This week we are delighted to have a Q&A with Paddy Davitt, who is a Norwich City blogger of some renown. His work is published in The Pink 'un, the premier newspaper and website focused on Norfolk football, and he also maintains the Canaries blog on the ESPN Soccernet website.
RBM - Last season Norwich finished in 12th place. Currently they stand in 13th. What were the expectations for this season, especially with a new man coming into the job?
PD - Just to survive again. There was a lot of talk about second season syndrome and the change of manager in the summer also injected a fair degree of uncertainty. Under Paul Lambert, the target was 17th or better and they certainly punched above their weight to finish mid-table but no-one inside the club or the support were under any illusions 17th or better is the benchmark again this time around.
RBM - Chris Hughton might not have been the most high profile name to fill the vacant manager's chair, but did seem qualified enough for the job. How did the fans respond to his appointment? From what you have seen so far, is he the right man for the job?
PD - Definitely. He is a totally different character to Paul Lambert but his experience within the game as a top player at Tottenham in his day and as a coach, first team assistant manager and then manager in his own right has made the transition a lot smoother. Particularly after getting beat 5-0 at Fulham on the opening day and then heavy losses to Liverpool and
RBM - Did the Canaries do well in the transfer market over the summer? Who were some of the key players brought in? Have the directors been supportive of Hughton financially?
PD - The directors have backed Hughton and Paul Lambert before him in every transfer window since a new chief executive and chairman came in during the summer of 2009. Hughton brought in nine new players in total, two on season-long loans. The majority have made a very decent impact. Sebastien Bassong has been a rock at centre-half after his move from Tottenham. He worked with Hughton at
RBM - Carrow Road is fast becoming a place bigger teams dread playing at. Premier League wins over Arsenal and Manchester United, and a League Cup win over Tottenham. Their away form has not been as good though, with no wins in six. What is Hughton doing differently when on the road?
PD - Its not so much the difference between home and away during the recent unbeaten, run but the difference between playing the ‘elite’ clubs and the lesser lights. Hughton has settled on a counter-attacking system with two holding midfielders and one striker up top in Grant Holt, supported by Wes Hoolahan linking from midfield. That seems suited to playing the likes of United and Arsenal and Spurs who have had a lot of possession but struggled to break Norwich down and then got stung on the counter. At Reading most recently, when the onus was on City they found it harder to alter the style of play to try and force the initiative. Having said that, a full house at Carrow Road is quite an intimidating place for opposition clubs with the fans right on top of the action.
RBM - A glaring difference between last year and this season is that the team is finding it very hard to score this year. Nine goals in twelve games and only Grant Holt (of course!) scoring more than one will not cut it in the Premier League. Is there a tactical issue with the team?
PD - Leads on from the above answer regarding the system. After those heavy early season hammerings Hughton went away and worked on making City a lot more solid, a lot more difficult to break down but that has been at the expense of the attacking dimension and Hughton himself has acknowledged they need to better in the final third.
RBM - Will Norwich City be active during the January transfer window? Where are the areas of need? Who have they been linked with so far?
PD - Hughton said only last week he isn’t desperate to make major additions, but it would be a huge surprise if he does not bolster his striking options. Robbie Keane and Danny Graham are the latest names linked in recent days. Cameron Jerome and Maribor striker Robert Beric have also been mentioned. Hughton failed with a deadline day move for Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith in the summer window so it is fair to assume he will be prioritizing fresh firepower. He did bring in Tottenham’s England U19 striker Harry Kane on a season-long loan, but he has barely played after breaking his foot in the Capital One Cup win over Doncaster. He is due to return to fitness before Christmas.
RBM - Finally, a score prediction for Saturday's game. What are you expecting from the two sides at Goodison? Who do you think will have standout performances?
PD - You expect David Moyes will demand a response after a disappointing defeat at Reading, which is a worry for Norwich. That said, Fellaini’s suspension is a major plus as he gave them some problems at Goodison last season. City will settle for a repeat of last season’s scoreline 1-1, and Norwich are full of confidence and in good form after going six unbeaten in all competitions. Hughton will go with the same system and personnel so it will be up to Everton to try and break them down. Leon Osman was a huge threat last season and as he demonstrated for England he is such an influential player in that midfield area. For City, Wes Hoolahan will have to play well if they want to keep that run going. He is the main creative spark and the chief support to Grant Holt. Reading managed to do a number on him by denying him space and City were much less effective as a result.