Norwich host Leicester on Friday night as the pressure begins to build on the Canaries, and after last weekend’s disappointing 3-0 defeat to Wolves, they now sit seven points from safety, and a mammoth task to overturn the points deficit with eleven games to go.
After improvements in recent weeks in performances hadn’t quite turned into results, Daniel Farke would have been disappointed to see his side fall so easily to defeat against Wolves, as despite seeing plenty of the ball, they struggled to create against a rock-solid Wolves defence. The defensive worries that have plagued Norwich throughout the season were on show once again, and it is hard to see them shutting out high-flying Leicester City on Friday night.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were at the forefront of VAR controversy against Manchester City, where they fell to a 1-0 defeat despite a valiant performance against the Champions. However, this has left them winless in four games, and the Foxes will be eyeing up Friday’s clash as the perfect chance to return to form and reinforce the top four credentials.
Brendan Rodgers switched to a back five for the visit of Manchester City on Saturday, however I expect to see him revert to his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation, which has proved much more effective when his side have been asked to play on the front foot and break teams down, something I would expect them to try do on Friday.
Crucial to their success will be overloading the wide areas, and this is something they have showed a willingness to do so in games this season, and to great effect in many. A trademark of Norwich’s style under Farke is looking to set up narrow in a 4-2-3-1 formation, packing central areas to help control possession, however this leaves them vulnerable defensively to wide attacks, and Rodgers will look to exploit these areas.
Full backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell will be expected to push high and provide both the width and overloads up against Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, and with Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia often tucking inside and asked to cover a lot of defensive ground for the Canaries, this could cause a whole host of problems.
If left two v one on the flanks, Leicester will have plenty of joy down these avenues, whilst it also allows the wingers to drift centrally, a space where both Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez have shown their effective nature throughout the season from. This also helps bring out the best in the two attacking midfielders behind them, and crucial to Norwich keeping Leicester quiet will be stopping James Maddison and Youri Tielemans in behind, who have shown their effectiveness when pulling the strings this season, and if afforded space to do so, could have a field day against a defence leaking goals and chances.
As ever with Leicester, the trade off comes with whether to try push high and condense the play, trying to stifle the creative talents in front of the back four that way, but if Norwich are to attempt this, it leaves them extremely vulnerable to the pace in behind of Jamie Vardy and Barnes on the break, particularly with their own attacking tactics.
With Aarons and Lewis expected to provide the width for Norwich in attack by pushing high, it will leave them extremely vulnerable to the counter from Leicester in the channels, and the pace of Vardy and Barnes may be too much for Farke’s side to deal with. However, if sitting off, it will be a matter of time before they are broken down, reinforced by their defensive struggles, and looking at the goals conceded against Wolves last week, it is a particular concern. By pushing their wing backs high, Wolves created a number of overloads, particularly from crosses, and this allowed Diogo Jota plenty of space to fire home and create plenty of chances, and this will be something Perez and Barnes, operating in similar roles, will be relishing.
Given the must-win nature of the game for Norwich, I do expect to see them try and attack Leicester at some point in the clash, and it could lead to an open, frantic encounter. The defensive work of the two wide men from Leicester can at times be called into question, whilst Buendia has proved to be a creative spark for Norwich this season, and could cause Chilwell a whole host of options.
They will also be buoyed by the missing key man N’Didi, who’s injury has a detrimental impact on the defending of Leicester, and the defeat to Burnley encapsulated this. Although having Nampalys Mendy in the same role, his anticipation and covering ability isn’t comparable to N’Didi, and it did leave Leicester much more open on the counter attack than in the past, and fast, fluid breaks from Norwich will cause a host of problems.
Leicester will try operate a high defensive line, and much like Vardy for Leicester, Teemu Pukki’s movement in behind is a stand out for Norwich, and he will be confident of stretching the defence, and hitting the channels in behind, offering a key outlet. Norwich will also look to take on the Leicester press, and in doing so, if they can play around the initial press, will leave Leicester exposed with no N’Didi to cover. Cantwell and Buendia have proved, particularly against the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal at Carrow Road this season, if given the time and space on the break, they are more than capable of causing problems, and this is certainly an area to look out for on Friday night.
It will prove to be a tactically interesting game, and despite Norwich’s struggles this season, I do still believe they possess the tactics to cause Rodgers’ side problems, in what should be an interesting affair.
Although I do think Norwich could cause Leicester some problems on Friday night, the attacking nature of Farke’s tactics could leave them extremely vulnerable to the break of Leicester, and if they sit back themselves, I can’t see them keeping the Foxes out. The underlying defensive statistics of an expected goals against of 50.96, coupled with the fact they’re allowing 15.5 shots against per game, means I would expect Leicester to win, as well as see them score a handful of goals. Given Norwich have to win, they will need to press on at some point, leaving them vulnerable, and I’m happy to take Leicester to win and over 1.5 goals at 2.10 (Bet365).
Craig Pawson takes charge of the clash, and he is one of the more card happy referees in the Premier League, dishing out 108 yellow cards in 24 games this season. Taking into account the dangers of Leicester City on the counter attack, particularly if choosing to sit off Norwich and utilise this if they take the lead much like the away clash with Aston Villa, it could see Norwich have to take a number of tactical fouls to stop the transition. Priced at 2.30 (Bet365), Norwich to have the most cards takes appeal, and their individual players could take appeal in play if the game state dictates.