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Norwich City: Are Defensive Midfielders Harming Canaries Attacking Threat?

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Norwich City: Are Defensive Midfielders Harming Canaries Attacking Threat?
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"Sometimes in football you have to score goals."

That was the insightful analysis from the legendary Thierry Henry during a rare barren spell at Arsenal where he made scoring goals a habit.

Although verging on stating the obvious, you can't deny that good old Thierry makes a valid point because you cannot actually win a game of football if you don't put the ball in back of the net from time to time.

You can be as defensively solid as you want, but the fact remains that scoring goals is the only way that you can grab those three precious points on a Saturday afternoon. Norwich City could do a lot worse than taking some inspiration from Henry's cutting edge observation.

In truth, The Canaries have struggled to be effective as an attacking force all season and such concerns have really come to light of late with City having only scored once in their last five Premier League encounters.

Even during the magnificent 10-match unbeaten run from October to mid-December, Norwich weren't exactly ripping opposing teams apart and were heavily reliant on a defensive unit that have generally been superb during this campaign excluding the occasional disaster.

The defensive midfield duo of Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tettey have undeniably been a key part of the Canaries much improved defensive record this year in comparison to the Paul Lambert regime, with their ability to break up dangerous attacks providing great protection to the defence.

However, it could be argued that in an attacking sense the pair do not offer a great deal, and that lack of creativity from central areas could be a factor in Norwich's troubles in front of goal.

As stated before, Tettey and Johnson are both accomplished players defensively but they are also both very similar players that tend to do the same job.

The 0-0 draw with Fulham was a classic snapshot of the Canaries attacking frustrations this season.

Much of Alex Tettey's possession against Fulham was harmless

However, Yohan Cabaye was far more adventurous in Newcastle United's game against Spurs on the same day

Looking at the attacking contribution of Alexander Tettey in that game (via FourFourTwo Stats Zone), on the face of it you could be forgiven for being impressed with the amount of successful passes completed, but where this possession is taking place must also be taken into account.

Much of the Norwegian's influence was in his own half, with simple passes being played to the full-backs and his fellow midfield partner.

Whilst this is great for keeping possession, it's also easy to play against and isn't going to hurt the opposition which is why the Cottagers were content to let Norwich just play in front of them.

As a comparison, Newcastle United's Yohan Cabaye is more of a deep-lying playmaker and his performance in the Magpies unfortunate defeat to Spurs on the same day was far more incisive.

The Frenchman tried to dictate play in more advanced areas than Tettey and his range of passing was superior to that of the Norwich man.  

Having someone that has the composure to put their foot on the ball in that central area is priceless and the return of Cabaye to the Newcastle team from injury has seen an up-turn in results.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
What Might Have Been: Anderlect's Lucas Biglia is the type of creative defensive midfielder that Norwich City crave

It must be noted that this is not designed to be a personal attack against either Tettey or Johnson, who have been wonderful defensively, but I just feel that the lack of variation in such a vital position in the City's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation is a cause for concern.

The very best teams in the world that play this increasingly popular formation look to combine grit with flair in the centre of the park and I can't help but feel that this is something that the Canaries are lacking.

Real Madrid benefit from the the steel of Sami Khedira coupled with the spectacular passing range of Xabi Alonso, whilst closer to home, you don't have to look any further than Scott Parker and Mousa Dembélé at Tottenham Hotspur

Of course, some outfits have the luxury of playing with two deep-lying play-makers, with Javi Martínez and Bastian Schweinsteiger obvious examples after their master-class against Arsenal on Tuesday night, but as a general rule - one will suffice.

In Norwich's case, it's a double dose of grit in central midfield and not enough adventure and this is a problem that could be worth addressing.

Against some teams this is a good approach to have, but against others you need a bit more invention to break the door down and cause havoc.

The unsuccessful pursuit of Anderlect's Lucas Biglia in last summer's transfer window as reported by The Daily Mirror was a shame because the 27-year-old could have been an ideal addition for Chris Hughton's side due to his ability on the ball.

Someone in Biglia's mould would be worth targeting if Norwich manage to secure Premier League football for another season, whilst the largely forgotten figure of David Fox could also be considered in the short term.

Whatever happens, Norwich need to find a formula for scoring goals quickly and the key to that recovery could well start in the deep. 

 

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