress.
His goal against Wolves epitomises his style of play. He is a player who is self providing in many aspects. Whilst many strikers prefer to feel the centre back and engage in physical tussle, Oliveira wants space to turn and express himself.
This was a man who went from being lauded as the best in the division to someone who didn’t have the attitude to play for Norwich City. His talent is unquestionable, his goal scoring ability is there to be seen but consistency remains Oliveria’s biggest issue.
Often, as an implication of the system, Oliveria has had to defend in wider areas and press in a more isolated manner. Playing the role of a lone striker is undoubtedly the toughest position in contemporary football.
How does Norwich resolve this?
For one, the intensity of offensive sequences is severely lacking. Norwich lack spontaneity. Offensive sequences seem to be too intricate and incapable of cutting open teams at will. Teams arrive at Carrow Road with a defensively minded game plan, posing all the questions and allowing Norwich possession.
They, simply, look too rehearsed when they get to the final third, and lack any injection of pace or ability to create chances at will. Even when Norwich operates with width, crossing chances are squandered in favour for a lateral pass and this never ending cycle of lethargic approach play continues.
They play with restricted width however, and even when operating in a 4-2-3-1 or a variation of, the full backs are primarily defensive.
So, even when the ball is crossed into the area, Norwich lack the quantity of bodies required to create opportunities. They require either pace to change the intensity of offensive sequences or they need to move the ball quicker in a way which displaces the opponents and creates spaces to play.
Norwich possess neither the offensive movement nor the direct and sheer pace to do either currently.
Onel Hernandez provided Norwich with a threat over the top of Bolton’s defence something Norwich have lacked all campaign.
It’s about equilibrium.
It is something which is developing with every passing game under Farke. If Norwich can retain this sturdy rearguard and add some ruthless firepower, this side may develop into a force to be reckoned with.
The keyword however, is if.