There has been so much talk around Norwich’s defence and attack this season and how they both needed strengthening, however, no one mentioned the area that combined the two…. midfield.
In the summer, Norwich fans claimed the midfield to be the club’s strongest area. Was/is that statement true?
We started the season with Alex Tettey, Graham Dorrans, Jonny Howson, Youssouff Mulumbu and Gary O’Neil in the central midfield department and on paper, that looked enough. Yet, as the season has wore on we have learned that our midfield is probably as much to blame for our defensive frailties as the defence.
Norwich’s current midfield duo (when all fit and available) is Alex Tettey and Gary O’Neil. I don’t agree with Alex Neil at all with his choice there as Jonny Howson is easily our best midfielder. In my opinion, neither Alex Tettey or Gary O’Neil are good enough to keep Norwich in the league.
Fans love Alex Tettey for his personality, as do I, but his footballing ability is overrated. There is a massive difference between actually making good tackles and winning the ball and just fouling a player because you can’t tackle them. Tettey does the latter and Norwich fans think this is him breaking up the play, it isn’t. Not to mention he is very poor on the ball.
As for Gary O’Neil, I really don’t see how he is anywhere near the team. He wouldn’t make it into over half the teams in the Championship, let alone the Premier League. He had one decent game against the worst team to face Norwich this season (Swansea) and fans suddenly think he’s Andrea Pirlo, he’s not. His passing goes astray more often than fans care to notice and he’s not agile or quick enough to win the ball back or keep up with play.
So, what are Norwich missing? I think that we are missing a player who can sit in front of the back four and win the ball back and be composed on the ball, adding some threat going forward as well as defensive strength.m
There is one player who fills this role very well in the Premier League, and it is a player we know very well…. Andrew Surman.
Surman, currently playing for Bournemouth, has been a star for the South Coast club this season in the Premier League and was crucial in their promotion from the Championship last season.
But where was he before Bournemouth….. Norwich.
Surman first joined Norwich after the club won the League One title and were about to embark on a return to the Championship. He went on to be a key player for Norwich as the were promoted to the Premier League and helped them stay in the top-flight for two years.
Surman had his injury problems in Chris Hughton’s first season in charge and was loaned out to Bournemouth in the Championship as Norwich were relegated the following season.
The midfielder returned to Norwich before the start of last season’s Championship campaign and really impressed me in pre-season. Yet, Neil Adams didn’t agree and sold him to Bournemouth, which is a decision he probably later regretted, along with the board.
I really think that if Surman was still at the club then we would be higher up the table. We would win the ball back in midfield and be able to keep the ball, two things we currently don’t do. We have made the least amount of interceptions in the Premier League this season, which clearly points to a fault in the midfield.
It was pointed out by O’Neil against Spurs, even though he was at fault for it, that Spurs passed the ball through them too easily. It is a valid point. Too many times the opposition have been able to pass the ball past our ‘defensive’ midfielders.
If we still had Surman and played him alongside someone like Jonny Howson then we may actually have had a chance in more games this season. We need someone who can win the ball but also has the technical ability on the ball to be able to play good passes.
It is certainly an issue that needs addressing in the summer, regardless of whether or not we go down. That is, unless Ben Godfrey emerges as the next Sergio Busquets…. we can all dream…