Coming off of a hard-won victory against Hull City, Everton will be looking to get on back in the Premier League against Norwich City, a side that haven’t had much luck this season, no matter who the boss is.
The Toffees, who currently reside in 15th place, nine points up on the 20th place Norwich City, need these three points in a serious way. By winning, the team will maintain pace with the teams that reside between 10th and 14th; three points separate those teams currently, and Everton would join Aston Villa with 22 points should the team be able to defeat the Canaries on Saturday.
RBM: First off, how is the atmosphere around this Norwich City team, boss Dean Smith and the club’s supporters right now as the Canaries continue to seek answers out of relegation territory?
AB: Atmosphere is really poor at the moment, a lot of fans are fed up with the club’s poor performance in the Premier League and patience is wearing thin with just about everyone.
AM: To say there’s a complete hopelessness surrounding Norwich City at the minute would be an understatement. It is hard to even find any positives about this season so far, especially after the promises that we “would not make the same mistakes” after the last dismal relegation season. Nobody really expects us to stay up, and that opinion is shared by a lot of the fans after poor performance after poor performance. It’s all a bit bleak.
RBM: Has there been a noticeable difference with this team since Daniel Farke was sacked, and Dean Smith was hired to replace him?
AB: In the first few games there definitely was, Norwich started to play with much more verve and confidence, we beat Southampton and should have beaten Wolves, Newcastle and Manchester United too, but instead we only got two points and since then it has been injury after injury, covid case after covid case and the season has nosedived once more.
AM: There was for about three games. We looked electric against Southampton and really should have beaten Wolves at home. But, after that we’ve looked completely hopeless. Yeah, covid and injuries have hurt us no end, but we’ve simply not looked like scoring goals, our midfield is weak and ineffective, and our defense just leaks goals.
But, this is not on Dean Smith. He’s trying to work magic with a lot of players who simply aren’t cut out for this league.
RBM: This team has struggled to score goals this season, and particularly in the last six Premier League matches where they’ve not scored even a single goal; what can be done to remedy the offensive deficiency of this outfit before it is too late in the season?
AB: Rashica being out for 5 of the 6 games played a part as he was just hitting form in November then he got injured. However, a lack of goals in our last 2 stays in the Premier League has been mostly down to simply not having good enough players. Our centre midfielders never contribute, Pukki is often too isolated and is too relied upon. Sargent and Rashica were meant to help, but both have struggled to finish their chances.
AM: Pray? Find some divine spirit who can come and put the ball back in the net? I genuinely don’t have a clue.
Pukki is the figurehead of the team, he’s our best player and the guy who’ll put the ball in the net. But, he can’t do it all, and that is where we fail. Adam Idah is slowly showing signs of improvement but he’s still very raw.
Oh, I’m not going into Josh Sargent. I could write you a dissertation on why signing him was a horrible £9m mistake and that he’s quite possibly the worst striker I’ve seen in a Norwich shirt, but I’ll spare you that.
RBM: Who on this team needs to step up in order to create more positivity and impact for the team, and can Norwich City take lessons going forward from their very recent FA Cup victory against Charlton?
AB: We really need Matias Normann back in midfield, he was the best player for us this season and we’ve missed him badly since the start of December. Rashica returning to fitness is a plus.
AM: Everyone really. The Midfield just need to step up in general, as they’ve been especially poor this season. So many mistakes and a complete lack of effort in some games just stop us going forward and also at the back.
We won against Charlton but we were poor for large parts. So we again just need to learn to be better at football really. Just basic stuff.
RBM: Do you believe that Norwich City will be active in the transfer market, either as sellers or as buyers in their bid to remain in the Premier League next season? If so, who might be sold or targeted by Dean Smith and company?
AB: We’ve basically said we won’t be.
AM: Dean Smith has said he expects no business in January.
Norwich have relied on a self-sustaining model for years now and we’ve hit the peak of it. The club simply won’t be able to progress without at least some third-party investment. We apparently have “too big a squad” despite having huge problems in multiple areas of the pitch. It’s just not that fun anymore.
RBM: How do you expect Norwich to set up on Saturday, and which of Norwich’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
AB: I think we might have to stick with pretty much the same XI that started against West Ham, especially with Idah playing surprisingly well so another go at a 4-4-2 perhaps, could switch it to 4-3-3 with Idah starting wide in place of Placheta, but we look centre midfield options to do that with Normann, Gilmour and Rupp all out.
AM: Krul, Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Williams, Lees Melou, McLean, Rashica, Placheta, Idah, Pukki. Don’t see any changes from midweek.
Milot Rashica hasn’t been given the opportunity to perform due to injuries, but he can be great down the wing. Will be a problem for the Everton full-backs.
RBM: Finally, what is your prediction for Saturday’s match?
AB: 1-0 Norwich, just a hopeful feeling, might be the last one I have this season if we lose.
AM: Pain and suffering for both. 2-0 to Everton.
Our thanks to Adam and Alex for their time.