Midfield Quartet Crucial For Norwich
The Christmas fixtures were crucial in terms of Norwich City`s future in the Championship.
I don`t want to sound too dramatic but if those fixtures hadn`t yielded the 7 points out of 12 that we got (I`m including Brentford) then I think we`d have been in a world of trouble.
I don`t usually look too far ahead in the fixture list, just the Ipswich games, Christmas games and our run in, but the run of games we have coming up after Chelsea in the FA Cup are a little worrying.
Norwich return to league action on Saturday 13th January at Bristol City. That is then followed by Sheffield United at home, Brentford away, Middlesbrough at home, Derby away, Ipswich at home and then Wolves away. That takes us up to Wednesday 21st February - phew!
There`s been talk about corners being turned several times before in this tops turvy season and I`m certainly far too wary to start proclaiming anything.
What I can say is that when we play our best team and I think that was probably it, against Millwall, then we can make a decent fist of being a competitive Championship side.
The key to this success is two fold and centres around the midfield. The defensive duo of Tom Trybull and Alex Tettey provide steel and in Trybull, passing ability to start attacks after they have won the ball.
More often that not, the ball is given to James Maddison or Alex Pritchard and they are the players that cause the damage. There have been times recently when due to injury, we have only had James Maddison from that quartet and that`s going to hurt any side in the league, if you lose three of your best midfielders.
There are of course other decent players that are also important, like the partnership that Timm Klose and Grant Hanley are currently forging, Angus Gunn in goal and then we have the little gem that is Jamal Lewis.
Time and again this season, we have been hurt on the left hand side of the pitch. James Husband has failed to convince and Marco Stiepermann has done his best in standing in for him. In Lewis though, it looks to me as though our left back problem has been solved and from within the club, too.
Against Millwall, Josh Murphy also had arguably, his game of the season so far. He was a constant threat going forwards and he also tacked back and harried opposition players. That brought cheers and applause during one moment of closing down in front of the away fans in the second half.
You do that every week, Josh and there`ll be no moaning from anyone.
Getting 7 points out of 9 is a great way to set a foundation for moving forward and tentatively looking up the table, rather than down. What the side now need to do is get some results in those tough upcoming fixtures.
Do that and who knows where we`ll end up. Certainly there are a lot of points still to be won and all of those teams I mentioned earlier are above us.
Key to all this will be keeping Maddison and Pritchard in January. Our financial position means we are vulnerable to losing them but Daniel Farke says there is no financial pressure to sell anyone.
We will not be able to keep Maddison and we all know that. If he keeps playing like he is then he is going to be sold for a lot of money. That might well happen in the summer or it might happen in January if someone offered £25m for him.
Both Maddison and Pritchard will have personal Premier League ambitions and Norwich City will not be able to deny them that if a PL club comes calling - they won`t be able to afford to turn down big offers either.
I reckon that the best we can hope for is to keep them until the season`s end and then see where we are.
In the meantime, with results being stabilised a bit, the board really need to help Daniel Farke out with a little freshening of the squad.
If we can shift Naismith in this window, then his large salary can be put to use elsewhere.
There`s plenty of speculation surrounding Nelson Oliveira and Cameron Jerome as well, although replacing them for similar quality players would be an expensive problem.
Mid-way through the season and City sit in the middle of the pack, which is right for how they have performed. Now that everyone is back fit and the team are looking solid again, who knows where we`ll end up?