Norwich enjoyed a great victory over Sunderland, to make it four straight wins at home, leaving them sitting nicely at twelth. However, for Sunderland, it was their fourth loss in their last six games, leaving them only one point clear of the relegation zone. Following the game, there were several talking points, here are the main ones:
Hughton's Emphasis On Pressing Is Making Carrow Road A Fortress
After not winning in their first three home games in the season - drawing against West Ham and Q.P.R. before losing 5-2 to Liverpool - it seems something at Carrow Road has clicked. Norwich have now won their last four games, only conceding one goal and winning games against both Arsenal and Manchester United, and a lot of it goes down to their new-found pressing approach, giving the opposition hardly any time on the ball, forcing them into mistakes, which was a big factor in this victory, against Sunderland. This can be seen as their four attacking players (Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass) got a combined five tackles, the same amount as their four defenders. This can also be seen as the five defensive Sunderland players (the back four and the goalkeeper) lost possession a staggering eighty-one times, because of Norwich's pressing game. It's not far off losing the ball once a minute, which I'm sure will have Brendan Rodgers wincing when he sees. Norwich have made it hard for every visitor since the Liverpool game, so if they keep it up you get the feeling Carrow Road could be one of the hardest places to visit this season, and could be a huge factor in Norwich avoiding the drop this season, after enduring a tough start.
Sunderland Need To Be More Expressive And Attacking If They Wish To Climb The Table
After some good signings in the summer and going undefeated in their first five games - albeit four of them being draws - Sunderland looked set to have a bright season and could possibly be dark-horses for a top nine finish, but the season hasn't quite followed the plan, and an explanation of this could be the negativeness of the team. The Sunderland side remind me of the Wolves side that got relegated last season, in the sense it all seems very rigid and predictable. Central-Midfielders rarely strayed from their deeper position, the wingers were double-manned and couldn't really find a way to counter it and despite Danny Rose creating the most chances for Sunderland, the full-backs didn't particularly help. With Norwich always putting two men on Sunderland wingers, there was space for the full-backs to capitalize, or more space for central-midfielders to drive into.
When the midfielders did drive forward, Sunderland created chances, particularly Craig Gardner who drove forward, especially when a Norwich centre-midfielder went over to close down the winger as well, it gave Gardner space to utilize his great long-shooting ability, which is how Sunderland scored and managed to create a couple more chances. When the two sit-back playing like a double-pivot, it makes the team a lot more rigid and creates two 'sectors' in the team, defence and attack, with no real transition. Which shouldn't happen in a team who have players like David Vaughn, Jack Colback and Craig Gardner, who are all good at dictating games from a slightly deeper position, but also going forward and creating chances.
With the talented players they have, they need to be willing to try and control games, and push men forward if they wish to solve their goal-scoring problems, as there's nothing at the minute. In Steven Fletcher they have an extremely clinical striker, but not just a typical goal-scorer, they need to utilize him by creating chances and with him getting more involved in the build-up. In this game, I rarely saw him move from a central position, which again doesn't help the team create chances if he's so static. With the front four they have, with them all inter-changing, they can be a danger to any defence, but if they carry on with the negativity, it's hard to see them really progressing significantly.
Norwich's Disciplined Central Midfielders Allow Them To Get The Best Out Of Their Attacking Four
Norwich's two central-midfielders did great yesterday, and I thought, they played how Sunderland's two should play. They generally sat back and kept the team ticking over, whilst helping to press players and driving forward, if the opportunity arises. Bradley Johnson was the teams best tackler with four tackles, whilst Tetteys athleticism helped Norwich press and be organized infront of their own box, whilst completing 87% of his passes. They also created a chance each, with Johnson getting the assist for Pilkington's goal. With these two disciplined midfielders who know when to get forward, and when to hold and add solidity, it allows Snodgrass, Pilkington and Hoolahan to be a bit more expressive and not have to worry about the defensive side of the game as much, which leads to their creative nature, which can be seen as Anthony Pilkington has created the second most clear-cut chances, with eight, one behind Chelsea star Juan Mata.
Having said this, both wingers got back extremely well creating two-banks of four when Sunderland did have the ball in the final third, making it hard for Sunderland to penetrate and definitely deserve credit in stopping Sunderland play - though I still believe they need to be more expressive. Both wingers got back and helped the full-back close down Sunderland's tricky wingers, whilst Hoolahan could 'float around' waiting for where the ball would fall and allow him to create an attacking opportunity.
Overall, Norwich seem to be heading in the right direction after a slow start and can really push on from here. Whereas Sunderland find themselves in trouble, being only one point ahead of the bottom three - with a game in hand - and need a change if they wish to climb the table. It must be remembered the table is still extremely tight and two wins could see Sunderland lift to 11th if results go their way, but they're heading in the wrong direction. Hopefully they can pull themselves out of it, as they have some really talented players that can cause problems for most teams.