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Talking Tactics

Promoted clubs: Norwich return with improved defence

Adrian Clarke 11 Jun 2021
Daniel Farke

Adrian Clarke says the Canaries come back to the Premier League a more solid team

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical elements of the three clubs promoted to the Premier League for 2021/22.

Norwich City

The Canaries return to the top flight a more streetwise and defensively secure team.  

When they finished bottom of the Premier League in 2019/20, Norwich were too open without the ball.

They conceded 75 times, eight more than any other side.

That followed a campaign when they let in an unusually-high 57 goals en route to the Championship title.

Head coach Daniel Farke knew he needed to address the issue last summer and his tactical adjustments have made a significant difference. 

Last season Norwich conceded only 36 goals in 46 matches.

Goals conceded in promotion seasons
  2018/19 2020/21
Total 57 36
Open play 34 25
Counter-attacks 1 0
Set-pieces 17 8
Penalties 4 3
Own goals 1 0

There are several reasons for Norwich’s improvement.  

Individual mistakes were reduced, their shape was more compact and they worked hard on defending set-pieces, which had cost them too many goals.  

The development of two excellent defensive partnerships down the centre of the pitch proved vital.  

In midfield, Kenny McLean and Tottenham Hotspur loanee Oliver Skipp performed with tremendous industry and discipline last season.  

There was also a resilient partnership behind them in Grant Hanley and fellow centre-back Ben Gibson, a loan signing from Burnley whose deal will now become permanent.

Learning from previous mistakes, Norwich are likely to show less naivety from a defensive standpoint this time around.

How Norwich won promotion  

Farke remains a fan of the 4-2-3-1 formation, using that shape in 45 out of 46 matches last term.  

His side still attack with great confidence, forming clever triangles and getting the better of opponents with their sharp movement.  

No team attempted more shots than Norwich in the 2020/21 Championship, and they also made the most passes, while averaging 58.3 per cent of the possession in their matches.  

Just as they did during their last stint in the Premier League, Norwich will field two adventurous full-backs and look for opportunities to slide passes in behind for the clever runs of striker Teemu Pukki, who scored 11 times in their last top-flight campaign.

Norwich attacking stats 2020/21
Per 90 Norwich League rank
Shots 15.6 1st
Shots on target 5.2 1st
Passes 572 1st
Short passes 493 1st

Norwich have a smart head coach, lots of talent and a clearly-defined style, but they must still recruit well if they are to avoid another relegation battle.  

Their chief creator Emiliano Buendia has been sold to Aston Villa, while other key positions that were occupied by high-quality loan players need to be filled.  

The Canaries must seek out top-class recruits and also bring in another striker so they are not too reliant on the goals of 31-year-old Pukki.  

It looks set to be a busy transfer window at Carrow Road.

Also in this series

Part 2: Promoted stars: Pukki must be clinical for Norwich
Part 3: Promoted clubs: Watford back with new-look attack
Part 4: Promoted stars: Sierralta can excel for Watford
Part 5: Promoted clubs: Brentford have the balance to thrive
Part 6: Promoted stars: Toney the full package

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