Championship Gameweek 14: Norwich to Edge Thriller with Aston Villa5 min read
As predicted ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, Aston Villa got the Dean Smith era off to a winning start thanks to a 1-0 home victory over Swansea.
It was an encouraging performance from the Villans, whose fans were pleased to see more football on the floor than they did under Steve Bruce.
It remains to be seen however, how much the atmosphere at a sold-out Villa Park on an emotional afternoon for various reasons, influenced the intensity of the performance.
For now, it would be premature to think that the transition to life under Smith will be seamless, especially with an imbalanced squad.
The B6 outfit have an embarrassment of riches going forward, yet questions can be asked defensively despite the previous clean sheet.
Smith needs to find a dominant centre-back to take some of the burden off the more cautious James Chester, while there is only so much work he can do with limited full-backs like Alan Hutton and Neil Taylor.
Until the former Brentford boss has had a transfer window to add new players and time to impart his ideas on existing ones, this remains a work in progress.
Norwich City, though, are in a different position.
Daniel Farke might not have had the luxury of being able to bring in proven quality as Villa managers have had, but equally, he has had 15 months to implement his footballing philosophy.
Possession play did not excite fans too much last season, because a combination of players adjusting to his ideas and the tendency to look for James Maddison in possession meant not many players took initiative.
This year, Maddison’s exit has, perhaps surprisingly, contributed to Norwich becoming a better rounded team, because the football does not revolve around one player; it is therefore quicker and less predictable.
Todd Cantwell, who put in a man-of-the-match display in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest, has developed massively; the 20-year-old cuts in from the left and, from central areas, he has the intelligence to pick out some excellent reverse passes back out to the left channel which can unhinge opposition rear-guards.
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Cantwell is one of many prodigious young talents to make their name in Norfolk this term; fellow academy graduates Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis have thrived at full-back.
Marco Stiepermann is proving a wonderfully adaptable performer this year while Onel Hernandez, who recently returned from injury, adds an injection of pace and flair in forward areas.
Teemu Pukki had been a star performer in the false nine role but, the fact he missed the last match through injury and performance level didn’t drop would suggest that the system Norwich now have is more valuable than the quality of individuals.
The Canaries have taken 179 shots this season – the third-most in the Championship – of which 96 have come from inside the area – only Bristol City have had more.
This is a team with serious goalscoring potential, but we wouldn’t want to discount the possibility of a Villa side containing the likes of Tammy Abraham and Jack Grealish bagging themselves.
Norwich and Both Teams To Score –