One statement has been uttered more times than any other this season… “Our defence isn’t good enough”.
It was even said last season in the Championship, it was said again last summer and then every week of the season to date. So, how has it not been fixed? I think there are a multitude of reasons that it could be pinned to.
For starters, poor investment in the summer. Norwich signed one defender in the summer window; Andre Wisdom on loan from Liverpool. Wisdom has barely played a match this season. It was clear that a central defender, or two, were needed in the summer yet a worrying lack of urgency or ambition cost Norwich.
Another reason, in my opinion a more pressing concern, is the coaching staff. We have conceded 53 goals this season, the joint-most in the Premier League. We have also kept just three clean sheets, all coming in 1-0 home wins against Swansea, Aston Villa and Southampton. However, under Chris Hughton we kept around 12 clean sheets in the top-flight with the same defenders. What’s the difference? Organisation.
Organisation is a huge part of football, yet, Norwich lack it. Alex Neil has been hailed as this tactical genius who puts loads of preparation into games. However, he doesn’t seem to ever prepare the defence. The lack of organisation and solid shape across the back-four is down to both the manager and the coaching staff as Norwich. Constant changing and playing players out of position in the defence has led to plenty of goals flying past John Ruddy and Declan Rudd this season.
If you didn’t believe that was a problem before January, the signing of Timm Klose has highlighted it. Klose has come in and easily been our best defender by a mile, yet we are still conceding shed loads of goals due to poor organisation.
If we want a good defence next season we have to get better backroom staff and invest actual money, yes that means no Carlos Cuellar free transfers Mr.McNally, to improve our defence. These two combined should solve the problem, but going by what our board have done this season, it is very unlikely to happen.
After our 1-0 loss to Swansea away yesterday I wanted to write something more positive, which was hard to do. The start of this article may have no sounded bright but here we go….
Timm Klose is the best defender Norwich have signed in the Premier League era.
Yes, I realise that it is a very bold statement after just six Premier League matches for the club. I genuinely believe that it is true. You can laugh at me if you like. If you do, then just watch his next match and look at what he does on his own. Don’t judge him by mistakes our other defenders are making.
Even on his debut against Tottenham, I could tell that he was a country mile above the rest of our defenders. Alex Neil made him play alongside Sebastien Bassong, who was at fault for both of Tottenham’s first two goals. Throughout the match Klose was winning headers, making tackles and blocks as well as trying to play the ball out from the back. He does the simple things with such elegance. Just things like blocking crosses, so simple but our defenders never did it before.
Since he has arrived, Klose has been forced by Neil to play next to Russell Martin and Sebastien Bassong when playing as a back four, which must have been frustrating for him. Klose only got a chance to play alongside our second best defender in Ryan Bennett yesterday because of Robbie Brady’s injury that forced Martin to go left back. Klose and Bennett looked very solid alongside each other at the back and would have been good enough to keep a clean sheet if we had a good defensive midfielder and right back to prevent the Swansea goal.
Klose joined Norwich for a club record fee of over £9m from Bundesliga side Wolfsburg and came with a high pedigree from the German league and internationally for Switzerland, for whom he played against England for in the European Championship qualifiers.
Norwich desperately lacked a leader across the back four. Despite being captain, Russell Martin never led by example or looked like he was motivating/organising players on the pitch. Yet, Klose has been doing all three aspects since he joined, which, for me, makes his a prime captain candidate for next season.
Klose has won 60% of his duels this season, which was the highest out of any player who started against Swansea, with Robbie Brady being second at 52%. The 6ft 4in defender towers above virtually every Premier League striker, which he has used full advantage of; winning 23/33 headers in his matches so far. (Squaka stats).
Another big part of his game – apart from the tackling and headers – is his use of the ball. Before he joined we had Russell Martin and Sebastien Bassong taking poor touches and making bad passes or big hoofs up the pitch and ended up losing possession. Now, with Klose we have someone who is comfortable on the ball. He has a good first touch and his passing is clever and accurate with both feet. He is very good at bringing the ball out from the back and driving Norwich up the pitch.
The only thing Klose doesn’t have going for him is his pace, which wouldn’t matter too much if he had a good covering centre-back partner who could read the game. If Klose had pace then he would be playing for a Champions League club. No doubt. He has all the attributes to be a world-class defender bar the pace required.
If Norwich can build around Klose, we could have a very promising defence….. so, it’s down to you McNally, invest!